Guest commentary: Reaching even greater heights at Colorado Mountain College
Every January, we celebrate the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, remembering what he believed and taught us: respect, tolerance and civility.
At Colorado Mountain College, we carry on that work as we strive to embrace diversity, equity and inclusivity in all forms. While we have made notable progress, it is an evolving journey. As with any goal, it can be difficult to know where to start and what to do absent a baseline and plan.
CMC recently closed out its 2014-18 strategic plan, Reaching New Heights. Several noteworthy accomplishments include:
Increasing concurrent enrollment (college for local high school students) by 47 percent.
Increasing enrollment of Latino students by 38 percent.
Significantly increasing the number of graduates,
Streamlining operations, reducing annual expenditures per graduate by 16 percent.
Holding growth in the college’s operating budget at or below inflation.
Retaining the distinction of being one of the country’s most affordable colleges.
As an open-access institution, CMC has always maintained an inclusive environment for all students, views and backgrounds. CMC does not “select” students. We are here for everyone. Consequently, the institution can only be successful when it represents the great diversity of ideas and experiences found in western Colorado and across our state. Our classrooms are filled with students — regardless of ability or background — who seek to challenge themselves, advance their careers or chart new horizons.
But it’s not enough to simply talk about being inclusive. Sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and do the right thing, as we did with our previous strategic plan.
CMC has never been an institution focused on aggressive enrollment growth or chasing tuition dollars. Our goal is simple: to support all communities in the college’s vast geographic service area and return on their investment in us.
For instance, in Lake County, CMC partnered with Get Outdoors Leadville! to create a shared “gear library” for local residents. In Breckenridge, the college worked closely with the town to build affordable housing for workers and students. In Rifle, we worked with the school districts in western Garfield County to provide technical training to high schoolers when their school weeks were cut to four days.
In the Vail Valley, CMC has helped launch a first-of-its-kind technical training facility at Eagle Valley High School for local K-12 students and adults. In Aspen and Steamboat, as with all of our campuses, we welcome a constant stream of visitors attending art shows or lectures, playing bridge, enjoying a permaculture garden, or the like.
To better serve our entire region and those who have served our country, CMC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Western Slope Veterans Coalition. Hosting a recent Outdoor Industry Summit, we doubled down on efforts to train and fill the workforce pipeline for this $62 billion sector in our state. And, in its fourth year, the President’s Scholarship for local graduating high school seniors granting them “instant admission” and a $1,000 scholarship from CMC regardless of their life circumstances has resulted in shattered national averages for student retention and progress.
Through 2022, CMC will carry out its new strategic plan — Reaching Greater Heights — with energy and fidelity. Our entire team will continue a long tradition of directly serving our communities. Together we will seek opportunities to create and innovate programs for emerging industries, to adapt and expand programs — including additional bachelor’s degrees — to fuel our regional economy, and to use the resources provided by our residents and businesses to ensure that all have access to an institution committed to their success.
Grateful to and respectful of the shoulders on which we stand, I believe that CMC has never been stronger, more committed and relevant or better positioned than it is today. I am so proud of our entire team for embracing Dr. King’s notion that “the time is always right to do what is right.” As the trustees, faculty and staff at CMC embark upon a new strategic plan, we are assured in the integrity of our work to steward an institution that remains relevant and in service to all residents of western Colorado and an important partner to our region and state.
Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CMCPresident.