A more permanent leadership structure will soon be in place at Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus.
According to YCVV Executive Dean James Perey, a new associate dean will likely be named by week’s end.
The choice is between Barbara Waak, a professor of English at the college who has served as the interim associate dean at YCVV for the past year, and Peggy Liggit, a professor of Biology and Science Education who serves as the director of the Faculty Development Center at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Both candidates took part in open forums Thursday, April 27, at the Clarkdale campus. Members of the Prescott Yavapai College community joined in on the discussion via video conferencing technology.
“We have worked on creating programs, creating curriculum and, perhaps more importantly, creating partnerships,” Waak said of her time as interim associate dean, adding that many of the partnerships created are not traditionally academic but rooted in career and technical education.
According to Waak, enrollment looks “very promising” at the Clarkdale campus, as well as at the Yavapai College Sedona Center, which is undergoing renovations to include kitchens for the college’s culinary programs.
“It was a big learning curve for me, even with the training and experience I have,” Waak said, adding that she is proud of being involved in all aspects of faculty and student development. “I’m pretty intrusive on both sides of the house [and] the job is demanding. There are a lot of Saturdays I’m in here.”
Waak said that, when she asked her interview panel what would be the most important task for her, their response was unequivocal.
“Their answer to me was to be an advocate for the Verde campus,” Waak said, adding that many in the Verde Valley feel that they have been forgotten by the college’s administration in Prescott and need a local advocate. Waak lives in the Verde Valley. “I’m very dedicated to this campus.”
Asked how she would work to increase enrollment, Waak said that the bigger issue was likely increasing the number of people who completed courses and programs.
“What we really want to increase is completers .... What can we do to increase [them]?” Waak said, adding that it would make a huge difference if each instructor took the opportunity to advocate on behalf of one student in every class who might otherwise receive a failing grade, incomplete grade or withdrawal.
“For YC, that would mean an increase of 2,000 completers,” Waak said.
Liggit likewise spoke of her dedication to the region, displaying a painting her mother created at the Clarkdale campus.
Liggit earned her bachelor's degree from Northern Arizona University. Her parents have lived in the Verde Valley for decades.
“This campus plays a big role in the life of my family members,” Liggit said. “It’s exciting to think about where this college can go in the future [and] I have the skill set to be that on-campus, stable support leader you need .... Why would I want to do that here? Arizona is also home.”
Liggit made a point of clarifying that her home “is not Prescott,” adding that she had spent a substantial amount of time studying the Clarkdale campus and the demographics of its neighbors.
According to Liggit, community colleges are required to both understand the needs of its constituents and let them know that courses and programs are available to meet their needs.
“Part of the strategy [is] I think you have to conduct a needs assessment. You have to work with data,” Liggit said. “Sometimes, populations don’t even know what they need [and] just because you say something, doesn’t necessarily mean the message is being embodied, taken in.”
Liggit did not admit awareness of tensions between the communities of the Verde Valley and the Prescott-based college administration, but offered her persepective on potential conflicts.
“Where are they feeling the college is letting them down? Is part of this a communication issue?” Ultimately, Liggit said, some people would remain critical of the college’s efforts in the Verde Valley, no matter what actions the administration took.
Perey said that the choice between Waak and Liggit would likely be made by week’s end, but added that getting the individual into the position, full time, might not occur until July.