Difficult Realities, Determined Dreams
President Bob Knight says that even in a difficult economy,
Clark College needs to do more than “just survive”
On January 20, Clark College President Bob Knight took to the podium to deliver his annual State of the College address to a large crowd in Gaiser Student Center. While there were lighter moments during the speech— the date happens to be widely recognized on the Internet as Penguin Awareness Day, a fact that Clark’s mascot, Oswald, ran onstage to celebrate—the overall tone was serious, in keeping with the tough economic realities facing both the college and Washington state in general.
“This year, our accomplishments have been as strong as ever, and that’s especially impressive because they have taken place during a very difficult year,” Knight said. “Quite honestly, this year will be even more difficult, and that will probably be true for at least the next two years.”
This is true because Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed 2011-2013 budget calls for
$2 million in permanent budget cuts for the college, on top of previous cuts
imposed in the last biennium. This at a time when the college is experiencing
record enrollments—in fact, the national newspaper Community College
Week ranked Clark as the 19th-fastest growing large community college in the
country, the only Washington college on the list.
“Up to this year, we’ve been able to maintain services by tightening our belts and increasing workload,” Knight said. “This year, we are going to have to make cuts that no one wants to make. … I don’t want to minimize the decisions that we will soon have to make. They will be painful.”
Clark is in the midst of a college-wide conversation about how those cuts should be implemented, and Knight stressed that employee and student feedback would be taken into considering during the decision-making process. “We are committed to communicating openly and honestly and to treating all members of the college community with the respect that they have earned for their dedication and service to Clark College,” he said.
Knight also used the annual address to celebrate some of the accomplishments of the previous year. He recognized Clark’s many outstanding students, including Neil Oldaker, who rescued an elderly woman from a burning car at a McDonald’s drive-in near the main campus, as well as the members of the Clark College women’s cross country running team, who won the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAAC) championship. He also noted the success of student Jacquie Brown, who overcame a childhood of homelessness and abuse to earn scholarships as both Miss Washington and third runner-up in the Miss America pageant.
In addition to stellar students, Knight commended the many Clark staff and
faculty members who earned awards. For instance, Ryan Hovde, the coach of
that championship-winning cross country team, was named Coach of the Year
by NWAAC. Survey Instructor Tim Kent received the 2010 Oregon Surveyor
of the Year award from the Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon. Knight
also noted how Financial Aid Office staff worked tirelessly to process 10,838
financial aid files during the 2009-2010 academic year—33 percent more than
the year before—resulting in more than $43 million in support for financially
struggling students. As of the time of Knight’s speech, that number already had risen above $51 million for the current academic year, which ends in August.
Knight also recognized the important work the Clark College Foundation has
done to help the college keep up with the growing demand for its services. The
Foundation was instrumental in securing the private support that made the
construction of a new facility for the Early Childhood Education Department,
which has been straining to accommodate the number of students in its
program. Knight noted that such private support will be important in coming
years as the percentage of Clark’s budget that’s funded by the state continues to shrink. Already, only about half of the college’s funding comes from Washington state; the rest comes from tuition and donor support.
Despite the grim budget news, Knight sounded notes of hope in his speech.
He quoted Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who in face of his city’s budget woes
said, “We need to be very clear where just surviving takes you: It takes you to a lifestyle of just survival.”
“Our students don’t want to simply survive,” added Knight. “Our regional
doesn’t want to simply survive. Clark College doesn’t want to simply survive. We all want to dream. We all want to grow. So, here at Clark College, we are staying focused on our aspirations."
Presidential Coin Recipients
|President Knight presents a Presidential Coin to Janet Owens, Administrative Assistant in Corporate and Continuing Education|
In 2007, Clark College President Robert K. Knight introduced a new honor at Clark College: the presidential coin. The coin is given to faculty and staff members who provide exemplary service to Clark students, the college and the community.
During the State of the College address, Knight awarded four presidential coins to:
Bookstore Manager Monica Knowles
Advising Program Specialist John Maduta
Geology Professor Charlene Montierth
Corporate & Continuing Education Administrative Assistant Janet Owens