New Madison College president listening to students’ ideas

September 9, 2013

From “Learning the ropes of Reedsburg” — By Julie Belschner – From Los Angeles to Reedsburg, it’s a bit of culture shock for Dr. Jack E. Daniels III. But the Chicago native, who is now the president of Madison Area Technical College, knows this area well. As a child, he came to Wisconsin Dells on camping trips.

This week he was in Reedsburg to meet with staff, faculty, students and the public at MATC’s Reedsburg campus.

“This is my second time here,” he said. “I was here for a tour during the interview process. Today I got really good input. What you’re coming into is a facility that serves this community well. The students seem to be engaged. We have great instructors. Those are all good things.

“There are no bad things. The staff here all has one focus – on the students. And that’s true throughout the district.”

He comes to the job after serving since 2006 as president of Los Angeles Southwest College, an 8,000-student school that’s part of the sprawling Los Angeles Community College district. It was formed in 1967 in the wake of the Watts race riots to improve educational opportunities for the area’s then-majority black population.

He has been credited with helping the college be more accessible to the area’s now-majority Latino population, boosting their enrollment from 20 percent of the student body when he started to 36 percent today.

“His unwavering commitment to student success and a positive collaborative work environment for all involved in the college, plus his commitment to partnering with the community to meet the needs of industry and business, put him in an excellent position to lead us,” said Janice Bultema at the time of his selection. The District Board member was on the three-person search committee for a new president.

She said that beyond his record as an administrator, it was feedback received from various campus groups that helped cinch the decision to hire Daniels.

“What we heard loud and clear from all the sessions is people really like his interpersonal style and his engaging interaction with others,” she said.

Serving others is Daniels’ aim, he said Wednesday.

“We talked about classes, about what types of programs they’d like to see, about books, the cost of books,” he said of the day’s meetings with students. “They’d like the ability to have programs here that may be offered in a different area. Many don’t like to travel. They like the class size here; there is more engagement with the instructors.”

One example, he said, is the culinary program that is offered in Madison. If Reedsburg students want to be in it, they currently need to travel to Madison. That, he said, might be difficult, especially in winter.

“It’s too soon to tell what I might change,” he said. “I’m taking the first few weeks to observe and listen. I’ll have some findings, and then analyze them, and present them back to the district. I anticipate the first of November I’ll be able to do that.”

He has eight campuses to observe and listen at, so getting around to all eight is a task, he added.

Surprisingly, not that many things are different than in LA.

“There are some obvious things,” he said. “The size is smaller, and in California each college campus is separately accredited, not like here. But there are similar programs. We have a college focus on trade and technology.”

When asked how ACT-10 will affect his plans at MATC, Daniels said he needs to set up a plan for open dialogue between staff and faculty.

“We actually have three collective bargaining units here,” he said. “The staff, part-time faculty and full-time faculty. The current contract ends March 2014, so I’ve got no time. I want to have something put together by the first of the year. There are so many unknowns. While a few colleges have handbooks, there is no framework, nothing to follow.

“But I strongly believe in shared decision making.”

Daniels took over at the school Aug. 19. He earned his doctorate at Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology in Berkeley, Calif., and his Bachelor’s degree at Huntington University in Indiana.


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