New Madison College president makes good impression

October 18, 2013

From  “Column: MATC president makes good first impression” — Jack E. Daniels, the new president of Madison Area Technical College, is straightforward about his challenges and priorities.

The college’s enrollment is slipping after a building boom. Labor contracts are expiring in a post-Act 10 world. Technology is changing the traditional classroom.

Yet Daniels likes what he sees on his many campuses, wants to develop a shared vision and promises to always put students first.

His candor included an honest answer to a tough question Tuesday from the State Journal editorial board. Asked when he last spoke to his predecessor, Bettsey Barhorst, Daniels replied without hesitation that it’s been about a month and a half.

That’s more evidence the MATC District Board’s pay extension for Barhorst ($88,000 for 19 weeks of on-call advice, mostly by phone) was a parting gift for her long tenure. It wasn’t a seriously needed consulting gig.

Daniels, a Chicago native who ran a community college in Los Angeles, makes a good first impression. He seems collaborative yet driven, emphasizing the employment needs of the region.

“Technical college is about jobs — getting people prepared for jobs,” he stressed.

That ranges from culinary classes to manufacturing skills to a specialized program on stem cells. MATC also is the top source of transfer students to UW-Madison.

Daniels said the focus on MATC’s building expansion will shift more to what’s happening in those facilities.

Daniels has met with hundreds of groups since starting his job Aug. 19. He’s launching a strategic planning effort and pledged to seek wide input.

MATC’s enrollment has fallen as the economy has improved. Daniels said that places more importance on recruitment. Pitching MATC’s affordability to parents could help attract more high school students, he suggested. Daniels had hundreds of high school students on his college campus in Los Angeles. Smoothing that transition is key.

Daniels said he supports online and hybrid classes but wants them carefully assessed. The traditional role of instructors isn’t going away, he added.

California makes it easier to track the jobs and pay of graduates by Social Security number, something Wisconsin doesn’t allow, he said. Yet measuring success is vital, he suggested.

Daniels isn’t hung up on his institution’s name. Whether you call it MATC or Madison College, what’s important is that it fulfills its mission, he said.

We like the attitude and honesty.


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