Dr. Mary Ann Searle’s experience as an administrator in higher education has brought her to Barton Community College, where she is one of three candidates for vice president of academics. She met many faculty and staff Wednesday at a public forum held in the Fine Arts Building.
Dr. Searle is vice president for Enrollment & Student Affairs at Lake-Sumter State College in Florida. She has worked for some 20 years at small, public, two-year colleges and small, private, four-year universities.
“I think community colleges are the future of higher education,” Searle said. “Things have changed so much in the last five to seven years in higher education. ... This is where it’s at.”
Dr. Vic Martin, BCC agriculture instructor, asked how she would begin an administrative career at Barton.
“The first 100 days, I have usually spent meeting one-on-one with people,” she said. “It’s possible I would do something similar here.” She has already started “figuring out the culture” of BCC. “What I heard today was there’s a lot of longevity here, and that can be very challenging (when change is implemented).”
Although she’d be an “outsider,” Searle is aware that all three candidates fit that description.
ReGina Reynolds-Casper, director of Learning Resources, asked how Searle plans to apply her knowledge and experience to a community college in rural Kansas.
Lake-Sumter State College has one bachelor’s program, but, “for all intents and purposes it’s a community college,” she said. She also worked at Indiana Wesleyan University, which has 17 centers in four states. Like Barton, that institution experienced a large growth in online course enrollment. At the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, she worked with Upward Bound and similar programs.
The question from Julie Munden, Barton’s video and multimedia coordinator, was simply, “Why Barton?”
“Three previous supervisors have encouraged me to pursue a college presidency. I’m just not sure that I’m ready for that. (But) this job may be pulling all the things I’ve done together,” she said.
“Also, I’m very intrigued by the military part of it,” she said, referring to the Barton campuses at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth. “It’s really neat that you are doing outreach to that population.”
Journalism instructor Peter Solie asked how she would deal with rules or regulation that are at odds with the best educational practices.
“You can’t really challenge mandates,” she said, thinking of a law passed in Florida that eliminated developmental education requirements for some students. “We just had to implement that.
“If there’s an institutional policy that is contrary to educational value, then we need to look at that.” She recalled a case where a student disagreed with how the college articulated his transcript. Dialogue and research got the dispute settled. “He was right,” she said. “We were able to make some changes that ultimately benefitted him.”
The complete forum is available online: bartonccc.edu/VPsearl