Grand Rapids Community College wrapped up its final day of interviewing presidential finalists, Monday, Oct. 24, hosting Timothy Casper for a series of public forums, as well as a public interview with the Board of Trustees.
Casper, executive vice president of student affairs at the Madison Area Technical College of Wisconsin, presented as a forward thinker and a problem solver. Much of his testimony throughout the day focused on the ways in which public policy affects students’ lives.
“The issue of equity can’t be addressed solely by a community college,” Casper said during the GRCC Board of Trustees interview. “Our faculty students and staff come in and out of the college walls… and so whatever is happening to them in the world outside GRCC happens to them when they are in here and vice versa. So many other institutions play a role in creating a more equitable community, so if we are going to have a strong and healthy community, then everybody has to be involved in having the opportunity to fully participate, and in our case that’s access to education.”
Casper made a habit of mentioning the importance of equity. He made it known that part of the reason he was drawn to the job at GRCC was the specific reference to “advancing equity in the GRCC community” in the job posting. These aren’t newfound beliefs, his doctoral dissertation in education studies focused on the impact of grant aid on student completion rates.
Casper has made strides toward providing access and resources to students who were unable to complete their degree in his current position in Madison.
“Going back to establishing a new facility in south Madison. We understood that there were a number of individuals in the area that were not coming, and that a significant percentage of them, around 30%, that had some college but no degree,”Casper said. “People who had tried college and might not have been successful, might have got what they needed at the time, but did not yet get a degree… We knew that it was an under-resourced community and would need a full array of services to support their student experience… We brought into the institution a legal aid clinic. We had students get driver’s license issues cleaned up, allowing them to access the institution and their work and other things in their lives. We have had individuals that had issues with tenant landlord relations… and others that have had issues with documentation, and so that party was able to connect them to a broader network of different firms and legal aid societies.”
Casper made a point to emphasize the need to meet students where they are. He showed an understanding of the changing landscape, not only in education but in people’s daily lives as they continue to adjust to a new normal post-COVID.
Having met with all three candidates over the last week, the Board of Trustees will now take time to deliberate before making any final decisions. Chairperson David Koetje mentioned they intend to have their decision made by the next board meeting on Nov. 21.