Stephanie Ferguson, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native, was among the first of three candidates invited by the college to meet with employees at an open forum today. After she was introduced by President Kim Krull, Ferguson spoke about her background and qualifications. Prior to her applying for the position at the college, Ferguson had already learned of Butler.
“I did a lot of research before I came, and I think a testament to the people who are in this room, and I shared this with Executive Council at lunch,” she said. “I have a colleague who was a dean with me at New Mexico Junior College, and she is now at Vernon College as a vice president there, and when I told her that I was coming here, she said, ‘You know, Butler is one of those institutions that when I was in Arkansas, we would look to Butler to see what they were doing, to see what we could do to improve.’ And so you talk about Butler having a good reputation in the state of Kansas, I want you to know that Butler has a good reputation that far exceeds the state boundaries.”
Employees, who attended the open forum, asked questions ranging from retention to the role a library serves and to diversity and inclusion. Lora Jarvis, Krull’s executive assistant, fielded questions from those attending by Zoom. Monica Lorg, an associate professor of behavioral science asked what the candidate’s thoughts were regarding adopting programs to help with retention.
Ferguson’s most recent experience with retention relates to the shift from face-to-face classes to online last spring at her institution. The candidate explained that she and others worked together to make this shift possible.
“There is a whole of support to helping the faculty make that shift, but it was imperative that we made sure that the students were able to make that shift as well because some of those classes primarily face-to-face classes were our most vulnerable and most at-risk populations in our developmental classes, and making sure those students didn’t get lost in the shuffle was crucial,” Ferguson said. “We worked together with Student Services, our academic advisors and our learning center academics success center tutors, and we actually embedded individuals in those classes as observers, so they were able to see the content that was going on, see what the expectations were and make the effort to be the first point of contact.”
Sometimes these individuals, Ferguson spoke of, inquired about the subject matter; others inquired about how they were doing during the pandemic.
“…. is there anything that you need, is there anything that we can do and they acted as the wrap-around resource to be able to connect them to whatever the student needed to be successful and finish out the semester, and it was a very successful semester,” Ferguson added.
According to Ferguson, New Mexico Junior College experienced a significantly high retention rate than in previous semesters. One important lesson that Ferguson learned during this time was being intentional, which the dean returned to as she answered employees’ questions.
Jarvis shared an employee’s question about what Ferguson’s vision for Butler would be if should she was selected for the vice presidental position.
“I think for me is learning what Butler does well, also doing the research to understand what our competitors do and then being able to show what we do that differentiates us from everybody else,” Ferguson answered. “Often times in post-secondary institutions, we all know that we are doing great things. I’ve spent all day hearing about the awesome things that happen here, but how do we communicate that in a way that positions us to be the institution of choice, and so it’s about learning about what we are doing well and being able to tell that story and tell it effectively depending on who the stakeholders are.”
Ferguson added that she could bring different ideas to the college, and the position of vice president, as it relates to online education. Ferguson worked as an instructional designer once her husband, who is in the military, transferred to New Mexico at the University of the Southwest. She has taught online since 1992.
“…and really taking a look at possibilities for growth–tempered with needs-assessment and not growing for growth’’s sake, but growing because we are being intentional with what we are growing, we are doing it for a purpose and it can be sustainable,” Ferguson said.
Following this segment, Ferguson posed questions to those attending in person and on Zoom.
““We often times don’t do a good job of identifying and communicating what it is we do well,” she said. “What does Butler do well?”
Megan Chambers, a former Butler student, now works as an admissions counselor, was the first to answer.
“We really care about our students,” Chambers said. “From the very beginning, even after they have left us, we care about what they are doing and if there is anything we can do that will help them move forward.”
Ferguson explained she had heard this frequently throughout the day.
“I think at our best, we teach really, really well,” Cory Teubner, associate professor of English, said.
After hearing from employees, Ferguson challenged those in attendance how to communicate that they care.
“That caring and that boldness is absolutely fantastic,” she added. “But how do you, and this is a question that was asked with the Executive Committee (Council), how do you communicate that out? How do you identify that? How do you characterize it? How do you define it to be able to share with someone outside of the Butler community?”
The second candidate will be invited to the campus tomorrow during an open forum. More information about the VPA search can be found here: Vice President of Academics Search | Butler Community College (butlercc.edu) Employees can visit VPA Open Forums: Schedule to sign up to attend one of the sessions.