Sunny and Focused on Students, Community – The Durango Herald

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When I arrived at Fort Lewis College as President in August 2018, I knew the faculty and staff had tremendous potential to take on any challenge.

However, I knew there was serious work to be done to improve the campus culture, secure resources, and better serve our students. No matter the challenge, I was – and still am – inspired to lead the college thanks to the amazing students, faculty, staff and friends of FLC who work tirelessly to make a difference on campus and in our community.

Over the past three years, we have worked in a focused and strategic manner to better serve students and the community. We put students back at the center of everything we do as an institution, working with them to understand and address difficult topics like diversity and social justice in our community and beyond, and reconciling our history as an Indian Residential School. We have built on our shared values ​​of transparency and unity to reshape the campus into an engaging environment to which everyone belongs.

When COVID-19 hit, colleges and universities across the country felt the extreme effects of the pandemic, but the CBF came out stronger on the other side. Surprisingly, while navigating the demanding nature of the past year, our faculty and staff performed at their highest level – teaching courses, mentoring students, and securing transformational external funding.

As an example, our humanities faculty collaborated to receive a $ 1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support undergraduate research and faculty development in the Department of Native American Studies and native. Additionally, our science, technology, engineering, and math schools have received two grants from the National Institutes of Health – an achievement that only a major research university in Colorado can typically claim.

The accomplishments of the past three years have only been possible because of the people who care so much about the future of FLC. I feel tremendous optimism about the future of FLC. Our constant focus on putting students at the center has enabled us to foster student success, increase their sense of belonging and build a solid financial future. In the years to come, we will keep the same focus on our students, their success and their development. The care that our faculty and staff give to students is why we find ourselves in a position of strength: Enrollment increased last year and our new class appears to be the largest in many years.

The success of FLC extends beyond our focus on students. The pandemic has brought home what we have known for a long time – as a community, our destinies are directly linked. Our history and our future as a college are linked to our region. With this in mind, we have sought to build partnerships that leverage our strengths to improve the community.

Our belief in interdependence is why we have partnered with local school districts to create career paths for high school and college students within local industries. Our partnership brought in $ 3.7 million, the largest grant ever from the Governor’s Response, Innovation and Student Equity Fund of $ 32.7 million.

This is why we have been honored to have incredible partners like San Juan Basin Public Health, Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, who throughout the pandemic have helped us keep our students safe. and our community. This is why our faculty and staff requested (and received) funding from the United States Department of Agriculture to build Internet connectivity centers and educational connections in Ignacio and Antonito and on the Navajo Nation. That’s why we promote economic development with community partners at the Innovation Center in downtown Durango.

As we look to the future, FLC will continue to focus on student success and we will do so with great collaborators in our region to address the next challenges we face – housing shortage, shift to renewables and inequality. systemic social issues. We feel fortunate to have so many amazing community members that we see as partners.

The work continues.

Tom Stritikus is President of Fort Lewis College.


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