Faculty students and staff with VPAA finalist

James Payne is a candidate for the VPAA postion at CSU-Pueblo. Photo courtesy of the CSU-Pueblo website.

CSU-Pueblo was busy last week as candidates for the vice president of academic affairs held open-interview forums for faculty, staff and students.

VPAA candidates Brenda Nichols, James Payne and Perry Retting each has a doctorate, as required by CSU-Pueblo in order to apply for the job, has extensive backgrounds in education and will bring their knowledge and experience to the CSU-Pueblo campus.

The VPAA is the chief academic officer responsible for providing leadership and overall strategic direction for the instructional and research programs of the university. The VPAA is also responsible for all aspects of the academic mission and collaborates with the university leadership to guide the institution in advancing its strategic plan, according to the job description released by CSU-Pueblo.

The description also states that the administrator in this position overseas all academic degree and non-degree programs, Student Academics Support programs, First-Year programs, Enrollment Management, research and sponsored programs, Continuing Education, Information Technology services, the Library, the Honors Program, and the President’s Leadership Program.

Retting kicked off the week on Monday, Sept. 17, with an open forum at 7:30 a.m. and ended the day with dinner accompanied by CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare as dictated for every candidate by the university.
Present at the student’s forum was a collection of Associated Students’ Government members and a few non-ASG members. Retting at the started the forum by greeting each student, learning their names and majors.

Retting has been in the education area for more than 12 years as a teacher, principal and associate chancellor. Coming from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh that has approximately 13,500 students, Retting said he is drawn to CSU-Pueblo because of its size and the campus’ focus on the students and academics.

Perry Rettig is the another candidate for the VPAA postition. Photo courtesy of the CSU-Pueblo website.

With teaching and diversity being important to him, Retting said he believes in shared democratic governance.
Shared governance as described by Retting is the slow and deliberate process of decision making that involved all who are affected.

Retting said, “The job of the provost is to empower people and to get them involved.” He added, “When you share in decision making, you share in responsibility which is essential in higher learning.”
Although Retting is aware that students are reaching their limit in what they are willing to pay here at CSU-

Pueblo, he proposed bringing in more revenue, not from the state but through student fees in order to better develop academic and student life programs.Retting said he believes that the enhancement of such programs would help retain students and recruit more students to CSU-Pueblo, which has experienced a decrease in enrollment this academic year.

Brenda Nichols is the final candidate for the VPAA position. Photo courtesy of the CSU-Pueblo website.

Payne followed Retting on Sept. 19 with the same schedule and similar views. Payne sat with students and also told them of his personal interest and life that includes outdoor hobbies, such as road biking and fishing.

Coming from the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland, Fla., Payne was the regional vice chancellor for academic affairs and research.

“I was interested in the position because of the size of the institution is such that I can get to know the student and interact with the faulty,” Payne said. “At larger institutions it’s more difficult and less personalized.”

If chosen for the position, Payne plans to attend football games, student government meetings and host open forums to get student input as a way to keep in touch with students and create relationships.

Payne described himself to students as down-to-earth, transparent, and an honest ethical worker. Understanding the current status of CSU-Pueblo, Payne said if chosen he would focus on recruitment, retention and timely graduation but wouldn’t jump into anything before he further evaluate and assess each situation.

Nichols was the last to conduct her open-interview session on Friday, and she is the only female candidate for the position.

Nichols currently serves as dean of the college of arts and science and is a nursing professor at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

While serving at LU, Nichols is responsible for budget management, program development, accreditation, strategic planning, community partnerships, fundraising and distant learning. She also has the knowledge to work with culturally and ethnically diverse students, according to the press released by CSU-Pueblo.

The interview committee reviewed the feedback of those that attended the forums on Sept. 24 but it is unclear as to when the candidate will be chosen.