AURORA | Each of the 13 colleges in the Colorado Community College System has its own unique strengths and assets.
That’s according to CCCS President Nancy McCallin, who made the final decision regarding the new president of the Community College of Aurora. McCallin said in choosing between the two finalists — Colorado Mountain College Chief Executive Officer Alton Scales and Portland Community College administrator Christine Chairsell — she focused on CCA’s unique profile.
“CCA is quite diverse not only in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of the various countries that our students come from … It grew up in a fashion where the community really, really wanted it; the community went to the Legislature and said we will commit to helping fund this college,” Chairsell said. “Both of the candidates were extremely qualified. (But) I felt that Alton was very good at his community involvement, he was from Colorado … He had tried a lot of innovative things at his previous institutions to move him forward.”
Officials from the Colorado Community College System announced this week that Alton Scales has been named as the new president of the Community College of Aurora.
Scales, the chief executive officer for Colorado Mountain College’s Breckenridge and Dillon campus, was one of five original finalists for the position revealed in March. Scales will start his formal duties as CCA president on July 23, the same day that current Interim President Geri Anderson will return to her full-time position as vice president for student and academic affairs and provost for the Colorado Community College System.
Scales, along with four other candidates from community colleges across the country, toured CCA’s CentreTech and Lowry campuses in April. In May, officials from the Colorado Community College System announced that Scales and Christine Chairsell were the two final candidates.
McCallin had the final say on the decision after the field had been narrowed to two candidates in May. Following the departure of Linda Bowman as president in February, McCallin said she was looking for a president who could follow the same example of innovation and progress. Bowman, who served as CCA president for 12 years, became the face of the school, working with city officials and administrators from Aurora’s public school districts. Under Bowman, CCA ramped up the technical training programs available at its Lowry campus, the number of concurrent enrollment college classes for high school students grew and the scope of its curriculum expanded.
McCallin said she wanted someone who would take similar steps as the college’s new president.
“I think it helped the process. It attracted a very good pool of candidates from which to choose. Dr. Bowman is leaving the college in excellent shape,” McCallin said. “It’s always going to be difficult to follow in those footsteps, because she’s done some very innovative things. I think that Alton has some real innovative spirit in him as well.”
During his visit to the campus in April, Scales said he saw plenty of parallels between his current school and the Aurora institution.
“It was the demographics as well as the array of offerings at CCA,” Scales said. “I want to look at how can we best meet the new regulations coming in from the state and the feds, specifically around computers, how to align ourselves.”
Scales also said he sees promise in CCA’s close partnership with the K-12 systems in Aurora, including the Aurora Public School’s ever-developing Pathways program. The initiative allows high school students the chance to earn college credits and even associate’s degrees by the time they graduate.
“It’s a win-win,” Scales said. “It’s one of the things that we’re currently doing at my present location. In this economy, it’s (ideal) for those of us who are constantly looking for ways to better position our students. Community colleges are the best tools that we have.”
In feedback with the college during his application process, Scales stressed his role as an educator, stressing his commitment to “academic freedom and a full exchange of ideas.”
“I’m an educator. I enjoy it. If you hang with me for 30 minutes or within 20 feet, I’m going to impart something whether you know it or not. I’m going to give you some new information, some different information. That’s just how I’m wired. I like solving problems,” Scales wrote, adding that he’s liable to draw from his graduate studies in manufacturing at the University of North Texas. “Manufacturing has set the standards for all quality assurance programs, and I look at things in terms of systems and how we can take some of the slack out of systems,” he wrote. “It’s important to keep some slack in but (also) to design organizations in ways that are more efficient in doing what we do, in ways that are responsible, agile and maintain the human component.”
As far as his specific plans at CCA, Scales stressed the school’s mission as a bridge between high school and four-year institutions. By working with the Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School districts, the school can build its role as a way to offset the costs of a bachelor’s degree for local K-12 students.
“The community college is best positioned to offset the cost of expensive four-year institutions,” Scales wrote. “There are colleges right now closing their doors. So the ability to be agile is one of the things that sets community colleges apart from four-year institutions. We operate in real time. And we can bring in new curriculum in short order.”
Scales’ professional experience also includes a stint as the vice president for student services at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and time as the dean of student services and enrollment management for the Neosho County Community College in Chanute and Ottawa, Kansas.
Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-449-9707