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Published: Wednesday, 5/9/2001

Owens candidate touts benefits of open-door policy

`Anyone can come and talk to me about anything,' Dr. Vicky R. Smith, a finalist for president of Owens Community College, tells the audience at an open forum here. `Anyone can come and talk to me about anything,' Dr. Vicky R. Smith, a finalist for president of Owens Community College, tells the audience at an open forum here.
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Promising to promote trust and accessibility at Owens Community College, Dr. Vicky R. Smith made her pitch yesterday to be the college's next president.

“I have an open-door policy,” she said during an open forum. “Anyone can come and talk to me about anything.”

Dr. Smith is the vice president for academic services at Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y. She is one of three finalists vying to succeed Daniel Brown, who has been Owens' president since 1984 and who will retire at the end of this month.

A third presidential candidate, Dr. Christa Adams, will visit Owens today for open forums at the Perrysburg Township and Findlay campuses and an interview with the board of trustees. She is president of St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Mich.

Dr. Lawrence E. Grulick, vice president of instruction and educational services at Harrisburg Area Community College in Pennsylvania, was in town for meetings Monday.

The board of trustees is expected to name a president at its meeting Tuesday.

During two hour-long meetings yesterday with faculty, students, administrators, and others at each Owens campus, Dr. Smith, 53, talked about improving communication at the college.

“My philosophy is to work in a collegial, open relationship,” she said.

Communication at Owens was one concern recently raised by a team from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

Dr. Smith, who had been president of a smaller school in Minnesota, Austin Community College, before joining Monroe Community College in 1997, addressed questions about campus governance, student retention, and strategic planning.

She said she has a history of supporting professional development for faculty, including the establishment of a teaching creative center while in Rochester. She said she implemented a technology plan to keep hardware and software current and tried, without much success, to improve the diversity of faculty on campus.

Monroe Community College, which consists of two campuses, has an enrollment of about 14,000 students. Owens has an enrollment of about 15,500.

Most of the 16 evaluation forms that were turned in immediately following the forums were generally positive and cited Dr. Smith's personality and passion for community colleges as strengths.

Dermot Forde, coordinator of student activities, said Dr. Smith seemed very personable and supportive and would relate well with campus constituencies.

“She seemed very committed to the goal of educating the community,” said Susan Burris, an associate professor in communication/humanities at the Findlay campus.

David Wells, assistant director of the Owens advising center, added: “She seemed to be someone who would be very approachable.”

After receiving a bachelor's degree in education from Eastern Illinois University, Dr. Smith went on to receive a master's degree in library science from the University of Illinois and a doctorate in community college administration from Northern Illinois University.

Dr. Smith said she made a conscious decision to work for community colleges, even when she had offers from four-year liberal arts colleges and high schools.

“Community colleges are the places that really impact people's lives,” she said.



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