College President Robert K. Knight delivers his 13th address
VANCOUVER — Clark College President Robert K. Knight spoke to hundreds of community leaders, college faculty and students Thursday morning; giving his 13th State of the College Address.
Among key issues and accomplishments discussed in Knight’s speech were social equity on campus, implementation of the Guided Pathways program and a successful accreditation through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
“For the second year in a row, transformation was the theme at Clark College,” Knight said. “With changes in everything from our enrollment process, to our executive team. But the important thing to remember is that all this change, all this upheaval, is all to help us fulfill our vision.”
In addition to passing the the accreditation evaluation, the college also received six commendations:
- Faculty and staff readiness to support student learning and success
- Creation of student spaces that increase academic and social engagement
- Embracing social equity and dedication to eliminating disparities
- Providing effective methods of support for students with disabilities
- Dedication to those who served and making veterans resources accessible
- Strong engagement with industry partners
Knight recognized many city, state and federal officials, as well as honored guest, Wilbert Kalmbach, who is a WWII veteran that officially graduated from Clark in 2009 after being invited back to commencement.
When he came to recognizing the large delegation from the city of Ridgefield, Knight began to laugh.
“They show up at every event we do at Clark now! I think they want something,” Knight joked, referencing Clark’s Boschma Farm’s campus in Ridgefield, expected to begin construction as soon as state funding comes through.
Perhaps most prominent and well known, is Clark’s implementation of the Guided Pathways program. The nationally recognized program endeavors to help students develop plans for a career as well as their degree(s).
“Other colleges that have implemented Guided Pathways, have seen their completion rates increase,” Knight said. “ And just as important, the completion rate is the same for students of all backgrounds.”
Guided Pathways will eliminate disparities in the college environment, by equipping everyone equalling with what they need to succeed, Knight said.
Knight also explained goals the college has completed in social equity, including a diversity center, single-stall gender-neutral bathrooms and efforts to hire more persons of color.
The president also addressed some of the upgrades the college intends to make as a result of the accreditation evaluation, which occurs every 7 to 10 years.
Valerie Moreno, from Clark’s IT Services and now the recently hired chief information officer, has created an IT plan for the college to update its systems and hardware, Knight said.
Several accomplishments the president highlighted were having the number one Pharmacy Tech program in the nation, adding new bachelor of applied science degrees, newly awarded grants, including one to aid students with children, and the opening of the full-service restaurant from the McClaskey Culinary Institute.
Knight also shared his hope to acquire funding for salary raises for college employees. He cited that the average staff and faculty member at Clark, was being paid 12 percent less than their counterparts in peer states.
“Our number one ask at the state level, on the operational side, is for salaries,” Knight said. “The employees in this room deserve an increase.”
He likened the situation to the McCleary decision and the public school teacher strikes that occured in the fall of last year. He also explained that if funding for salary increases does come through, there is a high probability operation funding will be lower.
Knight closed by honoring student, Esmeralda “Vita” Blanco, for being awarded the state level Transforming Lives award, and by giving out presidential coins.
The most emotional moment came when Knight awarded the final presidential coin to adjunct math instructor, Bill Raedy. Raedy gave extra time and effort to help one of his students who was a veteran, and the last surviving member of his combat team.
The student was contemplating suicide before Raedy made sure he had the resources and time to make up missed work, and convinced him that he was valued and safe at the college, Knight said.
The address concluded with all students present on stage with the president.
“The biggest highlight had to be our successful accreditation,” Knight said. “It just affirms the good work that everybody here at the college is doing. It feels great actually.”