(Lander, Wyo.) – Out-going Central Wyoming College President Jo Anne McFarland met this morning with LEADER in Lander to recap her tenure with college and provide a look at the future.
She told her story as one of adaptation and responsiveness to changes in the community. McFarland has been with CWC for 41 years, the last 25 as president. She said when she hired as president in 1989, she couldn’t help but look good because her predecessor had been convicted of shoplifting at a Riverton business. “I came in at a low point,” she said. Morale was low and even an outside accreditation team called staff “fat, dumb and happy.”
McFarland said that was a fair assessment, and she worked to build pride among staff. She also talked about unpopular and tough decisions she had to make, such as eliminating round-ball sports. She said the college had to quit over-promising. The economic crash of the same time frame resulted in a reduction in state funding, forcing the college to prioritize and be more strategic in its planning.
She talked about how the college has responded to market needs by offering career paths in healthcare and energy fields.
A turning point of the college, which she believes has strengthened CWC’s position, was the 2003 adoption by the Board of Trustees of policy governance. This provided clear guidelines of what the President could do with or without board authority.
She provided some data to show the impact that CWC has had directly in Lander. In fiscal year 2010, the college employed 39 people at Lander facilities, ranging from full time to part time to community education instructors. In fiscal year 2015, that number will have risen to 63. Additionally, the total salaries for Lander residents employed by CWC topped $2.5 million this year.
Between this year and next, CWC will be spending more than $3 million in capital construction and maintenance at Lander and Sinks Canyon facilities. “That is an intentional investment in Lander,” she said.
Some up-coming dates of note for CWC in Lander are: a late July ground-breaking for the new CWC Lander Center, a Fall 2014 dedication of the Sinks Canyon Center Bunkhouse and then the August 2015 dedication of the CWC Lander Center.
Former Lander State Rep. Del McOmie called McFarland a “bull dog” who “really fought the battle” for the state’s community colleges even when other presidents gave up. He said he respected her for speaking out when she disagreed with the legislature and not kissing up legislators. The two shared a hug at the end of the meeting.
This is McFarland’s final month before her retirement. In-coming president Cristobal Valdez will begin work in July.