By Chloe Fox
Julie Leidig is currently the Provost of the Loudoun campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Her previous experience also includes being Vice President of Instruction at Lone Star College and Director of Instructional Programs, Community College Division at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Leidig has 4 degrees, including a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from The University of Texas at Austin.
Q: One of the things that CNM is doing now is developing a Spanish language humanities program, which is different from other programs in that the goal is for students to get a degree in their native language. If you were president here, would you support more initiatives to look at the possibilities of programs like the Spanish language program, which are there to serve the population where that language is always going to be their strongest language?
A: I think it’s our job to serve the community where the community needs to be served. If it serves students, if there’s a niche for them, if there’s employment for them in the Spanish language and they need skills in Spanish, I think we’d eventually like to encourage them to become bilingual and learn English, but I assume the college did research on this and there’s a need. I don’t see myself coming in and reversing that. When I was in Texas there were state laws against programs like that, but I am glad you have the ability.
Q: The South Valley campus is one of our smaller campuses in our system, and the campus has struggled with enrollment and having a campus identity to serve the community in a thoughtful way. If you were selected to be president, what might you do to help address the concerns of this community, and this campus?
A: I have a real heart for small campuses. I currently have a small campus attached to my campus, and I also had one at Lone Star College. I’ve grappled with those kinds of issues before. A couple of strategies that I’ve tried that have worked are taking a program that everyone wants and putting it specifically at one location so everyone has to go there. It might not be the best approach for this campus specifically, but it is one way to boost enrollment at a certain campus. The idea here would be to look at the population that lives around this area and ask what the best programs are to serve that population, and the draw to the campus. Having toured this campus today, I think it could probably use some renovation. I think you’ve already got some great programs here. I’d want several strong programs that would be a draw, to build on, especially for the population that either lives or works close by. You have to be realistic about what will draw people to a particular location. You aren’t really obvious just driving by, it would be easy to drive by and not even notice that you’re here, so that may be a factor as well.
Q: Recently, Governor Lujan Grisham announced her plans for free college. What are your thoughts about that proposal?
A: I think free college could be a great thing, depending on how it’s done. I think free college is most important for those who could not afford to go otherwise. I’m one of those people who think that free college isn’t the best thing for people who could afford tuition. Your tuition at CNM is very low, so making college free for people who could easily afford your tuition means you’re using state resources for that rather than other important things. I would like to see college be affordable for everybody that needs to go. If it’s going to be free then I want it to be done well and I want to see the college be well supported. My biggest concern about free college is does the college continue to get the support it needs to be an excellent college that can deliver everything with quality? I want to see anything that will encourage people to take advantage of education.
Q: You have experience in Texas and Virginia, what attracts you to New Mexico and CNM to look at for being president?
A: Well, I’m going to start with what attracts me to CNM. I’m really looking for a place where I can make a difference, and CNM has done some amazing things. You have a great balance between technical programs that have excellent equipment and great partnerships, and also with the general education and transfer programs. I love that you’re in a wonderful, vibrant community, which is a creative place and a beautiful place as well, which doesn’t hurt either. To me, the thing that really attracts me to CNM is that you have your values statement. I love the way this college talks about itself. Since I’ve been here, people have told me that they love the values and they apply the values, they weren’t just written down and forgotten. I would like to work with a group of people that has those values.
Q: The DC metro area that you come from has a much different socioeconomic climate than Albuquerque. What are your plans for increasing the amount of job placement for our students once they graduate, and what are your plans for any partnerships with any local businesses in order to increase that number?
A: I think you’ve got a lot of good partnerships going on already, so there’s a lot to build on there. A lot of it is working with the chambers of commerce and all the local business groups and finding out where the employer needs are, and then showing how the employer needs connect with CNM’s programs. At my campus, we are perched on the edge of some of the millions of square feet of data centers. We started a program to train people who are the operations techs, or the critical infrastructure people for the data centers. Everyone is dying to get the graduates of this program, because the people they have been employing are mainly veterans that worked on nuclear submarines, as they’re the ones with the closest experience. You want to find employers that are hungry, and say hey, we have this program we’re going to give you. The ideal thing would be to find employers who will guarantee that they’re going to hire if students graduate in good standing from your program. The other thing is if you have limited resources and you’re trying to decide where to put them, I would put my resources where it’s benefitting students the most.
Q: What is your experience with non-credit instruction, workforce development, and workforce training and revenue generation?
A: I have had, at both Lone Star and NOVA, workforce development under me. When I had it under me, I started quite a few programs in that area. At Lone Star, we started a personal trainer program, front as well as back office for medical offices, and we did an innovative thing where we did a dual credit program for welding on the CE side. People would graduate from High School and get certified in welding, but not with credit, with an industry certification. At NOVA, I started with workforce development under me and we run a lot of cyber security programming, and we’re doing apprenticeships. Right now, because our workforce development is focusing heavily on IT, they could be focusing on other potential programs but they don’t want to spend the time. I’m very supportive of workforce development and work with them a lot.
Q: What’s your leadership style, and what do you value in a team to support you?
A: I’ve worked very hard to build my team at the campus, and it’s taken some years. I’m very proud of the team that I have. I really like to have a positive group culture. I like for people to feel comfortable coming to talk to me.
Q: CNM’s values are caring, courageous, connected, exceptional, ethical, and innovative. What’s your favorite?
A: I think caring undergirds all of them because if you care, then that springs into all of the rest of the values. If you care then you become connected, and if you care enough to be ethical, innovative and courageous, I think courage comes from caring also. So, I would say caring is the one that underlies all of them.
Q: Would you support the transition to student owned computers/iPads/phone technology?
A: Is that being proposed? What about the students who can’t afford that? I’ve heard that proposal before, the reason we never did it was because we were always concerned that not all students can afford that. I might support it if there’s a way of financing it for the students who simply can’t afford that. And then the question is how do we make it equable? Because if you’re buying something simple for students when there are other students who can afford something really…I don’t know. I would have to see details on that one. I’d want to know why you’d want to do it.
Q: Across CNM’s campuses, our enrollment is about twice that of your current campus. What do you see as your biggest challenge in adapting to the large number of students that we have across the city?
A: I think the biggest adaptation is that it’s so spread out. I would not be able to be as directly engaged with the day-to-day with everyone. I would really have to look for ways to keep connected with students, and I would have to work at scheduling things at the different campuses. Every job I’ve had has been a big change from the jobs I’ve had before, so I’m not concerned with my ability to adapt. But, I recognize that it would not be the same.
Q: Many of our CNM students are single parents. How would you develop strategies around this group to address barriers to college completion?
A: I think the biggest one is childcare, and I think I would probably not be an advocate of CNM providing childcare on its own because I know colleges that have done that. Colleges that have done that on their own, through their own childcare programs, had to back out of it. Once you back out of it, it becomes very contentious. But, I’ve seen our own college at Lone Star and I’ve seen other colleges effectively partner with local childcare in order to provide childcare in some way. I’ve desperately wanted to do this where I am right now but I haven’t been able to make it happen. The ability to either provide vouchers for local childcare or on-site childcare would be the biggest step you could take toward helping single parents achieve their education. I would really try and find a partnership that could provide some kind of childcare while a student is in class.
Q: What role do you believe CNM plays when it comes to economic development?
A: A huge role. You have a higher unemployment rate here than in some parts of the country, so who else is going to step up and help unemployed and underemployed adults achieve a better life for themselves if you weren’t going to do it? The community college is the entity that always provides hope and new opportunity. Sometimes there’s a post-baccalaureate credential that individuals need that isn’t a masters credential per-se, it’s a higher level of skill. I think the community college can really step in and offer credentialing to professionals who need a new skillset.
Q: We have a collective-bargaining agreement here amongst faculty, do you have any experience with that aspect of supporting faculty?
A: I do not have direct experience with collective bargaining. At Lone Star, the AFT was there. Texas is a right-to-work state so we had the AFT as a voluntary union. I did work with the AFT, our faculty who were members of the AFT, if there were any situations they were involved in in terms of disciplinary action when I was Vice President of Instruction, then I would work with the union representative together and we would partner. So, it would be new to me.
Q: What’s your experience with pathways?
A: In terms of various kinds of pathways, I am a pathway provost as well as campus provost. We have sort of a matrix structure now. In addition to being kind of a campus president, I am the provost for the lab sciences at NOVA, which means I am responsible for the pathway councils. We look at curriculum revisions. We’re also looking at enhancing equipment for all labs across all of the different campuses. The pathway deans and I have been doing tours of the different campuses to see where we have disparities. We put five million dollars last year into enhancing lab equipment for lab sciences across the college. We have negotiated with our closest partner, George Mason University, called NOVA-Mason advanced, so we have a seamless transfer into Mason in a number of pathways. We’re up to almost 85 pathways now, so students at NOVA can opt in to Mason, and once they hit 60 credit hours they roll seamlessly into Mason, become a Mason student, so it’s almost like a co-enrollment plan. We’ve been working on those for the past 3 years. Before I was with the sciences, I worked on the initial IT and Computer Science pathways also. Before we had those pathways, we also worked with four other of our transfer partners in Virginia on what we call Guaranteed Transfer Partnerships. We have guaranteed admissions agreements. Students who finish an associate’s degree at our college with a certain GPA, and meet certain requirements, they have guaranteed admission to any university. Guaranteed transfer partnerships are better because they take the courses, and every single course transfers and applies to their degree. So we now have those agreements with four other universities along with George Mason. Another type of pathway partnership that we’ve had for a long time that we’re now revising is called Pathway to the Baccalaureate. This is with George Mason specifically, but this goes into the high schools. It starts in the last year of high school, and in our county, we’ve had this, until recently we had it with every single high school because that’s how our country wanted to do it. You have a counselor who is embedded in the high school, and this is focused on first-generation, low income, minority, or otherwise at-risk students who are recruited into the program in their senior year of high school. They receive extra counseling and extra supports, and testing assessment while they’re in their senior year at high school. Then they get a lot of extra supports and mandatory advising during the years they’re at NOVA, and then they automatically would roll into George Mason if they wanted to.