The Laramie County Community College Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday evening to appoint Dr. Joe Schaffer, Ed.D., as the new president of the college.
“I was so proud of the way the process worked,” said LCCC Board Chair Brenda Lyttle, speaking about the involvement of the faculty, staff, students and community members in providing feedback. “We as a board got what we wanted and what we needed, and we have an exceptional candidate – an exceptional man – to be the president of LCCC.”
The motion to hire Schaffer was made by board member Bill Dubois, and it was seconded by Kevin Kilty.
Schaffer comes to LCCC from Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology, where he served as the Dean and CEO. Over the past nine years he has held positions at MSU-GFCT including Director of Outreach, Assistant Dean of Outreach and Workforce Development, Associate Dean of Workforce Programs, and Chief Academic Officer.
Lyttle said Schaffer is energetic, bright and personable.
“He really has a talent for engaging people,” Lyttle said. “He has a passion for education and for community colleges, and he has a vision for cooperation and excellence. The board is proud to have Dr. Schaffer represent LCCC to the college community and to the Cheyenne community.”
Results-focused but people-oriented, Schaffer has led his institution through the integration of its planning, institutional effectiveness and budgeting process, which has led to broad involvement of the campus community and increased transparency in decision-making, while targeting investments to produce results. It is the only institution in Montana to increase the amount of money it spends per student to help those students complete their degrees, and at the same time, it has increased the number of degrees received to record levels. Recently, Schaffer’s model of integration was published in the Chair Academy’s journal “Leadership.”
“Dr. Schaffer will bring a very positive visibility to the college,” Lyttle said. “I think the college’s image in the community will follow this leader. If we have a bright, positive, energetic leader, I think that will help us as a board lead the college into a brighter, more positive future.”
Schaffer will officially start at LCCC on Jan. 17. Lyttle said his first order of business will be to meet as many people as possible – both on campus and in the community.
“My No. 1 priority is to get to know the people in the community and on campus,” Schaffer said. “No. 2 is to take a good, hard look at the evidence behind where our students succeed and where they don’t succeed. I also want to hear more formally from each major division about the issues they might face, what they’re spending the bulk of their time working on, and the bragging points about their divisions.”
Schaffer said he feels it’s important to understand the organizational culture as soon as possible. “I want to build a foundation on my awareness,” he said, “and craft that into a vision the whole campus can rally behind.”
The selection process implemented by the board of trustees
included a number of opportunities for campus and community involvement. The board brought three exceptional candidates to the college for the final phase of the selection process. Each of the three candidates participated in an open forum for all employees and the general public; lunch with the President’s Cabinet; a faculty forum; a forum with professional staff, classified staff and administrators; a visit to the Albany County Campus; and a dinner with the board of trustees. At each forum, comment sheets were distributed, and the board members present asked all in attendance and those watching the online video feeds to submit their comments about the candidates.
“We received an amazing number of comment forms,” Lyttle said. “They played a large part in our selection. The open forums allowed us as a board to see how the candidates interacted with people and reacted to tough questions, and how they were able to think on their feet and answer them on the spot. We got to hear what words those candidates chose, and that was very important to us. From the feedback we received, we saw that it was very important to a lot of people on campus and in the community, too.”
Lyttle was excited about the nomination. “We have really hit the jackpot on this one, I believe,” she said. “We are very fortunate a candidate like Joe Schaffer applied for this position. He may be very nice and very funny and very charming, but he is no pushover. He’s exactly what we need in a president at LCCC.”
A Minnesota native, Schaffer holds a Doctor of Education degree with an emphasis on Educational Leadership from The University of Montana’s Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences. His scholarship interests and research focus is on sociopolitical deterrents to the participation and success of adult students in higher education, specifically public two-year colleges. He earned a master’s degree in Technical Communication from Montana Tech, a bachelor’s degree in Wildland Recreation Resource Management with a minor in Wildlife Biology from The University of Montana, and an Associate of Arts degree from Bemidji State University (Minnesota).
Schaffer has been honored with the Greater Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Leadership Award, as well as being named a Rising Star by the Great Falls Tribune’s Business News. In 2010 he was named as the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations, District 7 Pacesetter of the Year.
He and his wife, Brooke, a practicing nurse, have been married for nine years. They have two daughters; Samantha, 5, and Lia, 1.