WINCHESTER — Umpqua Community College presidential candidates Ryan Melton, Rachel Pokrandt and Teresa Rivenes had a chance to meet the board of education in person, get a tour of the campus and interact with the community via Zoom as the final portion of the interview process.
Current UCC President Debra Thatcher will be retiring at the end of June and a successor is expected to start on July 1.
Melton, Pokrandt and Rivenes are the three finalists for the position, for which the college received more than 80 applications.
Melton is currently the dean of psychology and counseling at Bushnell University in Eugene. He lives in Roseburg and has worked in a variety of faculty roles at colleges throughout the state. Melton received his doctorate in counselor education from Oregon State University in 2012.
When asked why he wanted to be president of Umpqua Community College, Melton answered, “It combines two really important things. One, for me personally, it combines my passion for working with students and academic leadership. It’s been something I’ve been doing the majority of my career. And then the next important point is: This is my home. This is where I live, this is my community and I want to be part of that. Those are kind of the two primary reasons and that just fits perfectly for me. I wouldn’t go anywhere else. This is the only job that I’d leave my current position for.”
Pokrandt is currently a vice president and campus dean for Colorado Mountain College. She has background in business and has been an adjunct instructor. Pokrandt received her doctorate degree in management from the Swiss Management University in Zurich, Switzerland.
“The college has this really great blend for me,” Pokrandt said. “Sort of the mission of community colleges in general, that you’re based in a rural community which really speaks to my heart, and especially surrounded by beautiful outdoor settings, and then the programs you have here at the campus and how those programs can really help to serve the community and elevate the economics for everyone is really a sweet spot has been in my career and really draws me to this position.”
Rivenes is the current chief academic officer/vice president at Tillamook Bay Community College. She was previously the dean of curriculum and instruction at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass and has been an adjunct faculty member within the Montana State University system. Rivenes received a doctorate in general psychology from Capella University in 2013 and an advanced degree in education from Montana State University-Bozeman in 2020.
“I want to be president of Umpqua Community College, because I’m passionate really truly passionate about rural communities,” Rivenes said. “I believe that rural community colleges should be the bedrock, the central the hub of a rural community. About the opportunity to make that happen here, there’s so much room for partnership in K-12, so much room for partnership with industry, so much opportunity — post-COVID of course — to bring people on campus and make this the center of a thriving community. And just changes lives, for generational poverty and all those kinds of things. So I hope I’ll get the opportunity to be able to do it.”
During the town hall meeting, the three candidates were asked about a variety of things, including their leadership style; their experience with accreditation; diversity, equity and inclusion; and career, technical education. About 100 people showed up to the first virtual meeting with Melton, about 85 the following two days for town hall meetings with Pokrandt and Rivenes.
At the end of Thursday’s town hall meeting, a survey was made available so the board could get community input one last time. The survey asked how many town hall meetings the person attended, to rank the candidates and to provide feedback. The survey closed Thursday evening.
The board of education will be discussing the outcomes of that survey, as well as their impressions during interviews during an executive session — which is closed to the public — at noon Friday.
Board chair Steve Loosley said he hopes to announce the board’s tentative decision on the next president at the April 14 board meeting.