Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New vice president at Grossmont College

Katrina VanderWoude

The day before she was to meet the Grossmont College search committee that would interview her for the job as vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Katrina VanderWoude, vice provost at Rochester College in Michigan, decided to do some interviewing of her own.  Visiting the Grossmont College campus incognito, she struck up conversations with students over lunch in Griffin Center, and elsewhere on the campus, to see if she could get a feel for the place at which she later accepted the job.

"I'm big on cultural diversity of all types, and what I was intrigued by most was that nobody asked me if I was somebody's mother," Dr. VanderWoude recalled in a telephone interview from Michigan.  "That told me that Grossmont College is used to a diverse student population.  It was assumed that I was there as a potential student, and in fact students were telling me who I needed to talk to, and I was really appreciative of that.  I was very impressed by the openness of the students."
Recalling two of those lunchtime conversations, VanderWoude said one student told her that she had been at three colleges since graduating high school, but Grossmont was the first one at which she really felt at home.   The other student told her she had only been at Grossmont and was well satisfied with the campus.

Wandering around the campus, while trying to stay under the radar, VanderWoude kept accidentally running into the people who interviewed her the next day for the position that she will start on August 5th.

As she stood near the Veterans Resource Center--a place where military veterans attending Grossmont College can find resources and a place to relax with other veterans-- a gentleman politely inquired if she needed help finding something.  "Oh no," replied VanderWoude, "I'm just looking around."  The next day, as she met with her interview committee of faculty, staff and administrators, she learned that polite man was Tim Flood, Grossmont College's vice president for administrative services.

VanderWoude saw that a television camera crew was interviewing a woman whom she recognized from photographs as being Dr. Sunita V. Cooke, the president of Grossmont College, and she circled around the interview, trying to remain inconspicuous.  She went to the upstairs lobby of the Health/ Physical Sciences Building which affords a fine view of the Grossmont College campus, and who should soon come in but Dr. Cooke and Congresswoman Susan Davis, who was visiting the campus that April 30 with an entourage that included Chancellor Cindy Miles and GCCCD board president Bill Garrett.  VanderWoude did her best to remain unnoticed as the VIPs toured the area where she had temporarily ensconced herself.

Leaving the area, she walked toward the Library and Tech Mall in the center of the campus.  "I particularly noticed that as I approached student groups they were always talking about academics, always," VanderWoude said. "That was very interesting. I had come across some informal study groups and some formal study groups and they were always talking about learning.  I thought that was phenomenal."
Inside the Tech Mall, she said, "I was very intrigued.  I saw over 100 computers and most of them were being used by students.  And as I walked around, I saw a tutoring area for assistance with math, and then another for English learning.   From there I walked around a balcony that is cantilevered from the top floor, and I saw the offices were there, so there is a tremendous accessibility to faculty support for students, which I think really can facilitate engagement."

The next day, May 1, VanderWoude had her finalist interview, and said she was impressed by the fact that the search committee was comprised by people from all segments of the campus--ranging from support staff to vice presidents.   Later, when she was taken in a golf cart on an official tour of the campus by none other than Tim Flood, he pointed out the groundscape, medicinal plants and talked to her about learning outcomes.  "It's unusual when an Administrative Vice President is that engaged," she commented.  "It was another affirming message for me."

VanderWoude met with members of the Instruction Administrative Council, and while some of the questions were probing, at the same time she felt "genuine warmth" and "completely at ease."  "I had to tell myself not to get too comfortable, to remember that this was, after all, an interview situation," she later related.

Drawing on her administrative experiences at such Michigan educational institutions as Jackson Community College, Wayne County Community College, Henry Ford Community College, Schoolcraft College and on-line teaching positions with Concordia University and Kaplan University, VanderWoude said that she considers herself a student of organizational behavior.

What impressed her, as she sat in meetings between President Cooke and other members of the Grossmont College community, she said, was the collaborative relationship that she witnessed. People didn't automatically defer to the top official of the college, waiting to see what she would say, VanderWoude noticed.  Instead, they expressed their opinions freely and felt secure enough to advocate differing viewpoints.  She added that she was impressed that Dr. Cooke welcomed such collegial exchanges.

VanderWoude has occupied a variety of positions since graduating from Michigan State University with dual degrees in social work and psychology.  Initially for the court system in the Lansing area she worked with abused and neglected children, but later gravitated toward college administrative work.  Her first position was at Jackson Community College helping to develop competency-based teaching programs for adults needing job retraining--a program in which she said there was a 95 percent job placement rate despite the ongoing recession.

She was recruited by Wayne County Community College and later by Henry Ford Community College to continue her career in competency-based training, which involved working in partnership with industry and business to design programs to teach skills needed by industry.  Along the way she became involved with various academic committees, which resulted in a contact leading to a position at Schoolcraft College as an associate dean dealing with programs designed for adults returning to education after long absences.

VanderWoude took maternity leave following the birth of her daughter Elyse, and decided to take a break from work to obtain a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University.  During this time she familiarized herself with online teaching, and gave instruction in this format under the auspices of Concordia University and Kaplan University.  However, her
colleagues at Eastern Michigan University persuaded her that administration was where she was needed, and soon she was hired by Rochester University, where she became vice provost.

Following Dr. VanderWoude’s familiarization tour at Grossmont College, the search committee was sold on her and she was sold on the college.   After wrapping up affairs at Rochester College, VanderWoude and her daughter, Elyse, 13, who'll be starting ninth grade in the fall, plan to enjoy a Mediterranean cruise, and then to drive cross country with Lazlo, their shih tzu, to San Diego County, where they will stay with friends while house-hunting.