Sax addresses higher education
October 6, 2019
CLOVIS - Richard Sax spoke to accessibility of higher education, development of curriculum bolstering a workforce for local economic development, bridging the "opportunity gap" and playing to the strengths specific to a community.
Sax participated in a public interview Tuesday night as one of five finalist candidates to be the next president of Clovis Community College. Sax is the provost and vice-president of academic affairs the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College in Ohio.
"I believe that talent is universally distributed in the United States, but opportunity is not," Sax said. "I'm interested in Clovis because I want to be a community college leader in a state with the extraordinary challenges and also the extraordinary obstacles that New Mexico has, but also the extraordinary human and physical resources and potential."
Sax went through the interview with Interim President Robin Kuykendall read the questions.
When asked why he should be the next CCC president, he said he's often told he has courage in his convictions.
"If I believe in something strongly and that it is the right thing to do, I will do it," Sax said. "In addition to that, I think I'm well-connected, I know some of the challenges and problems, I love New Mexico. I expect to work another 12-15 years and I am not looking for another presidency."
Economic development and workforce training are two common topics that are threaded throughout New Mexico legislative discussions. Can you speak to your experience in those areas, and what role do you feel CCC and the CCC president should play in the partnerships necessary to build these types of initiatives?
When asked about what the "community" in a community college means, Sax believed it meant a focus on workforce development and the liberal arts to some degree.
"For a traditional, private liberal-arts college, a philosophy major is still a viable option, but it's not direct-to-workforce," Sax said. "I can argue for a philosophy major, but I think a community college is community-focused. (For example) your welding, your auto-tech, those are all things that are direct to workforce, that serve the local area. What the community needs will change and what the community expects of us will change."
On a question about open access, Sax said there was a "triangle of higher ed," with the elements being access, affordability and quality.
"What's generally said is you pick two points on the triangle and the third is fixed," Sax said. "So if you want high-access and high-quality, it may be that you're forcing yourself into a higher cost as well. Generally community colleges are open access except for certain professional programs. So open access is not always open access - it's mostly open access. It's part of the promise of the mission of higher education: There's a place for everyone and everyone can learn."
On the subject of curriculum standardization across the state, he said you can have "standardization without groupthink," but noted it's a difficult balance.
"I'm not telling you not to follow state guidelines and rules, but I think there's a way to do that and create individuality," Sax said. "I have been blessed to get to know (an educator at a university in Belarus), and she told me so many things about the creativity in the Soviet state, and if that can happen there ..."