MVCC President Calls on Metro Omaha Experience
By Dan Silvia
Dr. Randall VanWagoner, President of Mohawk Valley Community College, is more than comfortable with his school’s partnership with Bellevue University despite a distance of over 1,000 miles between the two campuses. That’s because VanWagoner earned his stripes as a community college administrator at Omaha’s Metropolitan Community College working side-by-side for eight years with Jim Grotrian, Bellevue University’s Executive Vice President of Operations and a former EVP at Metro.
“We had an amazing time,” VanWagoner said. “My first day he took me to lunch and said, ‘a big part of my job is just to make sure you’re able to do your job.’ It’s tough to find a partner like that. I think we had a pretty good run together.”
The relationship between Bellevue University and Mohawk Community College strives to be just as successful. The University’s experience with non-traditional students lines up well with the sometimes complex lives of community college students, VanWagoner said.
Bellevue University partners with over 50 community colleges across the country to help ensure a smooth transition for students wishing to pursue a bachelor’s degree following the completion of their associate’s degree. The relationship includes a staffer on-site at each partner school to offer students advice and assistance.
“Transferring to a four-year school is not always easy,” VanWagoner said. “Bellevue University’s online programs allow our students to maintain their existing support networks that they've established at the community college and maintain those as they pursue their bachelor's degree.”
Kimberly Snow serves as the Relationship Manager for Bellevue University on the Mohawk Valley Community College campus in Utica, New York. Snow has been in the position for a little over three years and had logged three years at Mohawk Valley as a College Advisor prior to that, thus bringing a wealth of institutional knowledge to the position.
“I think it speaks to the quality of the partnership that there’s no break between how an MVCC staff member treats our students and the type of support from Kim and Bellevue University,” said VanWagoner. “The relationship really does feel integrated and it’s part of the culture here.”
Culture is a favorite topic for VanWagoner. He recently authored and published a book, “Competing on Culture”, which addresses the challenges faced by community colleges in today’s world.
“Our external environment for higher education is getting increasingly complex and dynamic. We have so many accelerators through technology pushing us and our communities in new and different ways at a quicker pace,” VanWagoner said. “I think it's important to really think about the elements that go into nurturing and fostering an organizational culture that can respond and even anticipate change.”
Grotrian has enjoyed working with his friend from his Metro days and is looking forward to growing the relationship between the two schools even further.
“The relationship between community colleges and Bellevue University should really be symbiotic and we definitely have that with Mohawk Valley and Randy,” Grotrian said. “It’s great to have someone that you’ve worked with in the past and achieved great things with to tackle this partnership and see where we can take it.”