NEOSHO, Mo. —
Training students for jobs available in the area would be a focus of Brent Bates if he is selected as the next president of Crowder College.
Bates said businesses start up in an area based primarily on the trained work force.
“Who is better equipped to provide a trained, skilled work force than us?” Bates said, referring to Crowder College.
He is the second of three finalists for the president’s post to participate in a public forum in Wright Conference Center in the Farber Building at Crowder. Bates is the vice president of education and student support services at State Fair Community College in Sedalia. He has been there since 2002. Before that, he was a journalism instructor at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan., where he started in 1987. His bachelor’s degree is from Fort Hays (Kan.) State University. His master’s degree is from Pittsburg (Kan.) State University, and his doctorate is from Kansas State University, Manhattan. Before starting his education career, he was a newspaper reporter in Salina, Kan.
“That job helped instill in me the value of free and open communication,” he said.
The son of a Kansas wheat farmer, Bates said he returns home every summer to help with the harvest. He said God and family are the most important things in his life.
“I feel like I’ve been preparing for this position all of my life,” Bates said.
He said that at Labette Community College, his passion for education was ignited.
“I became passionate about teaching,” he said. “I immersed myself in teaching.”
He said State Fair Community College has a lot of similarities to Crowder College.
Bates said a two-year degree is almost a required credential in today’s economy, but in Crowder’s service area, the percentage of people who have a two-year degree or higher is lower than the percentage in the state and in the nation.
“There’s opportunity there,” he said.
He said another opportunity exists in the number of people in Crowder’s service area who have some college but no degree.
He said the percentage of white residents who graduate from college will decline in the coming years, while the percentage of Hispanics will climb. Beyond the numbers, he said, are people.
“How can we keep these folks?” he said. “Look at why people drop out. It’s life reasons. Life got in the way.”
He said the reason he wants to be president of the college is to work with its great staff to help those people.
In response to a question about students transferring to four-year universities, he said he thinks the system works pretty well already.
“The broader question is about relationships,” Bates said. “I know we have very good relationships with our university partners.”
Asked about staffing for student recruitment, Bates said there can be no blank check. He said that in Sedalia, he has put in place a review of every program every year to determine staffing needs based on the finances available.
Jim Tatum, a 50-year member of Crowder’s Board of Trustees, asked Bates about how to attract high school dropouts.
“They’re at a dead end, right?” Bates said. “Community college is the perfect place for them to access higher education. Maybe we need to start them with non-credit offerings where they can earn certifications.”
He said pursuit of an associate degree may follow naturally.
Bates said high school graduates are the “low-hanging fruit” for college recruitment, but attracting nontraditional students is a difficult task.
“They have to have access,” Bates said. “They have to be able to afford it, and they have to see a benefit.”
JIM CUMMINS, Crowder vice president of finance, participated in a public forum on Friday. Jennifer Methvin, vice chancellor for academics at University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, will meet residents at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Wright Conference Center. The Crowder board plans to offer the position to the winning candidate by March.