Dr. Joe Peterson, one of two finalists for the new chancellor position at USU-CEU, came to the Price campus Tuesday, April 13. When describing his reason for entering higher education he stated, "I went into higher education to make a difference."
He received a doctor of philosophy degree from University of Nevada Las Vegas, with an emphasis on higher education leadership and policy studies. The theme to his presentation was "What kind of institution are we?"
He touched on several topics key to the success of the new venture. Of those creating a positive relationship between community and college seemed key. Ann Evans of Carbon County Chamber of Commerce was in attendance and asked Peterson how he would handle the rift that has developed over the years between the college and the community if selected.
"I intend to set a very positive tone as chancellor that emphasizes relationship building. I have to rekindle all my childhood relationships. I have such love for this place that comes out of growing up in the garden of Eden," he said.
He brings to the table years of experience in higher education and a deep-seeded love for the geographic area. Raised in Price he married a Price native, "I know something about this country and its people," he said.
He started teaching English in Roosevelt through the USU extension. Working with the faculty in Logan, he developed a sense of belonging to two communities. "I had a great department chair in Logan. I was made to feel like I was a citizen of that department," he said. At the same time he was a faculty member in Roosevelt. "I know that two groups can work together," he said.
He has a self proclaimed love for community colleges because of the impact they have on rural settings. Community colleges have a big impact on rural settings, often times being major employers as well as provides opportunities for higher learning.
Historically tuition and class size have been lower than other institutions as well. He mentioned the debate concerning what kind of school better serves rural development.
Those models are community colleges versus state land-grant universities. CEU has been a regional community college while USU is a state land-grant university. Land-grant universities are funded by the government from by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.
The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.
Regional rural community colleges offer developmental education, career and technical education with credit and non-credit classes.
They also have the ability to adapt to needs of the area in turn creating specific programs to meet specific needs like truck drivers or hospital workers. State land-grant university by their very nature are supposed to promote agriculture and industry thus trying to grow the local economy.
"With the merger USU-CEU, we have some freedom to define ourself," he said. "I see lots of potential in this opportunity. I'm not sure all of it will be realized, but I'm happy to give it a try."
Part of USU's mission statement is as follows, "We foster the principle that academics come first."
"This combination of institutional models brings us a great potential for designing a new institutional identity," he said.
"I'm really excited about the fact that there is a continued emphasis on the community college mission."
His marketing strategy for the college includes turning the venue into a destination of choice.
"We need to focus on the positive points of the college. Focus on portraying our strong points to future students," he said. "My priorities are economic development, mission statement and community relations.
When asked by Ann Evans if he could do the hard job and fire a friend his response was, "I'm an optimist, I believe if this is done well we are going to have a problem getting the work done.
"I think our problem is going to be how to get this work done. But yes if it came to that I could and would," he concluded.