Pamela Gardner, the new dean of instruction for Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus, poses inside the campus Thursday afternoon. Gardner has a total of 30 years of experience in the higher education field, including 20 years at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Pamela Gardner, the new dean of instruction for Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus, poses inside the campus Thursday afternoon. Gardner has a total of 30 years of experience in the higher education field, including 20 years at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City.

New dean of instruction continuing 30-year education career at CNCC

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At a Glance …

Pamela Gardner:

— Education: Bachelor’s degree in English, Brigham Young University, 1970; Master’s degree in curriculum design, BYU, 1980; Doctorate in educational leadership, BYU, 1993

—Experience: Eight years as a faculty member at Salt Lake Community College; 12 years as an administrator at Salt Lake Community College; nine years as assistant vice president and dean of the School of Continuing Education at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah; and one year as dean of instruction at Williston State College in Williston, N.D.

Pamela Gardner said she decided she would become a teacher.

She was 6 years old at the time.

After school let out, she would set up her own pretend classroom in the family’s garage and then “coerced the neighborhood kids to be my students,” said Gardner, who now lives in Craig.

Her decision to become an educator led her to Brigham Young University, where she earned advanced degrees in education.

It led her to a career in higher education that would span 30 years.

And, in August, it led her to Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus, where she started in her new position as the new dean of instruction.

Her passion for education is fueled by a conviction.

“I believe education changes lives,” she said. “And, I also believe that education is the only hope for (the people of the) world to gain understanding and tolerance of each other.”

Gardner replaces Dan Minor, the former dean of instruction who retired in late June, said Gene Bilodeau, vice president of the Craig campus.

Gardner doesn’t have any family in Craig, but she has a daughter, Adrienne Sumsion, in Vernal, Utah, a son, Brian Gardner, in Salt Lake City, and seven grandchildren.

In his view, Gardner’s varied experience made her an ideal candidate for the position.

“Pam’s worked in higher education in a variety of places, but most importantly she’s worked in small, rural environments as well as larger environments,” Bilodeau said.

Gardner’s credentials speak to an extensive career in higher education.

She was in BYU’s honors program while earning her bachelor’s degree in English. Later, she earned a master’s in curriculum design and a doctorate in educational leadership at the university.

Gardner’s three-decade career includes 20 years at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City — eight years as a faculty member and 12 as an administrator.

When she started there, the college had about 2,500 students, she said.

By the time she left, enrollment had expanded to 25,000. Gardner oversaw all the new program development at the school and was instrumental in helping the college grow.

Officials also hope to expand the Craig campus, Bilodeau said, which makes Gardner’s experience even more valuable.

Gardner chose to focus her career on community colleges for a specific reason.

“I wanted to make a difference in the lives of students, especially students who were interested in career education or adult students who were returning to education after being in the workforce,” she said.

And, for Gardner, CNCC holds a particular appeal.

“To me, CNCC is just on the verge of greatness,” she said. “Not that it hasn’t been great before, but there are so many opportunities for the college and for the community and for our students.”

Potential developments in the energy industry — both in traditional and alternative energy sources — are on the horizon, she said, “and I think we’re poised to be a major player in this area in those endeavors.”

Gardner also believes in the ability of community colleges, and CNCC in particular, to provide high-quality services.

“Students will get a great education,” at CNCC, she said, adding in reference to staff and teachers, “These are great people.”

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