20 Under 40: John Anderson works for blend of classic learning, new opportunities at CNCC
Yes, things are changing around these parts in Moffat County and the city of Craig, but for John Anderson, the vice president of student affairs and vice president of the Craig campus of Colorado Northwestern Community College, changing times provide opportunities — opportunities that Anderson looks to seize upon for the growing college campus.
From the growth in the paleontology program, the expanding aviation partnership with Front Range schools, and the addition of numerous clubs at the school, Anderson is pushing CNCC in a big way.
“John is an exceptional example of young leadership in our community,” said Leigh Sokol, who nominated Anderson for “20 under 40.” “He is positive, forward-thinking and not afraid to step up and do the hard work when called upon… he is always looking for ways he can personally help contribute to the growth and success of our community as it faces economic crisis. When clubs, organizations and individuals seek college participation at events and fundraisers, he always offers help, often paying fees, providing donations and digging deep into his own pocket to ensure the needs of the community are met.
“He actively encourages and participates in conversations and projects that could become huge opportunities for our community such as a community garden, a committee working to create and grow an innovation center, business incubator and/or co-work space in our community. You are as likely to find him grilling burgers he donated to help raise funds for the soccer team as witnessing him leading a meeting,” Sokol added.
Some positivity and a do-good attitude could go a long way locally in the upcoming years.
In your chosen career field, how has the job evolved since you first began?
In the past 10 years, education has changed dramatically in terms of how education is being delivered, technological advances, access to information, even how we engage with students. In the last 20 years regulations, policies, and standards at state and federal levels have also changed many aspects of education from the classroom to the administration. Many of the changes are very good, but some have added additional burden, such as increased costs to schools. Things are constantly evolving which is challenging but also very exciting as there is always something new to learn.
How do you feel your line of work is different from someone in a similar job a generation before you?
Our student’s needs and expectations have changed dramatically in the past 10 years. With unprecedented access to information and entertainment at their fingertips, both faculty and staff have had to change how we engage and communicate with students. Students are also expecting instant results from test scores and grades to changes on campus and so on. We are grateful for our students’ suggestions and with their feedback, CNCC has been able to adjust quickly to meet those needs and is continuously evaluating to see what else we can improve on as those needs and expectations continue to evolve.
A few other areas that have changed over the last generations are:
• Technology and how it is being implemented at every level from the classroom to financial aid and so on. These advances have made some processes simpler while making others more complicated. For example, transcripts and student documents can now be emailed rather than taking days in the regular mail, but with the electronic delivery system institutions had to also provide security and protection to ensure the integrity of the email/data.
• We are seeing a re-emergence of skills and trades rather than bachelor’s degrees such as automotive technician, nursing, dental hygiene and cybersecurity.
• Funding has also changed dramatically and changed the way the administration has to oversee and conduct business.
What kind of challenges do you feel like you and your coworkers will face in the next decade?
In Craig, we are facing several social-economic challenges locally. We at CNCC are proactively working with our changing industries to help the transition go smoothly by assuring that those affected by these changes have the resources and options through education. Nationally, especially in rural communities, there are decreasing population trends and high school enrollments, which can lead to a decrease in higher education enrollment. As this happens, institutions must adapt at almost every level but especially in recruiting and admissions departments, as the institution now has to import students to their local communities in order to grow student populations. Generations ago, a local community college may have been the only option for students, however today they have alternative options such as online schools, flexible schedules, or condensed programs. Changing regulations, changing job markets also present challenges in making sure CNCC stays relevant and is able to provide the workforce to meet those changing needs.
Many of these changes can come with challenges such as increased costs, which presents challenges as it is CNCC’s mission to provide accessible, affordable, and quality education. CNCC is incredibly lucky to have the local communities support.
What is the most rewarding part of your job on a day to day basis?
The most rewarding part of my job is the opportunity to work with and develop amazing staff and faculty while also being able to impact the lives of our students and the local community. Seeing a student graduate and shake my hand as they walk across the stage is an experience unlike any other. Taking a student who might have thought that college education was not possible to that graduation stage is the whole reason we are here and the impact that has on not only that individual but also that students’ family and their community is amazing.
If you hadn’t gone down your particular career path, what else would you have liked to do with your life?
I am not sure. I switched majors a few times in college between hospital and public administration. I fell into education starting as an admissions coordinator over 11 years ago. A few months in that role, I had the opportunity to attend our graduation ceremony, and while I did not know many of the students, they were so excited and thankful to graduate with the prospect of starting a new chapter in their lives it was contagious. That is when I absolutely knew that the education field is where I wanted to be in terms of my career.
What types of jobs would you avoid at all costs?
I would hesitate to say I would avoid any jobs at all costs. If I find myself in a position where I am not able to do the work I truly enjoy, I would still have bills coming in and people to take care of, so while it may not be the best job I would make sure I do it to the best of my abilities. I would do what I have to do knowing that I can always be open to other opportunities down the road. It is a lot easier to find a new job while you have one than it is to find a new job when you are not currently working. Also, I believe that with any new job or position no matter the level there is always something to learn, improve, or accomplish.
How do you feel your work-life balance differs from those of your parents/grandparents?
Overall separating work and life in today’s era is much more difficult than previous generations in my opinion. Of course, certain positions will always demand more of your time and with those positions, the impact and rewarding opportunities hopefully make it worth the time commitment. The one major change we have to learn to adapt to is that technology constantly connects us. When previous generations left work, they left work and would not be connected until they came back the next day. Today with technology, I am constantly connected to work even when I am not in the office, which again has its pluses and minuses.
How do you feel everyday life is better or worse in 2020 with certain technology shifts?
I think that technology has pros and cons depending on how you use it. For example, being constantly connected to my work through my cell phone doesn’t allow me to disconnect the way people may have before from work but it does allow me to provide better and faster service to students. It can be both a distraction but also a benefit to the classroom for both students and faculty depending on how the technology is incorporated. Student’s abilities to access information that they were not able to access in the past has changed the landscape of education leading the way for OER or Open Educational Resources which are basically free online textbooks and resources for students. This greatly reduces some of the cost that the student has to think about when going to college. Online options for students to learn from anywhere have opened a new world of educational opportunities to communities that have never had them before.
What kind of strengths or weaknesses do you believe your generation brings to your career field?
My generation’s strength lies in our ability to use both “old school ways” and new technologies as we were born and raised without cell phones or other technology conveniences, but came up with them and learned to adapt as they evolved. Another strength would be in our ability to challenge the status quo. Ask questions like; why are things this way? Can it be done smarter or more efficiently? The worst answer and something I find inexcusable is the unwillingness to change or explore new ideas, because “this is how it has always been done.” More likely, than not if this is how it has always been done then that process is the problem and needs to be changed or updated. We are not afraid to push for better benefits or flexible work hours or working remotely.
Some of our weaknesses may be that we are also impulsive and want things fast or instantly. Learning to be patient, gather feedback, and really analyze a decision and its effects on different areas was a hard thing for me to learn in different environments of education. We also have high expectations of work/life balances, which can be challenging if the employer is unwilling or simply cannot meet those expectations.
How do you feel your generation fits into Moffat County’s future?
I do feel that my generation not only fits into our community, but also that they are desperately needed to help guide Moffat County and surrounding communities into the future. There are many changes coming and we need fresh ideas, new ways of thinking, and a younger generation to want to be here in this community. Working in education gives me the unique opportunity to work with up and coming generations, which want this community to succeed, but also want the ability and confidence to succeed themselves regardless of where they choose to live. With the many opportunities at CNCC we make either staying here or going almost anywhere in the world a possibility through the education and skills we provide.
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