New Colorado Northwestern Community College director the real deal |

New Colorado Northwestern Community College director the real deal

Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Foundation Director Sue Samaniego.
Sasha Nelson/staff
BackgroundName: Sue SamaniegoRole in education: Colorado Northwestern Community Foundation director“I love the idea of connecting people who want to give with a cause that excites them,” she said about her job.Prior experience: Speech Pathologist for 22 years, director of communication for Otero Junior College in La Junta. Part-time foundation director at OJC.Contact: 970-675-3216 or

CRAIG — A passion for connecting the community with the college and the college with the community is what motivates Sue Samaniego in her new role as Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Foundation director.

“I’m also passionate about lifelong learning, ensuring opportunities for everyone to follow the path they would like to follow and helping them discover who they would like to become, as a person,” she said.

The bylaws of the college foundation require the director live in Rangely, so Samaniego relocated to the town about two months ago.

“It’s exactly the type of position that I like. I like getting to know a community and be a part of the community, and I don’t think you can do that in bigger cities,” she said.

She added she also loves the opportunities for outdoor recreation and plans to take advantage of snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking and cycling.

Originally from Michigan, she moved to Rangely from La Junta, where she and her husband both worked at Otero Junior College.

Samaniego recently sat down with Craig Press to share more about her work and herself, including how she values authenticity and practices “radical candor.”

Craig Press: Describe your job and one or two of your goals for 2018.

Samaniego: To develop relationships with people, businesses and foundations that support our communities and connect them with opportunities to invest in the future through the students and the programs we have.

My first goal is to get out into the community and find out about people’s interests, their connection with the college and how they see it impacting the area.

My other goal would be to improve the processes we have in place for thanking and communicating out to our donors and to make the donation process easier and more positive. For example, we are establishing online giving.

CP: What are the most important things we should know about you, your life and your experiences?
Samaniego: I consider myself a very authentic person: what I say, what I do, what I tell others is truly who I am.

CP: If your greatest supporter were in the room with us today, what five words would he or she use to describe you?
Samaniego: Independent, caring, reliable creative and authentic — I’m real.

CP: In your experience, what is the most challenging part of your role, and how are you meeting that challenge?

Samaniego: I think the most challenging part of doing any sort of fundraising is building the trust that people need. They are giving you something of themselves and investing it in a program you are working on. And, they are going to trust that you are going to use the funds for that program and that they will hear back how their investment changed a student’s life for the better.

I am working with Brian (McKenzie, CNCC director of communication) to improve the communication process to get the word out to our donors. We have invested in software that will help us track our donors and how we have communicated with them. This will allow us to know that we have thanked them and let them know how their support is allowing the college to do its job better and how it is improving the economic situation in all of our communities.

CP: What have you read recently that led you to change your approach to your work?

Samaniego: “Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity,” by Kim Scott.

It’s a fantastic book. It fits with my value of authenticity. The whole idea is that communication is based on trust and that trust is a two-way street. So, being honest with the people you are communicating with and inviting them to be honest with you in providing critique and feedback is the basis of that trust. There is so much of that that is useful for donor relations.

CP: How are you involved in the community outside of your work at the college?

Samaniego: I haven’t gotten involved too much yet. I moved here two months ago. I try to attend events. I’m planning to attend the Crab Crack, and I attended Cowboy Christmas here. It’s tough at the start.

CP: If a visitor came to your office and took a photo, what would he or she see in that photo?

Samaniego: My artwork. Lots of files that contain ideas for what I want to do in the future. Plans that are in progress, names of people — I’m not a sticky note person. I’m a folder person and a paper schedule person, so they would see those things.

CP: Would you share one fun fact about you?

Samaniego: I’ve been involved in community theater. I love community theater, especially musicals.

CP: How are you breaking tradition?

Samaniego: I break tradition from the perspective of my background. This is not something I initially studied for, nor did I see myself doing it. While I have studied some of the theories and research on philanthropy, I really go with my gut for what works in a particular area.

CP: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

Samaniego: I’m always on the lookout for something new and different to try, so please, let me know if there’s something coming up.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or