Dean Harry Swanson of the Gila Community College Payson campus has resigned.
"I am staying through the end of my contract," he said. The contract runs through the end of June 2007. He came to Gila Community College in July 2005. "There are many reasons for my resignation, but mainly I feel I have accomplished what I wanted to."
He said when he came on board with GCC, his goal was to move the student population from a low number to a high number (see related story). "And we have. I worked with a team. We all did it. It was not just me."
Shortly after taking the dean's job with GCC, Swanson was interviewed by Payson Roundup reporter Carol La Valley. In that interview, he talked about his vision.
At that time, Swanson said his vision for the direction of the college involved going out and talking to community members and listening to their needs.
"We know that there is a need for a current, technical education focus," he said. "We also know that there is a need to provide transfer education (courses that will be accepted toward a university degree) for people coming right out of high school."
In the early days as dean of the Payson campus, he had already identified several areas for initial focus: firefighter training, a nursing program and work force development to update skills and/or retrain workers.
Both the fire science and nursing programs are in place. The first students in fire science will graduate in the spring of 2008 with certification of proficiency and have obtained much of the course work required for an associate's of applied science degree, Swanson said.
The fire science training, in which high school students are enrolled, is made possible through the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology.
It provides the funds and the high school students are able to obtain concurrent credits toward both their high school diploma and the certification.
"The partnership between us, the high school and NAVIT has been so successful that Eastern Arizona College has invited us to develop an associate of applied science degree program," Swanson said -- and Arizona State University is ready to incorporate it into its curriculum at ASU East.
The nursing program will have its first graduating class this May. Swanson said there are more than 50 people enrolled in the program now.
Next fall, the freshman nursing classes are already filled, according to GCC instructor, Bill Neal.
"We have done a great deal in work force development," Swanson said.
In the past two years, 32 courses have been introduced to help update skills. "That demonstrates incredible commitment and support by EAC."
Among these work force development courses are real estate, heavy equipment and the Arizona Department of Transportation pre-apprentice programs.
"ADOT made a $46,000 investment in one year with us for the pre-apprentice program," Swanson said.
Swanson cited several other accomplishments including the fact that enrollment has doubled and costs have been cut in half -- "We're doing more with less." In addition, new grant money has been brought into the county and three full-time faculty members have been hired for the Payson campus -- Joe Shannon, science; James Quinlan, English and literature; and Peggy Miles, nutrition, wellness, American Sign Language, and in the fall, the certified personal training program.
In the future, Swanson would like the college to bring in another faculty member for math.
"We really want to improve the math and science learning for all students," he said.
To help make the new post a reality, he would like the college to look into a dual credit arrangement with Payson High School in math.
He hopes the college continues to offer continuing education for the real estate industry in Northern Gila County.
"I want to see us continue our growth and provide good quality transfer, vocational and enrichment education," he said.
As for his personal future, that is still up in the air.
There is a great deal to be done at the college before the end of June.
Swanson said his wife would like them to move closer to Tucson, where their son is completing his last year at the University of Arizona.
His greatest hope for the future is for the college.
"I would urge the community to get behind the college and help it grow," Swanson said.