Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dr. Douglas Jensen comes to Rock Valley College to fill the role as President.
To begin his college career, Jensen attended the Community College of Allegheny County in search of a business degree or an associates in biological science. This was his initial degree choice because he had a passion for the medical sciences and hoped to pursue this through medical research or teaching in graduate school.
But not everything works out in the best way. Jensen became an independent adult early on when his parents unexpectedly passed. Faced with the prospect of funding himself through college, Jensen made a switch to a more practical job career in public administration, through which he received a baccalaureate and a bachelor’s degree. This career, which he achieved by taking courses at Allegheny County and Geneva College, a private college outside of the Pittsburgh area, allowed for more flexibility in his life and proved to be a practical and functional decision.
Dr. Jensen has worked in the field of higher education for over 30 years, all achieved at community colleges. The man that Jensen is today was born and bred through the community college system.
“A community college is somewhere you go where people believe in you before you believe in yourself,” Jensen said. When people believed in him before he was able to believe in himself, that was how he really thrived.
Like former President Mike Mastroianni, Jensen advanced in positions at Allegheny County and there was able to gain the main experience that fed his fire to work in higher education. He believed that community colleges were able to make lasting impacts on the community they survive in and knew that he wanted to contribute in making an impact at other colleges. Through the course of his career, Jensen has worked at four different community colleges and been given numerous leadership opportunities on the academic and economic sides of college administrations.
Jensen had high hopes to become a community college president and when educational leaders look for positions, the best way is to search nationally for those available. Jensen felt that Illinois was a strong geographical fit for his next stage in higher education because he was familiar with the Midwestern culture and he worked in the Wisconsin area for 11 years. Even though he knew none of the administration or staff at Rock Valley College, by researching the opening that was available at RVC, Jensen decided to apply.
Jensen is a figure who obviously made his own impact during the long and comprehensive hiring process that he went through, and the Board of Trustees realized that certain characteristics Jensen has would make a good fit for RVC. Jensen believes that he met important criteria and had extensive experience that made him the best fit for the presidency, although each and every candidate was amply talented. He was a community college graduate, where he found his roots and relates to the life as a college student. Jensen lived it and it is personal for him. He understands that a two-year community college has the capability of preparing students for four-year colleges and universities based on its environment alone. Due to the core values and experiences he gained as a community college student and in higher education positions, he highlights the importance of transferring academics. RVC fit into his comfort zone, and based on his knowledge, his skills and all his experience, Dr. Jensen was hired.
Now that he has achieved the presidency of RVC in his career, Dr. Jensen has a few goals in mind while he retains this position. One is for his wife and him to become a cohesive part of the RVC community. They understand that RVC is a team that plays with the Rockford community and that the only way to understand the goals of the faculty, staff and students at RVC is to understand the community. Two, Jensen wants to maintain the education quality offered and the history of transfer and education, which is key at RVC. Third, he hopes to help drive the further success of the present academic programs in place. And lastly, he seeks to maintain the present relationships with the community and the growth of the students and of the college.
“The keyword in community college is community. Rock Valley College is the community’s college,” Jensen said. “The pride there resonates in the word.”
Dr. Jensen wants his students to know that he once was a student and also still is a student. He understands the decisions, goals and dreams that every student possesses because he walked the same path that we as students are on now. “As president, I will always make decisions with the students in mind and question how the decisions may affect them,” Jensen said. He urges RVC students to let their voices be heard and know that he will advocate for us.
Jensen values the clubs and organizations at Rock Valley because they help to define a college experience and he urges students to participate, because in an “active participation situation, you get out what you put in.” The true college experience is a combination of classroom activities and outside activities and he understands the values associated with these activities.
He wants everyone to know that he is family focused, he enjoys the outdoors, music events and sporting activities. But overall, he wants us to know that he is approachable. “Part of the role of a president is to tell the story, so the more people share, the more I can share.”