Administrators, faculty and students gathered in the Atrium for an open forum with Dr. Doug Jensen on February 20.
Rock Valley College’s Student Government Association began the event at 3 p.m. with an introduction from Student Trustee Nathanael Webber and current SGA President, Levi Sommerville. Sommerville participated as the moderator, posing questions to the RVC president.
SGA posed the first question concerning how Jensen first became involved with RVC. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Jensen attended a community college himself and jumped at the chance to become the president of RVC years later. He believes that while Rockford is a challenged community, it is a city dedicated to change, which is exactly what attracted him to this new career opportunity.
“Rock Valley College is this community’s college,” Jensen said.
Next, Sommerville asked about the key objectives which Jensen hopes to focus his time on in the next few years. Jensen shared that he is troubled by the financial instability of Illinois, and echoed the concerns that former President Mike Mastroianni had before he retired, citing that the sources for the funds and resources of RVC may be compromised based upon the lack of state budget and Rockford’s own unstable economy. Despite these potential setbacks in the RVC budget, Jensen still has high hopes for the college. His key objectives will ultimately focus upon the financial instability of Illinois, the costs of textbooks and tuition that RVC students face and the large numbers of debt that students accrue at two and four-year universities. The concern stems from the connection between these topics and the impact they have on students in search of an education.
As President, Jensen hopes to be an active presence among the students and does so through the use of social media and attending RVC events. He frequently can be seen at sporting events, musical programs, competitions and more. Without these interactions, Jensen would not be experiencing RVC or establishing necessary relationships with the community.
“A life lesson is it’s all about building relationships. Those relationships have advantages in a lot of areas that you may not see yet,” Jensen said.
He also spoke about how building these relationships leads to the benefit of establishing trust and communication, which go hand in hand.
Jensen is a definite advocate for community colleges and can be constantly heard saying that the benefit of RVC and other community colleges is that the people are there to believe in and push you before you believe in yourself. With a personal anecdote on his community college experiences, Jensen emphasized that he sees RVC through the eyes of the students, because he is still a student. The presidency requires a learning process and the RVC executive leadership and the students all help in teaching Jensen about this college.
The audience posed their own questions over topics such as financial aid and refund checks, further explanation of his key objectives, program cuts the college is facing and even students’ constitutional rights to bear arms on campus. While Jensen did his best to answer each question, he also directed them to administrators and took the time after the scheduled forum to talk to students about their concerns. He asserted that RVC is based upon a team effort and that the decisions the college makes is meant to meet the needs of every student, even in light of the volatility of Illinois’ finances.
“The root of the problem is the needs of our college are greater than the resources,” Jensen said.
One of the main focuses of this administration is to attempt to reprioritize the resources that are already in place rather than continue adding them because of the lack of funding that institutions face.
“Education is a great social equalizer,” Jensen said, again stressing the importance of RVC.
This event proved to be a valuable opportunity for students to voice their concerns about the stability and future of RVC. While not everyone was satisfied, the questions succeeded in creating a discussion between the student body and the administration.
For more information on RVC’s seventh president, visit http://www.rvcvalleyforge.com/index.php/2016/10/25/dr-douglas-jensen-accepts-title-as-seventh-rvc-president/