Editor's Note: Some of these answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Tom Stritikus started as the new President of Fort Lewis College Aug. 1 and has taken it upon himself to engage with the students, faculty and staff. He has spent his few months on campus having group and personal discussions with different organizations on campus. He recently sat down with The Independent.
Question: What is your number one priority starting in this new position and how do you plan on implementing this priority?
Answer: While my number one priority at FLC is the students, and students need to be at the center of our work, and they have been, but we want to make sure that everything we are doing really is serving students, before they come to FLC, ensuring there is an inclusive and effective community when they are here, and that they are successful going off and doing what they want to do when they leave. So one of the things as an example that we’re doing right now is the provost is leading a student success team that has faculty, staff and student representation to take a look at both what were doing and what we are not doing, maybe in terms of policy, processes, supports, to make sure that we are really having all the things that you need in place to ensure that our students are able to graduate in a reasonable amount of time and be prepared to go off and solve the problems that they are interested in facing.”
Q: Why are you so engaged with the student population?
A: “Well it's just fun. To be honest with you every time I go and have a conversation with a student group, I get asked a question that's really difficult, that really pushes me as a leader, and you want to grow as a leader, and the students are why we are here. We have an amazing group of adults on this campus who are our students, and everytime I walk away from a student interaction there was some idea or something I learned, so I am passionate about our student success. The work with the students is sort of what recharges my batteries.”
Q: How would you say your experience at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave you relevant experience to serve us here?
A: “At the foundation we, we don't do any of the work. Right? We’re not out trying to actually improve outcomes for education, were not out trying to solve health issues. We’re funding people who do that. So when you’re in the position of a funder you spend a lot of time asking questions and listening to the front line organizations who are doing the work to understand what they want to accomplish, to understand their capacities, to understand what they are able to pull off. So consequently you really become a good listener, you hone your skills around listening and understanding what people are able to do. I hope people would think I'm a good listener that I’m hearing them, and that I’m able to incorporate that into thinking through what we want to do.”
Q: What attracted you to this job at Fort Lewis College?
A: “I was drawn to FLC because of our work with diverse students. For me when I thought about our opportunity to serve the entire Four Corners region and to really think about the needs of the communities we serve, and how we could ensure that we are thinking about the intellectual resources in a way that are aligned to serve those community needs. To me that felt super inspiring, like a job I wanted to throw my whole self into.”
Q: What does a typical day for you look like?
A: So tomorrow at seven I’m flipping pancakes at the Kiwanis pancake feed. Then I’m going to the Faculty Senate meeting. Then I’m meeting with a student group, then I’m meeting with an outside doner and then I’m meeting with a government official...I close in the evening with an outside event. So it’s like a seven to seven day.”
Q: Anything else we didn't cover?
A: “Well the only thing I’d say in closing is just what a privilege it is to work with the young adults, the students I get to work with. I wish I knew more of you all, but the conversations I’ve had from the WellPAC meeting where people were talking about issues of alcoholism, sexuality, wellness, in, in just completely sophisticated terms that as a parent even I was like wow I need to come here and take a parenting class from you guys. To just side conversations I have with students in terms of what they want to accomplish going on, it is why I show up every day so the students on this campus and what they do with their lives and how we interact with them as an institution is really central to everything that we do.”