Tom Stritikus, the new president of Fort Lewis College, wants to make students a priority in his work to ensure their success. People around campus, including student and faculty leaders, say they feel that he is open to listening and understanding the campus community and that they are excited to see what happens during his tenure.
The President’s Vision
The first goal Stritikus had when he arrived at FLC was to learn and understand the different perspectives of the institution, he said.
“We want to make sure everything we are doing really is serving students before they come to FLC, ensuring there is an inclusive and effective community while they are here and that they are successful going off and doing what they want to do when they leave,” he said.
Through discussions with students, the president was exposed to the diverse community on campus, he said.
Having students come to FLC and succeed is a collective responsibility of the institution, he said.
The administration is planning on spending the fall semester forming a plan to increase the retention rate of FLC, Stritikus said. A strategic plan will be put together and likely voted on by the Board of Trustees in February, he said.
To improve retention, FLC needs to look at academic supports, financial barriers, advising services and its academic standards to make sure students are receiving the support they need, Stritikus said.
The institution is also looking at recruitment, Stritikus said.
“I think we’re already trying to make sure that people know about the school, some of the goofy things that I’ve done like the Skylar video,” he said.
FLC is also reaching out to college counselors at high schools, going to receptions and reaching out to local superintendents, he said.
“My sense is if we can get people to campus, really tell our story clearly, that we will address a good chunk of our enrollment woes, because this is an amazing place,” Stritikus said.
Communication and Transparency
During the beginning of the semester, Stritikus went around campus on a listening tour to hear the voices of the Fort Lewis College community which included faculty, students and staff. Stritikus talked with about 30 faculty, about 30 staff members and many RSOs on campus as well as having informal conversations with community members on campus, Stritikus said.
“It’s fun,” he said. “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.”
FLC student body president Chance Salway said that Stritikus is making an effort to receive student input.
“He’s really making that attempt to engage directly with the students,” Salway said. “He’s reached out to multiple student organizations, and ASFLC is really just another one of them. However, he wants to see, he wants to be able to accumulate that info from all different sides of campus so that many student voices are heard.”
The institution is going to form a process, led by the provost, to receive student, faculty and staff input about the future strategic plan of the college. Stritikus hopes to have a proposal to the Board of Trustees at their February meeting, he said.
Stritikus made it clear to the Board of Trustees that he wanted to have complete understanding and hold the knowledge required to make informed decisions, Board of Trustees member Steven Short said.
There are already community building ideas being implemented, Salway said. At ASFLC, increasing school spirit is a goal for the year, he said.
Stritikus is also engaging with faculty government. He told the Faculty Senate that he is accessible both at meetings and in-between meetings, Faculty Senate President Michael Martin said.
“Tom offered, and we have accepted to have him come once a month to do a little, short, president’s report,” Martin said. “So he’ll come to Faculty Senate at the very beginning, just kind of give us an update of what’s going on, and field some Q&A.”
By being transparent, avenues are created for ideas from the larger community to be incorporated into decisions Stritikus will make as president, Stritikus said.
“You want to create a process whereby the larger community knows what you’re thinking, and there is some venue to get ideas for them,” he said.
The Search Process
Stritikus was named the new president of FLC in April after a search process that attracted more than 100 applicants, Short said.
The Board of Trustees chose Stritikus for his vision, the projection of strategic opportunities and his background knowledge in higher education and administration, Short said.
Working at both the University of Washington Seattle and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given him a great foundation in leadership, Short said in a follow up email.
The faculty had three members on the presidential search committee - former Faculty Senate President David Blake, psychology department chair Sue Kraus, and former faculty representative to the Board of Trustrees Michael Valdez, Martin said.
Students were represented by former ASFLC President Dustin Fink and Tara Abrams, FLC student, who both sat on the search committee, Salway said.