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CWCR00;board candidates detail their budget priorities
Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees incumbent Judy Pedersen, far left, watched as challenger Nicole Schoening answered a question during a forum Thursday at CWC. Candidates Carlton Underwood, Heather Christensen, center, and Kari Griebel listened as well. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

CWC board candidates detail their budget priorities

Oct 26, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Three candidates for the Riverton-Shoshoni subdistrict seat on the Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees shared differing budget priorities Thursday during a forum at CWC.

Incumbent Judy Pedersen joined challengers Nicole Schoening and Chris Smolik at the event, which was organized by members of the CWC forensics team and student senate. Tim Payne, did not attend.

Where to cut

When it comes to the college budget, Schoening said she would prioritize programs that offer diverse learning opportunities for students looking for a vocational education or online classes. She also is passionate about CWC's General Educational Development program that serves local high school students.

"I understand the needs of students are unique," Schoening said. "We're no longer producing cookie cutter students; they come with a variety of needs. ... We need to continue to diversify to offer as many opportunities as we can."

When asked to define specific areas of the college budget that she would consider cutting, Schoening said she would look to programs that have not attracted strong enrollment. She also mentioned the athletic program as something the board "may have to look at" when considering cuts in the future, though Schoening later spoke to the importance of athletics at CWC.

"I place tremendous value on the athletic program here," Schoening said. "Our athletic program pulls our community together, (and it's) a marketing tool."

Pedersen also identified athletics for cuts if necessary, calling herself "absolutely academic, 100 percent." She acknowledged that many people say the athletic program adds to the college experience and increases student retention, but in her opinion sports have nothing to do with academics.

"I was on the board when they cut athletics last time, and that's something I'd look at very seriously," Pedersen said. "It's an expensive program."

She added that the college keeps track of classes that don't attract large student numbers.

"In essence the college is always prepared to eliminate the less necessary classes or the ones not being as fully utilized as they could be," Pedersen said.

Aside from underperforming programs, Smolik said he would try to decrease CWC's overhead if budget cuts became necessary.

"That's not fun; you typically have to tell someone they no longer have a job," Smolik said. "But no money, no mission. To make an organization successful at sustaining itself there can't really be any sacred cows other than the core service lines."

He defined core service lines as the revenue items that allow the college to continue operating and fulfilling its mission and vision.

When asked about athletics, Smolik said he supports CWC's current set of programs.

"For a business to be viable in the long-term, you need to attract as diverse a consumer population as you can," Smolik said. "And a lot of evidence-based data shows there's a financial halo effect to schools that offer diverse athletic programs."

Future vision

Smolik said he chose to run for the CWC board because he thinks his experience and qualifications would make him a good advocate for the institution. As the chief executive officer at Riverton Memorial Hospital, however, he said he also has a selfish interest in the board.

"There's a beautiful new asset being built in the Health and Science Center," he said of the nursing and science facility being constructed on campus. "My plan is to be as involved as I can be to have that asset be as successful as it can be."

He said the state will need more nurses and health care workers in the future as Wyoming's population ages.

Schoening also mentioned the Health and Science Center, but she said her focus would be on all of CWC's workforce development programs. She also wants to address the growing rate of loan defaults among the CWC student population.

"That was disappointing to me," Schoening said. "I hope some dialogue happens in the future so we can address that concern."

She also is excited about the prospect of dorms being built on campus.

Pedersen said she would like to see the college work on its student completion rate.

"(We need) students to graduate and gain certificates and credentials," Pedersen said. "When they do that, I think that makes them a more valuable person. A person who takes a few classes and doesn't complete their coursework hasn't done it, they haven't finished. ... It's important to make sure students are getting the information and graduating with their degree, not just stopping in the middle."

Pedersen served on the CWC board from 1994 to 1998, and she has held her current post since 2008. She co-owns Wyoming Photography Institute.

Schoening is a case worker at Riverton Middle School.