Dr. Dennis Johnson is excited to be the new president of the College of New Caledonia (CNC).
He joins the college fresh from serving in two vice-president roles at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, holding titles of provost and vice-president academic, as well as vice-president strategy and business development.
While his latest roles played a big part in him getting hired, Johnson says it’s his long career beforehand that has prepared him for the new position.
“I’ve spent almost three decades in post-secondary,” he says, “starting with teaching apprenticeship training in Ontario many years ago.”
He sees a lot of promise in his new college and hopes to expand upon the services already offered.
“I would say that CNC already shines in many ways, and what I need to do is work on increasing that,” Johnson says.
“The community college mandate is really important to the region, as it is to other areas. But it’s important that we continue to improve the learning experience and increase access.”
For Johnson, the community college model is all about access.
“For people that may otherwise not be able to engage, or may choose not to engage in higher education or post-secondary education, it’s the community college model that really works.”
While solutions are difficult, he says outside-the-box thinking can help.
“Part of it is getting creative, and there’s been some work done using technology to take programs out to the more rural campuses,” he says.
“It’s early days, but I would look at how we continue to support that option while also looking at other opportunities — whether it’s looking for ways to put on more programs linked to the labour market, so people can engage in the world of work; or whether it’s providing more access for education in general if students have other ambitions.”
Johnson explains what sold him on the opportunity.
“I’ve worked at a number of institutions in the past, and the community part of what CNC does [made it] where I wanted to be.”
The location was a big plus for him too.
“My wife and I had a long- term plan to get back to B.C. at some point, so this is a great opportunity.”
Johnson grew up in Vernon and was in Kamloops for about a decade at Thompson Rivers University.
To get started, he plans on gathering as much information as he can in order to be successful in the role.
“The next few months is going to be about learning from a lot of different stakeholders, as well as the faculty and staff here, the community partners and the board for sure.”
High on his list is visiting the local campus soon.
“We’re scheduling visits to all the campuses, and Quesnel should be coming up pretty quick.”