The new president said she has been busy meeting people and becoming more familiar with the CSC campus during her first two days.
Park, who came to CSC from Montana, is the institution’s 10th president. She succeeds Dr. Thomas Krepel, who left the position in June after seven years.
Park said the positive things that she’d heard about the college led her to apply for the position.
“Colleagues and acquaintances who knew that Chadron was seeking a president called me and told me what a wonderful college CSC was,” Park said. “Everyone I talked to described Chadron State as solid, having an abundance of opportunities, and most importantly they said the people working for CSC and the surrounding community were strongly supportive of the college. These attributes were what initially attracted me to apply for the position. Later, when I visited Chadron and the campus, I confirmed all the positive comments and descriptions.”
The new president has been provost and academic vice chancellor and professor of biological sciences at Montana State University-Billings since 1996. At MSU-Billings, she managed six colleges, the honors program and academic support services, including the library, graduate studies, distance delivery and telecommunications, continuing education and several university centers. She was also responsible for a $20 million budget, academic assessment, faculty and staff evaluations and served on the collective bargaining team for the faculty unions.
Before becoming the chief academic officer at MSU-Billings, she was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at MSU-Billings for three years. She also was associate dean of the College of Science and Liberal Arts at the Florida Institute of Technology at Melbourne for three years.
Park will be the first woman to serve as CSC president. Interestingly, she is the second vice president from the MSU-Billings to be hired for Chadron State’s top position in recent years. Dr. Samuel Rankin was academic vice president at the Billings institution, then known as Eastern Montana College, for three years before beginning a 12-year tenure as president at Chadron State in 1986.
Park said Chadron State and MSU-Billings share many similarities.
“The demographics of central and eastern Montana are very similar to western Nebraska and the students we serve are very much like the students CSC serves,” she said.
She noted that, like CSC, MSU-Billings started as a Normal School for teacher education.
“Although teacher education is still a major emphasis, we expanded our mission, just as CSC did, to become a regional comprehensive institution with a strong distance education program to better serve the vast region of eastern Montana,” she said. “Most of MSU-B’s programming, including the master’s degree programs, mirrors the academic programming at Chadron State.”
Another similarity that she noted was MSU-Billings’ proximity to several American Indian tribes and reservations and its strong role in serving American Indian students.
During Park’s time at Billings, the university made many advancements which make her proud.
While she was a MSU-Billings administrator, the university developed its Online University, expanding its mission into the health care arena and establishing its sixth college, the College of Allied Health Professions. The university also has expanded the mission of its two-year college, the College of Technology, from a vocational-technical institution to a comprehensive community college.
“The only thing that made these accomplishments possible was the extraordinary team of deans and colleagues that implemented the vision,” she said. “When all is said and done, the accomplishment I am the proudest of was building a strong team of individuals who worked collaboratively and effectively to make great things happen at MSU-Billings.”
Park was awarded more than 10 grants during her teaching career. She has taught many undergraduate courses from immunology to general biology, as well as graduate courses, such as cell physiology, histological techniques for light microscopy and histology.
Having committed time to many professional and volunteer committees, Park was a member of the Billings Rotary International Board of Directors, Building a Healthy Community Task Force, Greater Yellowstone Business and Education Council Steering Committee and Celebrate Billings Leadership Forum.
Since the June announcement of Park’s hiring, members of the Chadron State faculty and staff have expressed optimism and excitement about the new presidency.
“This is such an exciting time for Chadron State College,” said Dr. Lois Veath, who was named CSC interim vice president for academic affairs in June. “Dr. Park brings so much great experience to this position, and I really look forward to the fresh approach that she will bring. Dr. Krepel did a great job getting our strategic plan, Vision 2011, off the ground and Dr. Park will continue that effort and will bring many new ideas of her own”
Ed Hoffman, Chadron State’s vice president for administration, and Nebraska State College System Chancellor Stan Carpenter visited MSU-Billings in June to meet with administration and faculty members as part of the presidential search process.
“When we visited Billings, we heard nothing but genuinely positive comments about Dr. Park,” Hoffman said. “We found that she is just a really well-liked person.”
Park said she looks forward to tackling the unique challenges facing Chadron State.
“One big challenge in serving the vast region CSC serves is the difficulty in providing access to higher education for placebound students so far from the physical location of the campus,” she said. “Remote delivery methods, such as interactive television and online learning, are essential to serve such a vast region. Another challenge is the declining K-12 population in rural western Nebraska. CSC will need to expand its recruiting efforts as it inevitably faces increased difficulty in maintaining its historical enrollments. A third challenge will be to keep higher education affordable for the population CSC serves.”
The new president expects Chadron State to continue its proud tradition of serving the High Plains.
“I would like to see Chadron State continue to serve the students of western Nebraska and the surrounding states with affordable, high quality academic programs in a caring and vital campus environment,” she said. “I would also like to see Chadron State work in partnership with the community of Chadron and the greater region CSC serves to help solve the problems the communities are facing demographically and economically.”
An author of numerous manuscripts and abstracts, Park received both her master of science and doctorate of philosophy in cell and molecular biology degrees from the Florida Institute of Technology. She also has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Baylor University at Waco, Texas.
The former registered nurse said her experience in health care has been beneficial to her career in higher education.
“That experience was tremendously helpful when MSU-Billings began to expand its mission to include academic programming in health care areas,” she said. “My background and experience were invaluable in developing partnerships with the health care organizations and agencies we work with on a daily basis.”
As a science professor and researcher, much of her exploration focused on hearing loss and the eighth nerve of the ear. She found that many substances that damage the kidneys also harm that nerve.
Park, who said she and her husband, Tom, thoroughly enjoy “the lifestyle of Western communities,” welcome the move to Chadron’s rural setting. Although Billings is Montana’s largest city with a population of about 90,000, the Parks resided near Red Lodge, a community of 2,200 about 50 miles southwest. The new president has a shorter commute to her office at CSC. The couple has moved into a house about one mile outside of the city limits near U.S. Highway 20 east of town.
The Parks have two adult children, Chris and Eric. They also have three grandchildren, Melanie, Ryan and Ashten.
“My husband and I are very excited,” she said. “Both of us have been anxious to make the move and get settled into the community. Our younger son and his family live in Billings and, of course, it is hard for us to move away from them. However, it will only be an eight-hour drive from Chadron back to Billings to visit them. Our older son and his family live in Kansas City so this move will put us only a day’s drive from them.”
--By Justin Haag, Communications Coordinator