Depending on whom you talk to, Fort Lewis College’s trustees appear to have chosen for its next president the candidate most likely to lead the college in innovative ways and with some urgency.
Dr. Tom Stritikus, who was a dean of the College of Education at the University of Washington before spending three years with the Gates Foundation, will assume the presidency on August 1. Stritikus is the first in his family to graduate from college – the University of Nebraska – Lincoln – and has earned advanced degrees in education from the University of California - Berkeley.
As deputy director of K-12 education at the Gates Foundation, he led teacher preparation, innovation and educational initiatives which the foundation is known for, funding delivery mechanisms and education equipment across communities and institutions aimed to serve people with varied backgrounds from different cultures.
Stritikus and his wife have two middle school-aged children. The quality of K-12 schools in Durango was a draw for him and his family, as was the quality of FLC’s faculty and its dedication to teaching.
Fort Lewis requires leadership which can bring new ideas and at a faster pace, and the campus appears ready for that. Faculty and administrators enthusiastically came together last fall to put forth ideas for new programs, certificates and incoming student activities.
With the approximately $4 million in budget cuts for the coming year beginning July 1, there is a sense of urgency. Enrollment has fallen from a peak of about 4,300 more than 10 years ago to this year’s 3,300. It is expected to fall further for the school year beginning the end of August.
While changing demographics have resulted in fewer higher school graduates, and a highly competitive admissions environment with more than a dozen out of state colleges with offices in Denver, Fort Lewis appears to need a fresh review of its course and campus life offerings, recruitment and marketing efforts.
Is the college offering what students want (and need) and, if so, are college-bound high school students aware of those offerings? Fort Lewis’ tuition is among the lowest in the state and Southwest Colorado has plenty of lifestyle appeal.
Dr. Stritikus will begin leading Fort Lewis at a time of challenges, but we join others in Southwest Colorado in believing that Fort Lewis has significant potential and all the pieces necessary to succeed. We look forward to hearing Dr. Stritikus’ ideas and welcoming him to town this summer.