The new executive dean of Southwest Colorado Community College hopes to expand the school’s culinary arts program and fire academy.
Tonya Nelson, a native of the Four Corners, started as the head of SCCC Monday after leaving her position as the director of quality improvement and the career center at San Juan Community College in Farmington.
She is originally from northeast Arizona.
Nelson is replacing Norm Jones, who left at the position at the end of July to become a consultant.
She will lead the SCCC campuses in Durango and Mancos, which are part of the Pueblo Community College system.
The local community college is one of a few regional schools offering a culinary arts program and firefighter training, and she sees that as an opportunity.
She hopes to build partnerships within the community to help expand the already-popular programs, but she needs time to identify possible partnerships.
Increasing student enrollment and improving retention are also goals.
“We are hoping, definitely, to expand our student growth, as well as our programs,” she said.
Nelson also plans to review the school’s general education assessments to make sure the classes are meeting the student’s needs and preparing them to transfer to four-year institutions, she said.
She has experience reviewing college programs and tests to make sure they are meeting requirements for accreditation.
The college is planning two receptions for the new dean. The first reception will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday in the commons area at the Mancos campus, 33057 Highway 160.
The second reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Learning Center, 701 Camino del Rio, in Durango.