Could a Central Oregon native be COCC’s next president?

Patrick Lanning is the final of three candidates

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Mar 3, 2014 at 12:01AM

Third of three: Patrick Lanning, currently Yamhill Valley Campus president in McMinnville and chief academic officer of instruction and student services for the Chemeketa Community College District. Scheduled to visit COCC’s Bend campus today.

Patrick Lanning, one of three finalists to be Central Oregon Community College’s next president, was described by a colleague as “a real community college success story.”

A Prineville native, Lanning graduated from Crook County High School before going to Lane Community College. After transferring to the University of Oregon on a track scholarship, Lanning became the first in his family to graduate from college. He has since earned a doctorate and returned to Lane, first as an instructor and later rising to be an associate vice president. Lanning is currently chief academic officer of instruction and student services for the Salem-based Chemeketa Community College District and president of its Yamhill Valley campus in McMinnville. He hopes his next step will be to come home and succeed COCC President Jim Middleton, who will retire this summer after leading the college for a decade.

“COCC is a really solid college with a great faculty and staff,” Lanning said. “It’s not broken. They need someone who can focus on what’s most important, and I think I can do that. But also, I was born and raised in the district, my family’s there, and it’s an exciting opportunity to come home.”

Having worked at two different community colleges, Lanning said the differences between schools are just as important as the similarities. To help himself understand the particulars of COCC, Lanning said he would make being involved in the community a priority.

“I’d connect with superintendents and school districts, to help our local high school students who want to get degrees or transfer to a university,” Lanning said. “But it’s also about knowing what short-term training is needed, what skills the community could benefit from.”

Lanning said tailoring the college to the needs of the region would be important for both students and industry. After earning his master’s, he returned to Central Oregon but was unable to find a job.

“I don’t want students who grow up here to have to move away for work,” Lanning said.

He cited his deep connections to the state government, aided by his current location in Salem, as something that would help him get the region and college the state support they need.

“COCC doesn’t need an infusion of new ideas, but it would be important to focus on attracting new resources,” Lanning said. “I’ve served on committees looking at the funding formula for colleges, and also been involved in the state’s work on dual enrollment. I already have these relationships with Salem established, and I think that firm connection to the state would help.”

While Lanning emphasized that COCC is operating from a position of strength, he did suggest the recruitment of international students as something he would want to explore.

“In order for it to be successful, you have to engage the whole campus,” Lanning said. “I’ve been involved nationally in looking at this conversation, and I would be able to lead it at COCC. It can be a great thing if done well. It provides for a diversity of interactions for students, and more and more we’re in a global economy. Even if you live in Prineville or La Pine, you can be touched by the global economy.”

Lane Community College President Mary Spilde, who described Lanning as “a real community college success story,” praised his leadership style.

“He’s very collaborative and respects multiple perspectives,” Spilde said. “He does a really good job of honoring multiple viewpoints but getting to a conclusion where you can move forward to some action.”

Bob Baldwin, Lane’s classified staff union president, echoed this sentiment, saying, “even if he didn’t agree with me, he would listen and understand me, and was always clear about why he was making the decision he made.”

David Hallett, executive dean for general education and transfer studies at Chemeketa, characterized Lanning as a “servant leader.”

“What I mean is Patrick is very astute at knowing the strengths and needs of those around him,” Hallett said. “He looks for ways to help foster the individuals around him to reach their own goals.”

Lanning said his leadership style would benefit from the size of COCC.

“I like to really know the faculty and staff, to build those relationships,” he said. “Having worked at two of the largest community colleges, I’d be excited to work somewhere not too big, not too small, but the right size.”

If hired for the COCC job, Lanning said he’ll be here to stay.

“You don’t see the three- to five-year turnover of presidents here,” he said. “I’m at the point where I can commit and focus on this college for the long run.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com