By Erica Setnick
Open enrollment, one-to-one engagement in classes, and tightknit community bonds are just some of the reasons why DCCC’s new dean of Communications, Arts and Humanities, Dr. Robert Kleinschmidt, said he fell in love with community colleges.
Kleinschmidt holds a Ph.D. in Community College Leadership from Colorado State University, a Master of Music Performance degree from the University of Northern Colorado and a Bachelor of Music Performance degree from Youngstown State University.
He loves jazz music, plays the tenor saxophone, has served as executive director of the Kinser Jazz Festival, and was a member of the music and jazz studies faculty at Casper College.
Kleinschmidt brings considerable community college administrative experience to DCCC, having served as dean of Creative Arts at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio and as both assistant dean and dean of the School of Language and Arts at Ocean County College in New Jersey.
Kleinschmidt says he admires the faculty at DCCC because it consists of “fantastic people” and meets the high standards one would find among university faculty.
“What really impressed me about the faculty of Communications, Arts and Humanities was how accomplished they were in their field,” Kleinschmidt says. “Some are published authors, they’ve presented papers for conferences, 42 out of 50 professors are tenured, and many have been acknowledged by the professional organizations associated with their discipline.”
Kleinschmidt sees a lot of potential in his department, starting with fine arts, which he wishes to expand. “The art professors made fine arts a two-year transfer degree, and most students are being accepted to four-year universities and they are offered scholarships,” Kleinschmidt says.
He also wants to see growth in the departments of performance arts, communication studies, and music. To that end, he is considering a TV/ radio station for the campus.
Since Kleinschmidt is new to DCCC, he hopes to know what the faculty is really thinking regarding their goals for the college.
“I’ve walked around and sat in classrooms, and I’ve sat down during open conference meetings just so I can listen for the real needs and wants of the faculty and students,” Kleinschmidt says.
By doing this, he says he gets faculty to open up to him about what they want to be changed.
Regarding student concerns, Kleinschmidt says he deals with a lot of little problems that students may not realize they can fix themselves. Instead of coming to the dean right away, he suggests the students talk to their professor first outside of class to try and resolve their issues.
However, if there is a wider issue that affects more students and the course itself, Kleinschmidt says he wants to be there for students in the most receptive way he can.
“If eight kids come marching in my office all complaining about how the teacher was late for five weeks straight, or they sign a petition, that’s something I take extremely seriously,” he says.
Kleinschmidt understands that within a community college, there are a lot of challenges students can face, including financial troubles, family issues, finding time to schedule classes around a work schedule, and attending class.
But, according to Kleinschmidt, the most pressing need of community college students today is life skills. “Every class that I’ve observed, every time I’ve worked with a student on an issue with their teacher, it comes down to how to deal with other people and the realization that [the students] are no longer in high school.”
He says the most valuable lesson taught at this college is helping students gain those valuable life skills. “Every course teaches you something about life, whether it be a math class or a history class — they all teach you how to learn,” Kleinschmidt adds.
“It’s not just about writing an essay, it’s about understanding people and understanding life so you can write that essay,” says Kleinschmidt.
Before the fall semester, Kleinschmidt plans to observe enrollment patterns, and perhaps cancel classes that are not filling up in time.
“One of the challenges is to make sure courses are available at the times that students need them,” says Kleinschmidt.
He says paying attention to the next course the student will take, for example, Photo II after Photo I, and offering courses during morning, afternoon, and evening, opens up flexible times for students and reduces the risk for lower enrollment.
Lower enrollment is an issue because “the number of students graduating from high school is declining,” according to Kleinschmidt.
He says he is working with the Enrollment Management department at DCCC and is doing everything he possibly can to “make sure that the students who are interested in our college are able to get the classes they need.”