By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
NORTH MANKATO — If South Central College president candidate David Hellmich seemed familiar with the school Friday, it’s because the Kentucky college administrator has walked those halls before.
Hellmich was dean of instruction at SCC’s Faribault campus from 2000-2006 before becoming vice president of academics at Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington.
On Friday he met in North Mankato with presidential search committee members as the third of three semifinalists to visit SCC’s two campuses.
“I’m ready for it ... I love the college,” he said in answer to a question about why he wants to return to SCC.
He said his readiness stems from a “depth and breadth of experience” he’s garnered in an academic career that has included teaching and administration stints at two-year and four-year schools and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Florida.
Hellmich said he became a staunch proponent of community and technical college education when he taught at his first junior college in Florida, where his mentor was a man instrumental in establishing that state’s junior college system.
“I knew then I wanted to have a career as a junior college educator,” he told committee members.
His vision if selected president: “That every single student in our service area considers us as a really good option and looks at South Central College as a first place to turn.”
Hellmich said at the 14,000-student Bluegrass Community and Technical College he oversees an array of community stakeholder partnerships.
The college’s partnership with the city’s K-12 school systems includes the college’s “adoption” of a nearby middle school, where leadership skills are taught to advanced students and afternoon tutoring sessions are provided.
Also, a group of high school students is bused to campus, where they take their high school classes in the morning and college classes in the afternoon.
Business partnerships include a cooperative program with the local police department that has established an on-campus police training academy for college students.
“It’s a phenomenal win-win partnership for the police chief and for us.”
Hellmich said his vision for furthering SCC engagement with the local business community is to make all faculty members knowledgeable “ambassadors” for the college.
He said that’s particularly vital in instances when SCC staff interact with existing and potential college-program partners in the business community.
Hellmich also offered his cautionary philosophy regarding the downside of decisions made too hastily.
“It’s much harder to undo bad change than it is to be patient with change.” _ Hellmich has served at Bluegrass since June 2006. He also has served on the faculties of Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Santa Fe Community College, Indiana University, St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and the University of Kentucky.
The other SCC president semifinalists are Annette Parker, a director in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System; and Lisa Larson, vice president of academic and student affairs at Hennepin Technical College.
A new president is expected to begin duties in July.
Keith Stover, SCC president since 1999, will retire June 30.