Dean Kelly named CPTC Vice President of Student Success

By Jean Borst

Clover Park Technical College (CPTC) is pleased to announce that Dean Kelly has been selected to be the new Vice President of Student Success. Dean was interim VP of the division for a year before officially taking the helm on July 3.

In his role, Dean oversees critical services that help CPTC students meet their academic and career goals, including Advising and Counseling, College Success, Student Life, Child Development Services, Disability Services, Financial Aid, Workforce, Enrollment, Outreach and Entry, Veteran’s Services, and Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Dean has been part of the CPTC administrative team for nearly 9 years and has served in a variety of positions, including Director of Advising and Dean of Student Success. During his 30-year career that spans K-12 and higher education, Dean has held numerous roles dedicated to improving student outcomes, from teaching, grant writing and assessment, to pre-college programs and various roles in student services.

“Dean brings a wealth of skill and experience to his position and is committed to ensuring our students succeed,” said CPTC President Dr. Joyce Loveday. “We are thrilled that he will continue to lead CPTC’s Student Success efforts on a permanent basis.”

Dean recently sat down for a Q&A to share his thoughts about what’s ahead.

What does student success mean to you?

Many of our students come to Clover Park Technical College after being out of school for a long time. They have a lot of nervousness and anxiety about returning. For me, student success is about providing what students need to feel comfortable and thrive in a college environment and work toward their employment and academic goals.

It’s also about helping students identify and access the information and resources they need to reach those goals. That includes academic support, community resources around food insecurity, child care and transportation, and more. Students know we have the resources on campus and in the community that they need to be successful.

Students also need to feel a sense of being cared for and belonging. At Clover Park, they know folks are on their side, championing their success and helping them reach their life goals.

What do you consider the biggest challenges at CPTC?

Clover Park is dealing with the same issues that all higher education institutions are facing.

First, people are questioning the value of higher education, particularly the cost. They’re wondering if it’s worth their time and effort. We need to help educate the public about the value of a college degree and the jobs and opportunities it leads to.

In colleges across the country, enrollment has steadily declined over the last 10 or so years. It has been particularly pronounced since the pandemic. We’re starting to see some signs that it’s bottoming out, so right now, our big challenges are to grow programs and fill seats.

Like every college, CPTC also struggles with equity gaps. There are pockets of students who are not doing as well as others. We need to determine how we can make improvements to decrease those disparities.

In your role at CPTC, what do you consider your most important priorities?

CPTC just finished a new strategic plan built around the acronym CARES, or Community of Care, Access, Retention and Completion, Employment and Sustainability. A lot of that centers around the culture of care we provide. Students need to feel connected and excited to be here and know where to go if they need help.

One thing that makes that more challenging is that we no longer have students on campus five days a week. A hybrid environment is the future of education. We need to find more flexible, creative options to grow enrollment and provide services to students. That not only includes programs, but also student support. In a hybrid environment, how do we provide advising, food resources, case management, financial aid and other services when students aren’t on campus as often?

We are also looking at ways to improve systems and communications. For example, a top priority going into this academic year is to reduce the processing time for financial aid.

Is there a mantra you live or work by?

I don’t have a concise mantra, but I do know what motivates me to do this work.

I’m driven to provide hope and access for families. I’ve seen the value of education and how it’s transformed individuals, families and future generations. A degree and an education broaden an individual’s world view and offers access to better employment opportunities. It really has a huge impact on the community.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about your role as VP of Student Success?

I’m just excited for this opportunity and hopeful we can do a lot of good work. I’m fortunate to work with a good team that is committed and passionate about this work and wants to see all students thrive. And I see that same commitment and passion across the college.

Often in higher education, our focus is on the day-to-day work. But it’s also about what motivates us to do the work, what inspires us about the work and being able to celebrate our accomplishments. I want to see that happen more often.