Gregory Dowell: Candidate Profile
Harper College School Board (6-year Terms)
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: Deer Park
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Harper College School Board (6-year Terms)
Family: Married 30 years, two children
Occupation: CPA, managing partner CPA firm
Education: BA in Accounting, Illinois Wesleyan University, 1981 MBA in Finance, Northern Illinois University, 1995
Civic involvement: Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce Illinois Wesleyan University Chicago Giving Council Illinois Wesleyan University Accounting Advisory Board
Elected offices held: Trustee, Village of Deer Park, IL, 1997 to 2007 Trustee, Harper College, Palatine, IL, 2011 to 2013
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
"Completion" is the primary goal at Harper, and we must continuously evaluate to determine that we are doing everything we can to motivate, inspire, and make available opportunities for our students to see their education through to its natural completion, whether that completion is attaining a certificate in a particular field, completing a 2-year degree in anticipation of entering a 4-year program, or whether it is refining a skill set to be better situated in the job market.
Key Issue 2
Success in the future will not come the same way that it has in the past. To be relevant in the future, the role of education and its delivery mechanisms must adapt to an environment that is constantly changing and ever more global in nature. We must be innovative and flexible in how we plan for the future if we are to continue to provide the public with the educational opportunities that they need.
Key Issue 3
Maintaining the delicate balance of having the education at Harper continue to be both affordable and of the highest quality.
With enrollment up at my many community colleges, it can be challenging to keep pace as far as available classroom/lab space, the number of qualified teachers and available course work options. How would you manage that?
Enrollment at many community colleges has actually trended down in the past year, but we believe that is only a temporary trend that has underpinnings based in the long recession that we have struggled to escape. Regardless, the key is to use existing space to its highest and best use, but to also maintain an overall perspective with regard to our aging infrastructure. Because of changes in technology and courses, in some cases that infrastructure simply is not suited for delivering education in the best manner. We must remain thoughtful in how we evaluate new building needs. Similarly, we have to continually re-evaluate how we provide instruction to our students. At Harper, we have benefited from good stewardship of our financial assets and, through thoughtful planning, we have been able to re-invest in our campus and we have also been able to retain a teaching staff that has a selfless focus on the students.
In tough economic times, many students (and working professionals) turn to a community college for its educational value. How do you ensure that a person's financial sacrifice results in an educational benefit?
We realize that most students can not afford a false start and must get the most out of their educational dollars. In response to those realities, Harper offers (and seeks) opportunities to counsel new and existing students on the best way to educate for their chosen career paths. We are an affordable option, but we know that we must work to keep our tuition affordable for as many students as possible. The media is full of stories of the astronomical levels of debt that students have upon graduation, particularly after achieving a 4-year or an advanced degree. As a parent with children in college, I see that first-hand. It is also important that Harper continue to search out ways for our 2-year degree students to seamlessly slide into 4-year programs. That happens by making sure that our students have received quality instruction, and the bedrock of that instruction is in the quality of faculty. We were pleased to conclude negotiations with our faculty last year and have a new contract that is reasonable for both parties. We also have worked hard to make connections with 4-year schools to foster an easier transition for our students. We continue to actively seek out partners for the Dual Degree program, which ensures that a student who successfully completes the associate degree will be seamlessly accepted at a 4-year institution, often at locked-in tuition rates. We also have transfer agreements with over 100 colleges and universities nationwide.
Is a tax rate increase needed and, if so, how do you justify it?
The reality is that we live in the State of Illinois, a great state that has sadly allowed itself to fall into a precarious financial position. It would be unrealistic to think that tax rates may never increase, simply due to the fact that community colleges are dependent on some of their revenue coming from the State of Illinois. We do not know what the future holds; for instance, we do not know how the pension issue in Illinois will be resolved and whether it may mean that community colleges will be forced to pick up some of the pension cost. I think the real key is ensuring that any tax rate increase should be the last resort and should be necessary.
Community colleges provide many services to a diverse population. Is there a service your college should be providing that it is not, or reaching a segment of the population that it is not?
The scope of the mission of a community college is huge and daunting. Providing a path of education into certificated programs, providing an affordable start to an ultimate 4-year degree, helping to re-tool the workforce in more modest ways by offering courses to hone new skills, offering lifelong learning opportunities, allowing for an environment for cultural expression and development - as if that were not enough, it all has to be done in an increasingly dynamic environment, with an unstable economy as a backdrop. Harper has been the leader among community colleges in working with businesses to make sure that our courses and offerings are exactly what is needed to ensure that our students will be relevant and able to contribute. Listening and constantly communicating are the keys. Because the environment is so dynamic, today's solutions will be outdated and unacceptable tomorrow, so we must continue to interact with businesses and other end-users and remain flexible. Another critical problem that all colleges face is that the high school students who enroll often are not college-ready, particularly with regard to having adequate math or science skills. The lack of college-readiness can be fatal to a student's ability to complete. Harper has been an innovator in its efforts to work with our local school districts to face this problem head-on. In concert with our high school districts, we are working to identify students in need and to provide them with the remedial work that is needed. By definition, we are not perfect and we will continue to challenge ourselves to do more.
If you are a newcomer, what prompted you to run for the community college board? If you're an incumbent, list your accomplishments or key initiatives in which you played a leadership role.
I was appointed to complete a term for a trustee who had resigned. I sought the appointment because I believe at a very deep and personal level that the responsibility is with each of us as individuals to step up and participate for the common good. That responsibility is different for all of us, but at its core is the need to contribute to our community. For some of us, it means helping others at a very individual and one-on-one level; for others it means being involved in citizen governments; for others, it means involvement in organizations that impact us at a local, state, national, or international level. In my short time on the board at Harper, I have supported and voted for many of the initiatives identified above (support of working coalitions with businesses and manufacturers, school districts, responsible development and re-development of our campus infrastructure, etc.). While my financial background is helpful, I believe that the more important skill sets I bring are a track record of leadership and the ability and desire to work together in a healthy, collaborative environment.
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