Why College of DuPage is truly 'our community college'

As a 20-year resident of District 502, I have a great affection for what my family calls "our community college."

From the beginning, we learned about College of DuPage's outstanding academic reputation and the broad range of experiences it offers the community. My wife, Karen, and I are proud of "our college" and grateful for what it has provided for our family. All three of our children - Brian Jr., Gregory and Katherine - attended COD. In fact, our oldest son still talks about how COD was the best college experience he had.

When I was working on my dissertation, I would come to the Glen Ellyn campus, use the library and find a quiet place to study. Moreover, College of DuPage always has been a place to which we have looked for extraordinary cultural enrichment.

College of DuPage has a certain aura about it because we do things well. We have exceptional faculty and staff, and we are fortunate to have excellent resources. Smaller class sizes mean students have greater opportunities for one-on-one interaction with their professors. And the affordable price cannot be beat when one considers the high-quality education.

These are a few of the many reasons why I tell people I am "all in" as I begin the year as the interim president of College of DuPage. It is a privilege to lead this institution. In my view, College of DuPage should be the first place that District 502 residents turn for a high-quality education - whether the objective is ultimately completing a bachelor's degree, entering the workforce after a shorter program of study, or pursuing personal enrichment.

As I move into my new role, I must thank Ann Rondeau for her phenomenal leadership during her 2½ years as the college's president. I wish her all the best as she assumes her new position as president of the Naval Postgraduate School in California.

Prior to becoming the college's interim president, I served as vice president of administration and chief financial officer. From the time I arrived on campus, I have been thrilled to be afforded the opportunity to apply my administrative and leadership skills at "our community college."

Previously, I spent nearly 19 years as the CFO/City Treasurer for the City of Aurora, a job I truly enjoyed. However, I find work in higher education to be inspiring. The college experience equips students to better serve society and improve their own lives. Indeed, the provision of higher education is a noble endeavor.

My management and leadership experience spans over 35 years, including service as an officer in the U.S. Army, an official in local government and an executive in higher education. I also have thoroughly enjoyed being in the classroom with students.

My teaching experience includes work as a full-time faculty member at Central Michigan University, an adjunct faculty member at Northern Illinois University and a guest lecturer in numerous academic and professional capacities.

As the interim college president, I seek to provide stability and facilitate forward movement in the major institutional initiatives that are presently in process. The first of these is Guided Pathways, an academic game-changer that will build upon our vast resources and enhance our ability to help students choose, enter and complete a program of study that is aligned with their goals for employment and further education.

This project involves administration, faculty and staff at all levels. While much institutional effort already has been devoted to Guided Pathways, considerable work remains to be done before the initiative will have its greatest impact.

The second is Project Hire-Ed. Dr. Rondeau previously wrote about this initiative in some detail. In summary, Project Hire-Ed is a workforce development program that will better align postsecondary education with certain workforce skill requirements through partnerships with area employers.

The third is Innovation DuPage, a new business incubator-accelerator that has generated a great deal of excitement. I was part of the executive team that worked to establish this cooperative venture to promote business growth and job creation.

Among its accomplishments so far are two successful offerings of the Owner-to-CEO Accelerator Cohort Program. Also, this spring, Innovation DuPage is expected to open in a remodeled space in the Glen Ellyn Civic Center.

Recently, I was invited to serve on the board of directors of Choose DuPage, an economic development alliance of public- and private-sector leaders in DuPage County. It is my firm belief that the cultivation of synergies between Choose DuPage and Innovation DuPage will serve to significantly advance economic growth within the county.

These initiatives are examples of the positive impact of a community college - the community's college. We should all take pride in an institution that has provided exceptional academic and cultural experiences for more than 50 years.

I am deeply humbled that the board of trustees appointed me as interim president of College of DuPage. I believe in "our college," and I look forward to hearing your suggestions for how we can enhance our delivery of services to the District 502 community.

• Brian Caputo is president of the College of DuPage. His column appears monthly in Neighbor.

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