New College of DuPage president: 'This is all about service'
As the College of DuPage's interim president, Brian Caputo has focused these past five months on moving the school forward and not settling for the status quo.
"There's so much going on at this college," said Caputo, who has served in the interim role since Jan. 1. "I don't think the institution would have been well-served by a shifting into neutral for potentially many months."
So when Caputo officially replaces Ann Rondeau as the next permanent president of the Glen Ellyn-based community college on July 1, there will be no need for transition -- just a continuation of work that already has started.
"I feel pretty comfortable with the institution," the 59-year-old Aurora resident said. "I believe I know it well and understand its culture and what its strengths are. And I intend to help leverage those strengths."
He said he also believes he has an "outstanding" relationship with the faculty.
Caputo spoke with the Daily Herald a day after COD board members agreed to appoint him as the seventh president of the state's largest community college. They're expected to take a formal vote next month on his employment agreement.
Caputo, who previously was COD's vice president of administrative affairs and treasurer, said he's looking forward to continuing with the college.
"This is all about service for me," he said. "I want very much to be of use to the college in trying to move it forward."
He said Rondeau "did a fabulous job of stabilizing the ship" during the most tumultuous time in the school's history. Rondeau took the reins in July 2016 after the Higher Learning Commission had threatened the school's accreditation by placing it on two years' probation.
Rondeau successfully led efforts to persuade the accreditation agency to lift COD's probation in November 2017 after a process to address concerns with the college's governance, spending practices, ethics policies and dysfunction on its elected board of trustees.
Caputo said COD's accreditation remains a priority, especially with HLC representatives scheduled to return to the campus for a focused visit in the fall.
"They're basically checking on the status of some things where we needed to improve," he said.
Meanwhile, officials are negotiating a new contract with the school's full-time faculty members. The existing pact expires in August.
"I'm confident we'll come to a consensus," Caputo said. "It's just a matter of time."
When it comes to long-term goals, Caputo says the school's primary focus should be student success.
As part of that effort, he wants COD to become a "regional center" for STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- education. There's plans to create a STEM instructional facility in the Berg Instructional Center that will have augmented reality and virtual reality technology.
Caputo said he also wants COD to become a recognized leader for art and culture in the Western suburbs. In addition, he wants COD to be "a major engine for economic development in DuPage County."
"There is a call for workforce development," he said. "We've just got to figure out how to deliver that effectively."
The school is equipped to achieve that goal, in part, because of Innovation DuPage, a new business incubator and accelerator. There's also Project Hire-Ed, a workforce development program.
Ultimately, Caputo said he wants COD to become the first choice for higher education in the county -- not a backup plan.
"There are certain students that know exactly where they need to go and why they need to go there," he said. "But for the vast majority of others, they should be coming here first because of the value of the education that we deliver."