Without doubt, the new president of Utah Valley Community College brings impressive credentials to the job. He not only has been leader of Alaska's higher education system the past 12 years, but has a regional and national reputation as well.
Utah can count itself fortunate to have acquired Kerry D. Romesburg as UVCC president. He will assume office in mid-July as a replacement for J. Marvin Higbee, who resigned last fall after questions were raised about the use of school funds for personal expenses.Romesburg is president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, representing officials from 50 states. He also has been chairman of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.
A former assistant professor at Arizona State University, he has kept his hand in teaching even while filling administrative post. He brings a balanced view of both academic and vocational education to his new job.
Any time a community college can acquire a leader of Romseburg's stature, it tends to raise the image and the quality of the institution, and indirectly gives a boost in prestige to other such colleges in the state.
Romesburg will inherit a thriving institution. UVCC has more than 7,000 students and more will keep coming, especially since the Legislature last year turned the state's two technical colleges into community colleges.
The pressures on four-year universities have been increasing steadily as the school population of Utah unlike unlike those of most other states has undergone rapid growth.
Instead of continually expanding the four-year schools, the Legislature chose a less expensive path to widen the role of the popular vocational schools at Orem and Salt Lake City.
As academic colleges as well as vocational ones, they eventually may come to rival the state universities in numbers of students. That means an enormous challenge for Romesburg and other leaders in Utah's community colleges.
He will have to seek additional funding; build the academic side of the school while keeping the vocational area strong and vital, and juggle real pressures of student numbers, finances, space, and programs. But the formidible task appears to be in good hands.