speaks to a group of community members Monday morning at Central Lakes College
Griggs is one of three finalists for the position of CLC president visiting campus this week. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)
Robert Griggs, current vice president for innovation and extended learning at Bemidji State University and interim dean of Northwest Technical College in Bemidji, introduced himself to a group of about 10 people and fielded questions about his experience.
Griggs was nominated for the position of CLC president by a colleague, he said, which was flattering.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Griggs
outlined the key qualifications and skills associated with the position and how he
The job search committee identified trusted senior leadership as a key component of the position, and Griggs
20 years of "progressively responsible leadership in higher education.
also pointed to his
16 years of experience working in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, as well as his
experience working in a multi-campus setting.
The next CLC president should promote collaboration and partnership, Griggs
said, and he
has extensive experience building academic pathways by connecting high schools to two-year college programs and connecting two-year college programs to four-year college programs.
"I've spent the better part of 16 years doing that type of activity," Griggs
, where Griggs
has worked for the past 16 years in a variety of positions, he
developed flexible business training programs as well as a center for community partnership to support civic engagement and service learning.
helped develop the Intern Bemidji program, which he
said simplifies the process for area employers looking to find students to help with short-term projects, jobs and internships.
"The whole premise or idea is to keep talent local," Griggs
"We've got a lot of talented students, that just like Brainerd and Staples, want to stay in the area."
has been heavily involved with Native American tribal colleges, as Bemidji
sits in the middle of three tribal nations, he
helped secure a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to build video conferencing rooms to connect BSU
to the tribal colleges.
"The exciting piece is we're talking about students getting together, student associations, to improve retention and transfer opportunities," Griggs
started at NTC
in 2014, Griggs
moved the adult basic education program, previously at a high school, to the technical college campus.
The move was made to better support non-traditional students by putting them in a more comfortable, less intimidating environment.
The next CLC president should be able to build upon a culture of student success, Griggs
It's all about the students and their success, he
said, so it's important to focus on access, affordability and transferability.
has led and participated in strategic planning and in the fall of 2014 completed a master plan at NTC
He also helped the Higher Learning Commission complete its comprehensive evaluation in Bemidji over the course of five months during a recent summer.
wife have three children and have lived in Bemidji
for 16 years.
loves the outdoors and is heavily involved in community organizations like the chamber of commerce, United Way
and parent-teacher organizations.
Originally from rural North Dakota, Griggs
grew up in an agricultural community and working in agriculture has helped shape his
work ethic and his
He's also the first member of his family to go to college.
The faculty and staff at CLC
are high-quality, Griggs
said, and the college's reputation is top-notch.
He said he wants to be president of CLC because he loves working in higher education, notably in northern Minnesota.
"I believe my qualifications and experience would greatly assist CLC
in meeting the challenges of the future," Griggs
shared a comment from one of the deans at NTC
said helped explain the importance of higher education.
said, 'The programs here at NTC
are the difference often between poverty and hope,'" Griggs
"And I thought, 'Wow, that is a powerful statement.'"
fielded questions from the group about his
experience in career and technical education, meeting transferability guidelines, meeting the needs of local businesses and the increasing costs of higher education.
Because of the Great Recession, enrollment at NTC
from 2008 to about 2012 set record highs, Griggs
A few large employers in the area shut down, leading to more people pursuing higher education.
Because of the influx, he
said, the college wasn't looking toward the future and instead focuses on keeping existing programs active.
"We weren't really doing a very good job of listening, I would say," Griggs
When enrollment then started to decline, BSU
held focus groups in the region to determine what the college wasn't doing that it should be doing, Griggs
The college is now playing catchup, he
said, by forming new partnerships and reaching out.
"Instead of just staying on campus and waiting for individuals to approach us," Griggs
said, "we're going out and meeting with them."
While at BSU
worked with other colleges in northwest Minnesota in order to learn how they could improve transferability between themselves.
They shared information and looked at outcomes and learning objectives between courses, he
said, in order to benefit transferring students.
"It doesn't happen unless we're proactive in making those connections," Griggs
pointed to a workforce impact program in Beltrami County which helped provide the right training in order to correctly fill the needs of the business community.
Sometimes training focuses too much on meeting compliance and not on helping the person, he
"We're taking a hard look at what we're currently doing and hopefully finding new and better ways to serve our region," Griggs
Kilian also asked Griggs
would characterize his
leadership style, as well as one big challenge or opportunity he
sees at CLC
leadership style is open, inclusive, transparent, collaborative and accountable.
"The best individuals to answer that question are the individuals I've worked with for the last 16 years," Griggs
"I think if they were in the room, what they would say is I'm very inclusive, I'm very transparent and collaborative."
As far as direction, Griggs
said at CLC
he'd focus on collaboration and partnership because it's what he's
been involved in in his
It's not just one factor driving the increased costs, Griggs
said, because if it was, it would be easier to address.
Instead, it's things like rising textbook costs and duplication of coursework, both of which are becoming less of an issue.
Mostly, it's personnel costs related to operations, he
"What we're trying to do is provide the very best education we can and make it affordable," Griggs
Griggs has served Bemidji State University as vice president for innovation and extended learning from 2012 to 2016, interim vice president for academic affairs from 2011 to 2012, associate vice president for extended learning and library services from 2008 to 2011, interim associate vice president for extended learning and information technology from 2005 to 2008 and dean of distance learning and summer session from 2000 to 2005.
He also served Northwest Technical College as interim dean since 2014.
Previously, he served National American University in South Dakota as associate dean for distance learning from 1998 to 2000, department chair from 1997 to 1998 and as a faculty member from 1992 to 2000.
He holds a bachelor's degree and a juris doctor degree from the University of North Dakota.