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Friends & neighbors - MSCTC provost finds 'good fit' in Detroit Lakes

For the first time since William Leff officially retired on June 30, 2006, the Detroit Lakes campus of Minnesota State Community & Technical College has a new provost.

After a nationwide search process, Cristobal "Cris" Valdez was selected to fill that position. And while he has only been on board since March 1, Valdez said he already feels as though the job is "a really good fit" for him.

"I've found it's been a really good fit for my experience and what I would like to accomplish in my career," Valdez said Thursday.

That experience has included more than three years in his most recent position as dean of students at the University of Montana at Helena, which he began in 2003. Previous to that, Valdez served as the Grandview Campus Director for Yakima Valley Community College in Grandview, Wash., and also served as a counselor for the Community Colleges of Spokane on the Colville, Wash., campus.

"Professionally, I was looking to move into a leadership position such as this," he said.

As provost of MSCTC-Detroit Lakes, Valdez said his position is basically that of a CEO, overseeing everything from day-to-day instruction and maintenance to "keeping the sidewalks clear and safe" every morning.

Basically, Valdez added, "It's my responsibility to assist the folks assigned to each of those areas to better serve the students and this community."

As for his impressions of the campus and his colleagues, Valdez said they have been nothing but positive thus far.

The faculty and staff's willingness "to do whatever it takes to move this campus forward" has been "really inspiring to me," he added.

Though he is "still getting to know the community, this college, the students and staff," that process has been "a pleasant experience" so far, Valdez said.

And while there are always challenges facing any educational institution, he noted, "I've been very pleased by the attitude and mentality of the employees to take on those challenges and try to improve the quality of higher education in the lakes area."

In addition to supervising the campus's day-to-day operations, Valdez is also charged with community outreach and leadership. Under the presidency of Dr. Ann Valentine, he also shares college wide strategic responsibilities with campus provosts in Fergus Falls, Moorhead, and Wadena.

"MSCTC is very pleased to have Mr. Valdez's talents added to our leadership team," Dr. Valentine said in a press release. "He is a thoughtful, productive educator and will make great contributions to the Detroit Lakes community."

Valdez went on to say that he has been "very impressed" with what he has seen of Detroit Lakes so far.

"This is just a wonderful community," he said.

Though his wife, Robin, and their four children have only been in town for a little over a week, he said they were "very excited" to be part of a community with so much to offer.

Since starting classes at Roosevelt Elementary School this past Tuesday, Valdez said his three oldest children -- who are in fifth grade, second and kindergarten, respectively -- have already made some "fast friends."

"That part of the small-town atmosphere that first attracted us here has already come to pass," he added.

Valdez also praised the Detroit Lakes school system in general, noting that he had "already heard wonderful things about this district" before moving here.

Since moving into their new home in Hidden Hills a week ago, Valdez said he and his family had already visited the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center three times.

"Detroit Lakes can really be proud of being able to provide that kind of service," he said. "We're really excited about this community -- there's a lot more (to do and see) than you might expect from a town this size. We were pleasantly surprised."

His family is also enjoying the fact that even though they live pretty close to the city limits, their home still has a "quiet, rural atmosphere."

Valdez believes that comprehensive community and technical colleges allow people to dream and provide the opportunities for those people to realize their dreams.

He believes community colleges should remain open-door institutions that aspire to both high academic standards and high rates of student retention and success.

Valdez says one of his key roles as provost will be to make the community and surrounding area more aware of the variety and comprehensiveness of the educational opportunities offered at MSCTC.

"There is a lot happening on this campus that most folks don't see, or even know is here," he said. "This is not just a tech college anymore."

While the vocational and technical offerings at MSCTC are second to none, the campus now also offers two-year associate degrees in many areas. These programs offer local students an opportunity to complete the first two years of a four-year bachelor's degree right here in DL -- often at a far more affordable cost.

In addition, Valdez noted, that the school is expanding its online offerings, and may soon be able to allow students to complete a four-year degree right here in Detroit Lakes, through an

articulation agreement with a baccalaureate (i.e., four-year) institution.

"One of my efforts here will be to better educate the community about what we do here, and how advanced we are in the education (opportunities) we're providing -- so we can better serve them," he said. "I would invite anyone who wants to know more to come and visit with me, tour the campus and find out what we have to offer."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454