Candidate Cantor answers community concerns
By Jeremia Schrock
Sun Star Reporter
The UAF Community & Technical College (CTC, formerly the Tanana Valley Campus) recently hosted a community forum with dean finalist Jeffrey Cantor. Cantor had the poise of an economist, the dress sense of a businessman and spoke with the knowledge and articulation of a scholar and a good-natured Brooklyn accent.
It also didn’t hurt that Cantor was a man with a message. “Who am I?” He asked the forum. “A community college educator.”
What is the difference between a community college educator and a university educator for Cantor? Everything.
Cantor sees the community college as a very different organization compared to a university campus. While universities act as “conservators of knowledge”, community colleges are “community driven organizations.” Cantor feels that the CTC is at a crucial point in it’s history, and that a movement is needed to lift the organization into its rightful place as Fairbanks’ first choice in preparing members of the community for both higher academia (UAF) and in the technical arts. “Every town needs a workforce,” Cantor said. “[I want CTC to be] that first choice to get a technical education.”
If selected as dean, Cantor intends to focus on several areas of the CTC, including recruitment and retention of students, especially Alaska Natives. Cantor also feels that several new programs, as part of the institution’s current five-year plan, should be introduced. Among these are adequate “technical preparation to bridge high school and college”, a tourism program, and “more specialized apprenticeships.”
Cantor is also aware of Alaska’s more rural nature and hopes to help “embellish online and hybrid (online/in-person) courses to help offset student transportation issues.” He also hopes to save some programs that are struggling to fill classrooms by “co-mingling low enrollment sections so we don’t have to eliminate them.” Cantor intends to ensure that more students receive funding through federal community-based work grants.
When Cantor finished his introductory lecture, those in attendance began to ask questions. One community member asked what Cantor thought was the most important issue facing UAF? His response: “Money. The need for a better budget.”
While the majority of those in attendance were either older community members or university employees, there was a small contingent of concerned students. Chief among them was Ashley Moore, the current Miss Teen Alaska-American Co-ed 2010. Her major concern was money. “I’m a student and I want a good representative who will use my tuition money well.”
One issue that was asked several times, but in various forms, was “Why are you here?” Some members, including Jake Poole, the Vice Chancellor of University Advancement, asked Cantor if felt he could handle Alaska’s remoteness and temperature extremes. “Well, it’s a place very different from where [he and his wife have] been and are currently. The programs (at the CTC) looked solid and my visit over the past two days has confirmed a strong faculty.” He went on to add that while Fairbanks lacks the beaches of Pensacola, FL, where he resided most recently, city-wise it felt very similar.
David Guttenberg, the state House of Representatives Minority Whip, was also in attendance and asked Cantor very bluntly, “We all have the same question. ‘Are you gonna stay?’” Cantor responded that while he intended to make his tenure at the CTC his last job before retirement, Cantor would stay well past the accomplishment of his five-year goals. He considered his post at CTC to be his “final opportunity.”
His final opportunity to do what? “To grow and maintain a two-year institution.”
When asked if he felt that the questions asked him during the forum were at all hostile, Cantor shook his head. “Not hostility,” he said. “Simply concern.”