The Western Community College Area Board of Governors selected Dr. Carmen Simone as the sixth president of Western Nebraska Community College, late Thursday evening.
WCCA Board Chair Lynne Klemke said Simone's experience as a college president along with a variety of other roles elevated her to the top of the long list of applicants.
"In the end, Dr. Simone has the best set of skills needed at this time for this institution," Klemke said. "Her years of experience as a community college president, coupled with her expertise as a faculty member, division chair, and administrator, really elevated her to the top."
When Simone takes office, she will strive to build and maintain relationships within the three WNCC campuses and the surrounding communities.
"I am deeply humbled that the Board of Governors has entrusted me with the leadership of Western Nebraska Community College," Simone said. "I look forward to building strong relationships both on our campuses and within our communities."
Simone, the current and founding vice president and dean at the University of South Dakota Community College for Sioux Falls, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience of higher education. She is a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. Prior to her position in South Dakota, Simone served as president of Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado for five years. She has also held higher education roles at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho and Casper College.
Since taking her position at the University of South Dakota, she transformed an existing university center to an assimilated, fully-integrated community college within the University system, streamlining expenses to accommodate a mandatory self-support model.
At Trinidad State, Simone helped stabilize enrollment numbers and increase retention and persistence rates, while aligning revenues and expenses for the college during a budget deficit. She also led philanthropic efforts to attain funding for scholarship initiatives, facility upgrades, and key faculty positions, securing the largest single gift in institutional history.
Simone has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Colorado State University, and a bachelor's in Chemistry from the University of North Dakota.
Simone said she looks forward to working with all to lead WNCC into the future.
"Without question, Western Nebraska Community College is an outstanding asset to the Nebraska Panhandle - and it always will be," Simone said. "I am eager to work with others to create a shared vision for the future so that we can continue serving our students and communities with excellence."
Simone was selected by the Board of Governors following an extensive, nation-wide search. An 18-person search committee consisting of Board members, WNCC employees, community members, and a WNCC student sifted through 43 applicants to find Simone.
Simone was one of three finalists the committee selected, along with Dr. Timothy Alvarez, president of Otero Junior College, in La Junta, Colorado, and Dr. Denise King, vice president for academic affairs at Cleveland State Community College, in Cleveland, Tennessee. King withdrew her name from consideration prior to the open forums and final interviews. Simone and Alvarez participated in the open forums and were individually interviewed by the committee, Thursday.
"WNCC was so fortunate to have two excellent candidates as our finalists, and because of that we deliberated for more than five hours," Klemke said.
The Board of Governors will ratify the selection at the next board meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 20. Simone will assume office in January 2020, succeeding Dr. John Harms, interim president, who held the position since June 2019. Until Simone takes office, Harms will remain and fulfill his duties as the head of WNCC.