Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

October 31, 2006 > Area 2, Seat 7 (Richard Watters)

Area 2, Seat 7 (Richard Watters)

TCV: Why are you interested in running for the Ohlone College board?

Watters: I work in higher education and have done that for the last 13 years. People approached me last November about filling this seat, with someone who had experience and was interested in the college. I began attending Ohlone board meetings in January and after I saw what was going on, I realized that my expertise in leadership development - my current job - could help.

After attending Cal State Hayward, graduating in 1995, I worked for about three years on the academic side doing desktop publishing and editing for the catalogue of special classes. I also worked for student government on recreational programs, events and activities.

For the past eight years, I have been at Norte Dame de Namur University as the director of the Center for Student Leadership. I work with students and parents during new student orientation, transfer students and graduate students, so I am aware of their issues. My duties include working with student government, student clubs and activities as well as leadership programs. Lately, my focus has been on the leadership programs and the establishment of a leadership Public Service Minor to provide students with hands-on experience on how to facilitate and manage change in the community and at work - to become engaged in the community.

Since I work on a small campus, I have been able to acquire knowledge and experience with student retention, building initiatives, serving on the planning and budgeting committee and the board of trustees as Staff Assembly President. The same issues that we are dealing with at my campus are present at Ohlone as well. My inclusion on the Ohlone board is a natural fit. I have no greater joy than working in a college atmosphere and with the students.

TCV: What will you bring to Ohlone's board, if elected?

Watters: I will stand up for what I believe. I am familiar with how a board is supposed to act in a different capacity at a private institution. I believe that at times the board is micromanaging and sometimes not enough management. The board should focus on the big picture. I bring higher education experience to the table. Some people on the board have been negative and abusive. I will be able to stand up to that.

TCV: What is your vision for the new Newark Center?

Watters: They have focused on health and technology. I believe the technology piece is good. The nursing program is a small program and very expensive to run. If that is planned for the center, where are they going to get the bodies to fill it? That could be a huge problem is there are not enough FTE (full time equivalent) students to pay for the facility. The fact that it is new may spark interest, but there need to be marketing plans as well. I think that if they work with the City of Newark to develop the area, there will be more potential for the center. As a stand-alone, there is still much work to be done.

TCV: What should be the focus of Ohlone College?

Watters: There needs to be a wide variety of offerings at a community college. There should be strategies worked out with Mission Valley ROP (Regional Occupational Program), adult schools, and school districts, to provide strategies and pathways for students. There must be ways to work closely with local businesses to find out what their needs are and what the market is asking for.

The big focus now seems to be on renovation. There are needs, for instance, at Washington Hospital for emergency room nurses but there are also needs in the biotech area. From what I hear, some of these business opportunities are not realized because people do not want to work with the Ohlone College board. That's a shame!

TCV: How do you address the issue of community awareness of Ohlone?

Watters: You have to be present both on campus and in the community. Board members need to be involved. I have done the best I can in Newark in educational opportunities and volunteering my time which gives me integration and helps me to know what is going on. That needs to happen for board members; they need to be involved in the community they are serving. There needs to be constant communication with school board members and city councilmembers - phone calls, emails, and at events. I don't think that is happening right now.

TCV: You are running for a seat designated for Newark residents. Do you think that should be changed?

Watters: I go back and forth on it. The intent was to make sure Newark has representation. In the grand scheme of things, I have to campaign in Fremont and Union City since the entire district votes on this seat. This is good since I am not just beholden to Newark voters. Then again, I wonder about having all seats at-large although in that case the advantage would be with the bigger city, Fremont. I can see why it is done this way and the benefits.

In order to change, I would have to understand why it would be more beneficial and better than the current system. I would support eliminating numbered seats so in the present election, three of us would be running for two Newark seats and the top two vote-getters would be elected.

TCV: What are the challenges facing the board in the next four years?

Watters: The frontage property for one. Then, enrollment will be a key to affording the Newark property. Finally, marketing and fundraising. The board will have to play a bigger role in looking at funding opportunities and funding the college. Members of the board need to form better relationships between themselves and the administration. Education is my passion and I am looking to bring that enthusiasm to the board.

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