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Photo of CMC's Roaring Fork Campus dean Heather Exby

In early July, Dr. Heather Exby began her new position as dean of Colorado Mountain College’s Roaring Fork Campus, which includes instructional sites in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, and a residential campus in Spring Valley.

A lot can change in 20 years. I certainly see the change in my children. I see it in myself as well, and I see it in the way Colorado Mountain College has changed and grown. In July of this year, I became the new Roaring Fork Campus dean. But CMC isn’t new to me; I was here 20 years ago working for the college in a variety of roles from student services to research.

One thing that hasn’t changed is how CMC is embedded within our mountain communities. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s a student and who’s a community member when you’re on campus. Often they are one and the same. You can’t tease the community out of this college; it’s in our very fiber.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is the unique and vital funding that comes to CMC from local property tax revenue. This rare and important local financial support for higher education is one of the reasons CMC thrives; our residents value higher education, and their economic support ensures that an affordable education is still possible here.

One of the most obvious changes is the arrival of bachelor’s degree programs in 2011, which elevated our status as well as our responsibility and duty as educators. We stepped onto a national stage like never before, and that’s been exciting for us.

Our campuses have all grown so much in 20 years, too. I can remember when it was a struggle to offset the costs of operating a site in Vail, but now, the CMC Edwards campus is our fastest-growing location. Our demographics have also changed drastically, and we now must meet the needs of a much more ethnically and economically diverse populace.

As I return to CMC, I am excited about our significant new promises, truly unprecedented in their boldness. Our board of trustees and administration have set our sights on CMC being “the most inclusive and innovative student-centered college in the nation.” That’s bold. We have promised to work hand in hand with our local school districts to ensure their graduates will be college-ready, without the need for remediation when they get to college. That’s bold. We’re bolstering K-12 partnerships, improving access to college courses while a student is still in high school and leveraging our tax dollars to move students faster into college while decreasing their college debt. That’s bold.

These are the things I’m excited about and why I’m here. Equipped with the great investment our communities have made in CMC, we do have the resources to fulfill these ambitious promises. We’re perfectly poised to succeed and become a model of what higher education should be.

We’re lucky. I know communities that would give plenty to have a community college like CMC in their backyard. Our college has brought all of us a higher quality of life. It was true 20 years ago, and it’s even truer today. I am honored and pleased to return to help chart our future course.

Dr. Heather Exby is the dean of the Roaring Fork Campus, with locations in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley.