Establishing a college campus in Salida during the most significant pandemic in our lifetimes calls for an extra dose of innovation and perseverance. Dan Robertson, the new instructional coordinator and business internship instructor at Colorado Mountain College Salida, is taking it all in stride.
“I became officially full time on March 1, 2020,” said Robertson. “It wasn’t too long after that when the quarantine started. I had barely started this position before the arrival of COVID-19, so whatever we are doing right now just seems normal.”
Rachel Pokrandt, college vice president and Leadville and Chaffee County campus dean, recruited Robertson to become one of CMC Salida’s first key employees.
Delivering on promises
Residents in Salida School District R32J voted to join Colorado Mountain College’s then-six-county district last November. Since then, CMC has continued to offer college courses to both locals and local high school students – though those who qualify as in-district students have benefitted from substantially lower tuition rates (even to the point of waived tuition, books and fees this summer). The college has established a storefront office in downtown Salida, although it’s not open to the public currently because of social distancing restrictions. Summer classes continue online, as all in-person classes changed to that format in mid-March.
In addition, the elected CMC Board of Trustees recently appointed David Armstrong as the Salida and Poncha Springs liaison to the board. “Salida is so fortunate to have people like David Armstrong in the community,” Robertson said. “Dave is one of the most committed public servants I know.”
Although before Robertson started at the campus he envisioned a different pace and way of working, he is excited about helping to create the college’s newest campus. He has lived in the Arkansas Valley for over five years, and has been involved in the business community since moving to the area.
“Despite our new storefront looking very quiet, we are absolutely moving forward with many of the same plans that we had from the day the vote was passed last fall,” he said. “The timing may just be a little different.
“It is important that Salida knows that we are still here, we are here to stay and we are going to deliver on the promises we have made to the community,” he said.
Today and tomorrow
Currently, Robertson is developing curriculum, including a new internship program with several local community business partners. He’s looking forward to working with a team of administrators, instructors and staff for the new campus. In the fall Robertson, who holds an outdoor industry Master of Business Administration from Western Colorado University, will also be teaching Introduction to Business.
Looking past the current response to the pandemic, Robertson is optimistic about how the campus will be doing five or so years down the road. He is hopeful he’ll see the college well on its way to building a physical campus in Salida that will provide broad benefits to the area. Along with college leadership, he envisions a solid array of programming – both virtual and in person – backed by people working to support students and local partners.
Robertson said he also wants the residents of Salida and Poncha Springs to realize the value of joining the CMC district when they witness more students graduating from CMC Salida. This spring the campus celebrated the commencement of 12 EMT students (including some from the fall), six nurse aide students, one student who received a certificate in welding & cutting, and one student who received an Associate of Applied Science in early childhood education plus several certificates.
“Success will not be the result of one person’s efforts,” said Robertson, “but a coalition of CMC and community partners coming together behind a common goal.”