October 16, 2012 at 5:00 am |
By MAUREEN DOLAN/Staff writer
COEUR d'ALENE - Gary Coffman says he cares about North Idaho College, the community and the students. He also says he knows that's not a unique trait when it comes to candidates seeking election to the college's board of trustees.
"But it goes pretty deep with me," Coffman said.
Coffman, who retired two years ago after 33 years of employment at NIC, is running for trustee Seat C on the NIC board. Ron Vieselmeyer, who was elected to that seat in 2006, isn't seeking re-election.
The 63-year-old Coeur d'Alene resident worked in student services throughout his career at the college and was director of that division when he retired.
When he began working at NIC in 1977, Coffman said student services were very limited, with just seven student service employees. Now there are more than 100 people working in that department. Coffman said through the years, he helped build many of the student service programs - advising, counseling, the testing center - existing at NIC today.
"Students make a lot of sacrifices to fulfill their educational objectives. I've seen the improvements and the sacrifices," Coffman said. "It's always a real drive for me to want to support those efforts."
Because of his experiences at NIC, Coffman said he has a deep understanding of the need to strike a balance between providing higher education opportunities for students and offering services that support students' success in achieving their educational goals.
"I feel I could bring that perspective, a focus on the health of the institution without ignoring the students, to the board," Coffman said. "I think the student perspective gets lost sometimes. I think that would be beneficial."
Coffman holds a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Montana State University, and a master's degree in psychology from the University of Northern Colorado.
Coffman's main objectives, if elected, include working to ensure that NIC is connected with the surrounding community and always aware of and working on meeting the community's higher education needs.
He said he would also work to make sure the college is making the most of its funding opportunities, and that they are balanced.
Coffman noted the recent years' decline in state higher education funding while student growth has accelerated, placing more of a burden on local taxpayers and students.
"Students have to bear a significant part of the cost of their education, but that's really gone up with student fees," he said. "It's getting to be problematic."
Coffman has lived in Coeur d'Alene for 35 years, and for five years in the '90s he served on the United Way of Kootenai County Board of Directors, with two years as president.
For 14 years, Coffman managed NIC's residence hall, living with the students. Along with managing many student services, Coffman said he has insight into the "bigger picture issues" at NIC.
"I know the community, the college and the students well. That's a pretty balanced knowledge base that I think would be unique to the board," Coffman said.