POSITION: Chancellor of South Louisiana Community College.
Four months ago, Natalie Harder started her job as chancellor of South Louisiana Community College, which has campuses in Lafayette and New Iberia, and as interim director of Acadiana Technical College, which has campuses in Ville Platte, Crowley, Abbeville, Lafayette, Morgan City, Opelousas, New Iberia and St. Martinville. SLCC enrolled 3,753 students this spring — more than the 3,424 students taking spring courses at the regional technical campuses. Harder, who comes to Lafayette after serving as vice president of Patrick Henry College in Martinville, Va., will lead the SLCC and ATC campuses as they consolidate into one South Louisiana Community College in July. Harder discussed the impact of the consolidation, approved by the Legislature in this year’s session.
What are the benefits of the consolidation?
The benefits start in a number of ways. First of all, it allows us to allocate resources in a way that helps us better serve Acadiana. By that, I mean both students and business and industry, because we don’t take lightly the word ‘community’ in our name. We’ll be able to bring teams together to address needs of students and business and industry in a way that couldn’t be done before. We’re looking at space utilization, and anywhere there may be repetitive operational issues there would be a savings.
Do you foresee any challenges?
I think a challenge is there, but that’s not necessarily related to the merger, and that is that we need to be out in the public more. I don’t think that people necessarily know enough about us, but the faculty and staff here are tremendous. They’re excited about new things, so they have come to the table with so many great ideas. Empowering them to do what they do best, whether it’s in the classroom or at a desk, has been a great ride for the past four months.
Will the technical college campuses remain technical education campuses?
Absolutely not. That’s one of the benefits. We’re bringing more general ed courses where there have only been technical options. We’d also like to replicate Early College Academy, which is what we do in Lafayette Parish where students start in ninth grade coming to campus, and grow dual enrollment.
Are you receiving more resources to expand those course options?
Absolutely not. Matter of fact, we’re in our fifth year of state cuts.
So, you think it’s possible to do it with existing resources?
As long as we have strong enrollment, because now tuition and fees fund more of our operations than state dollars. Enrollment is really what drives our ability to operate.
Enrollment is strong at SLCC. Are there any plans to expand the Lafayette campus?
We are pushing to be at the top of the list for capital funds to build at least one more building on this campus. We outgrew this building in 2004 and we have been approached by the private sector to do more in certain areas. We need additional space.
Any other first-year goals you have as chancellor?
Part of that will be driven by our strategic plan. At this point, we’re moving ourselves so that on July 1 to the public we’re a seamless organization. We need to reorganize ourselves, staff ourselves in the classroom and make sure we’re using technology — those are more tactical things, but those are the things we will do over the next year. But at the end of the day, we want to be the number one name that pops into people’s heads when they think of workforce training, starting out their college career or earning college credits in high school. The key to that is we’re doing everything through excellence and integrity.
staff writer Marsha Sills