Meet the CAC Presidential candidates

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By Chase Kamp Southeast Valley Ledger

Central Arizona College has narrowed down two candidates to replace former President Dennis Jenkins, each sporting an extensive resume and educational acumen. Each will be participating in open forums with the community before the CAC Governing Board makes its selection on Oct. 15.

The candidates are current interim CAC President Dr. Doris Helmich and Dr. Ralph Ford, Vice-President of student affairs at Union County College in New Jersey.

Experience in community activities, economic development, educational leadership, fiscal stewardship, facilities management and education background were among the qualities desired by the Pinal County Community College District Governing Board.

Helmich is available for open on-campus forums on various dates from Sept. 11 to 21. Ford will be available for on-campus forums from Sept. 25 to 28.

Helmich was appointed interim President in Nov. 2011 after Jenkins announced his retirement. In her submitted résumé, she cites the improvement of employee morale and a re-focused direction as accomplishments in office.

Before her appointment, she served as Dean of students and chief student affairs officer for CAC. She received her doctorate in higher education administration from Johnson and Wales University.

In an extensive interview video, Helmich said the economic downturn and a decline in state funding means community colleges need to focus specifically on career preparation.

“We need to get back to why community colleges started to begin with, which was to train the workforce,” Helmich said. “Career and technical education are absolutely where the college needs to provide emphasis right now.”

Helmich said her vision for CAC involves bolstering what happens in the classroom and making the product provided for students as relevant as possible within the realm of economic development.

I sit on two economic development groups to listen to what we’re talking about in terms of economic development for Pinal County,” she said. “The county is about to recruit some high-end manufacturing companies, and the institution needs to stay ahead of all of that.”

Ford has served as vice president of student services for Union County College in New Jersey since 2005. Prior to that, he was Dean of enrollment management and student services as well as a psychology instructor at Odessa College.

In his video interview, Ford said the training and classes providing by the college needs to be dynamic and in sync with the changing needs of the area.

“The vision has to be: what are the education needs of the area, and do we have any possibility in fulfilling those,” he said, “and also considering possibilities, not just the immediate needs.”

Ford said he hopes to see faculty and staff, both full-time and adjunct, buy into his vision for the future of the college if chosen as President.

“Frankly, the reason I want to come is because in a few years I want to say ‘We’re the most successful and dedicated college, and we have the outcomes to prove it,’” he said. “That is my wish for people to buy in to.”

Interview videos with both candidates, as well as open forum schedules, are available online at the CAC website,

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