Ex-Duluthian takes over as LSC president
Lake Superior College's new president has a long history with the Northland area. Patrick Johns, who hasn't lived in Duluth since 1977, graduated from Duluth Cathedral in 1972 and the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1976. His great-grandfather ...
Lake Superior College's new president has a long history with the Northland area.
Patrick Johns, who hasn't lived in Duluth since 1977, graduated from Duluth Cathedral in 1972 and the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1976. His great-grandfather was one of the original settlers of Isle Royale, a place his family visits every summer to work on renovation of a historic hotel and post office. His wife, Tricia, is from Virginia. After 20 years as president of Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Johns replaces Kathleen Nelson, who retired from Lake Superior College in June.
Johns, 56, has a doctorate in adult and higher education from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He's worked in higher education ever since. He has a son, Sean, 24, who he coached in basketball as he grew up, and he enjoys the outdoors -- a big factor in coming back home.
The News Tribune talked with Johns about his life and decision to work at Lake Superior College. Included are excerpts from some of his answers.
Q. What interests you about Lake Superior College?
A. The academic programming is quite dynamic and quite diverse. You go from automotive repair, carpentry, the trades, to liberal arts: philosophy, English, the transfer curriculum. The breadth of the curriculum is intriguing to me. I've not been at a college where we've had as many of the trades. The online (program) is an example of how progressive the institution has been and willing to experiment, willing to be entrepreneurial. That's a good fit for me. Once I got on campus ... it was just a good feel. People were friendly and curious. It was very welcoming.
Q. Why did you want to come to Duluth?
A. Duluth is unique. People who visit Duluth or have lived in Duluth have a sense of that. When I went to the Twin Cities -- I never thought I'd go there. It was somewhat by accident we ended up going, and we had a good life there ... but there was always that thought: We like the outdoors, the lakes. That draw stays with you.
Q. What are your immediate priorities?
A. Learn more about the institution, the culture. The state deficit is one big element you've got to be prepared for. To know what the climate is and what resources we're going to have, and still be entrepreneurial. Risk-taking will still happen, but we'll be ... more careful. Public perception is important. We're funded by taxpayers and student tuition, so we have to be accountable to them.
Q. Will you work with other college and university leaders in the area?
A. I would hope that (we) would meet on some form of regular basis. These are really changing times in higher education. (Changes in higher education leadership are happening with UMD and LSC now and next year at UWS). We have an opportunity to say ... in some ways, it's a new day. Not to criticize anything from the past, but what is it the future holds for higher education in this region, and how can we all be players in it and work together? Resources are going to be fewer for all of us. If we don't do some things together I think the community will be short-changed.
Q. What challenges do you see ahead at Lake Superior College?
A. Enrollments in school districts are projected to go down. How do we maintain our enrollment levels from the 18-year- old student or from the K-12 systems across the area? We're going to have to come up with smart strategies in how we attract students. There is unemployment in the Duluth area. If it were to get worse, how do we respond to that? We are obligated to do something to help people get re-trained, to redirect what they are doing.