Tuesday, August 6, 2013

AVC's New President

A Brief Introduction to Ed Knudson, New AVC President

For some faculty and many students, the new college President remains a name without a face, so this blog wants to help ameliorate that.

First, here is what he looks like. (If he happens to walk by your classroom, wave him in, introduce yourself, and be sure to act like you know what you're doing.)

Second point, the "K" in his name is not silent, but not too loudly emphasized either --- phonetically it might be like this: "kuh-newd-son." We are used to the k being silent (as in "knife") and it's a lovely pleasure to have some variation on the expected pattern. Frankly, if you don't get the name exactly right the first time, he doesn't seem the sort to mind very much.

So far I have just had one meeting with him, but others agree with my assessment: smart, warm, approachable, happy to be here. Steve Standerfer in campus updates already has shared his background, so I thought it might be more useful to fill in the gaps a bit, as we all get to know one another. He likes dogs, for example --- always a good mark in my book --- with a particular history with golden retrievers. His wife is a soprano and together they love the arts. His son works for NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, and his father-in-law was in the house band the night the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show. Among things that probably didn't come up at the interview: after he got out of the military, he briefly made a living in the pro golf world. He both ran golf courses and also played professionally.

(I didn't ask him if he, as I do, ever has trouble getting through the windmill part of the course. Those spinning vanes seem to knock me back every time.)

Some quotations from a recent interview will let him introduce himself in his own words. About the campus itself he says, "We have tremendous talent on this campus --- the resources here represent the Antelope Valley's best kept secret." Since his interview and first days on the job, he has been pleased to see "how very welcoming and friendly everybody has been, both in the larger community and here on campus." He added, "I am really excited to be here."

Budget guesses? His crystal ball is no more reliable than mine or yours, but he doesn't see big changes either plus or minus. "The budget that the State passed this year will probably hold for two years or so." Why is that? "There will be some reaction to tax increases. It's just inevitable. Sales tax may mean a few people spend less; it may be that a few business continue to move out. I don't think we will see huge increases in the budget, but it does seem solid and likely to hold. AVC is in pretty good shape. It has been well-managed and so we are really well-placed to go forward."

What about our own reserve, or the projected California surplus? Mr. Knudson was direct and quick to answer. "The notion there's a surplus is a bit of a misnomer. Too many things have been deferred for too long. What money that will be coming in will need to go a lot of places, and so AVC needs still to be frugal and we need to continue to be good stewards of our resources --- the community has a right to expect that of us."

I mentioned that I had seen Dr. Fisher recently, having dinner with his family in Palmdale. "Jackie has done a tremendous job --- he has left us in sound financial shape. You walk around this campus and unlike others I have visited, it's obvious that this is a school that despite everything, has been well taken care of. The grounds show it, the staff: people care about AVC. Do they want changes? Of course. Were the cuts difficult? Of course --- just ask any student who can't get classes. But we are in good shape. Headcount is up for fall, people are excited to go forward, and we got through the worst. We have a lot to be proud of. At AVC, people really care."

Yes, it may sound like a platitude, but it's true. I've seen faculty members walk all the way across campus to help a disoriented student find a building, and even in my summer English 099 class, I was really impressed with the ways the students all supported each other, including some of the more successful writers in the class spending hours and hours of time outside class, trying to tutor those whose work wasn't quite there yet. There was no sense of racial barrier or tribalism in this, and certainly no pay involved: it was just person x being nice to person y, in the sense that "we're all in this together." When I thanked student x for giving up his entire day off from work to do this, he told me, "Well, once I was stuck in math and somebody helped me get through it. I figure, if we all just give back a little, we are going to make this become the world we want to live in."

Welcome to AVC, Mr. Knudson, a strangely old-fashioned campus where that generosity still lives on.

And to close, here's just one more head shot --- not fancy, not artsy, but just so that we know what Mr. Knudson looks like when he walks by, I want to put it up again.

If you see him on campus any time soon, be sure to stop and introduce yourself. If nothing else, maybe you can get some pointers on how to bank the windmill shot.


The AVC Blog is curated by Language Arts member Charles Hood, and does not represent the official position of the Board or the District in relation to budget cuts, mini putt golf, or which breed of dog is more noble than any other. Hood can be reached at chood@avc.edu. The new President can be reached at eknudson@avc.edu.