Colleen Simpson will be the first Black person to lead Front Range Community College after the chancellor of the college system on Tuesday announced his decision to select her as the next president.
“I think as I self-reflect on our journey in education, we are not only removing barriers for our students, but we are breaking down glass ceilings,” Simpson said. “I am honored to lead Front Range (Community) College, whose mission is to provide a pathway to success, and I will be a public representation of this changing student demographic and also the changing United States.”
Simpson will not only be the first Black person to head the college but will be the second Black woman president to join the Colorado Community College System, according to a news release. Front Range is a member of the Colorado Community College System.
Simpson will begin her role Aug. 1, after the retirement of current president Andy Dorsey. Colorado Community College System Chancellor Joe Garcia appointed Rebecca Wolfe, Front Range’s vice president for academic affairs and online learning, as interim president to serve after Dorsey retires June 30.
The presidency contract is for one year, and Simpson’s annual base salary will be $240,000. Dorsey earns an annual base salary of $244,082.
During the search for the new president, a 17-member committee composed of college and community representatives conducted screenings and preliminary interviews with applicants. In April, the committee narrowed down the candidate pool to three finalists, which included Simpson.
Rollie Heath, chair of the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education, who also served on the search committee, said Simpson stood out during the search.
“She just has a passion for community colleges and what they do and the role they play,” he said. “We really needed a dynamic person that was really committed to the mission and vision.”
Garcia said the system’s process to find the next president was different than the University of Colorado’s recent process for selecting its new president.
“We had her and the other finalists come to the campus and meet faculty, students and administrators and community members because we really wanted the input from all of the stakeholders about how they viewed the three candidates and which ones would be the best to lead the Front Range,” he said.
Garcia said the process and feedback is important to him because the students, staff, faculty and community members are the ones who will be impacted by the decision.
“We want the college community and broader community to have confidence in the fact that the person who was picked was the best of the pool, and they can’t do that if they don’t know who else was in the pool,” he said.
Simpson has worked as the administrator overseeing retention and student success at Bronx Community College, which has a large Hispanic student population, Garcia said. He believes her experience will help Front Range achieve its goal of becoming a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution.
“We are really excited about having someone with this experience coming to the community college system, and I have heard from several of the presidents that we have hired recently that people around the country are being attracted to our system because of our commitment to both equality and diversity in our hiring,” Garcia said.
Simpson is currently the vice president of student services and regional learning centers at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, where she oversees multiple campuses and five regional learning centers. She said she is proud of the work the college has done to transform students and families’ lives and will bring her experience to Front Range.
“We know there are challenges right now facing higher education,” she said. “I am looking to collaboratively work with the system office and the Front Range community in making sure that we lead a safe, economic recovery by providing education and training to our most diverse population.”
As Dorsey prepares to end his 29-year career with the college and 13 years as president, he said he is excited by Simpson’s appointment.
“Her broad experience prepares her to expand our strong connections with community and business partners,” he said. “Her impressive commitment to student success makes me confident that she will continue to make FRCC a welcoming place for students from all parts of our region.”