As Oregon’s 17 community colleges navigate the many challenges of 2020 and look toward a new year ahead, they’ll be guided by new statewide leadership — including The Dalles resident Kim Morgan, recently named vice president of the Oregon Community College Association.
Morgan joined the board of Columbia Gorge Community College in May 2017, recently concluding a term as board president. She has represented CGCC on the state association board for the past three years. Oregon Community College Association advocates for all of the state’s community colleges. When its former president, Ron Fox of Rogue Community College, died unexpectedly this summer, his successor, Treasure Valley Community College board member Stephen Crow, nominated Morgan as OCCA vice president. Morgan was elected on unanimous vote of the OCCA board, assuming her new responsibilities in October.
This isn’t the first time CGCC will have had a statewide leadership role. Long-time college board member Dr. Ernest Keller, who served 17 years on the CGCC board, was OCCA president in 2008-09. Dr. Keller passed away in July, from complications of COVID-19.
“It’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Keller,” Morgan said. “I hope I’m able to honor his memory. The work that OCCA does really has impact and meaning in legislation, advocacy and statewide college policy.”
Morgan will stand for re-election to the CGCC board next spring. If re-elected, she would serve a full one-year term as OCCA vice president and then automatically assume the statewide presidency for a two-year term.
Morgan succeeded former board member Dana Campbell as CGCC board president. “I feel like I’ve become the policy wonk on the board,” she said, and looks forward to reviewing policies statewide. “I’ve been thankful for outstanding individuals on the college board. My experience on the board has helped me prepare for this role with the OCCA,” Morgan explained. “I’ve tried to look at the big picture.”
A vital part of that, for Morgan, is to identify and remove barriers to student success.
As vice president of OCCA, Morgan will bring her advocacy, policy knowledge and personal experience to a state and even federal level, as she looks to foster long-term relationships with lawmakers. “One of the things I felt was really empowering about OCCA is how we can identify ways to encourage our individual colleges to help students remove barriers,” she explained, such as food insecurity and affordable housing. For instance, Morgan has been a strong advocate for the college’s affordable student housing project, which started construction in July; it’s scheduled for completion next summer, together with the college’s new workforce training center. Morgan has also advocated for the campus food pantry, which addressed an important community need even before the pandemic struck. It’s all the more essential now.
“My fourth board report as OCCA representative at a college board meeting was to encourage our staff and faculty to find a way to develop a food pantry,” Morgan said. “That to me has been a moment of pride, that we have been so successful, under Michelle Geitl and then Tiffany Prince. During this pandemic time, when some food pantries were shut down, it was gratifying to see our food pantry open. It not only serves our students, but we also serve the needs of our community at this difficult time.”
At the OCCA, Morgan will chair the membership services committee and the annual Howard Cherry Awards selection process; these awards recognize outstanding college administrators, board members and college advocates. She already serves on OCCA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, another subject close to her heart. “This is something that I feel to be a pressing matter in our community colleges as well as our communities,” Morgan said.
Morgan was raised in The Dalles; her grandfather, Walt Long, was a long-time city councilor. She studied photography with Doug Leash at The Dalles High School, and later worked in California’s technology sector before developing a career in equine massage therapy. Morgan returned to The Dalles 11 years ago to care for her grandmother. Since then, she’s cultivated her photography skills into a professional career.
As a community college board member, Morgan calls upon her own experience as a community college student (beginning in high school when CGCC was still Treaty Oak Community College).
“I’ve always appreciated what a community college education offers,” Morgan said. “Community colleges may be the path to a chosen career, or to a university education, or simply to enrich students’ lives.”
The OCCA board comprises the presidents of Oregon’s 17 community colleges, as well as a board member from each institution. In addition to Stephen Crow as president and Kim Morgan as vice president, OCCA officers for 2020-21 are Clatsop Community College President Chris Breitmeyer as secretary; Portland Community College President Mark Mitsui as treasurer; and Annette Mattson, a board member from Mt. Hood Community College, as past president for 2020-21.