August 7, 2013 | LXXIII, No. 19

College president touts successes

Just under a year ago, Terry Leas took over as president of Big Bend Community College, and he is impressed with the organization he has joined.

Terry Leas, president of BBCC

Speaking to the Grand Coulee Dam Rotary Club Wednesday at the Siam Palace, Leas outlined the Moses Lake two-year college’s strengths and challenges.

He said the people of the institution have impressed him with their commitment to finding out what works and pursuing it.

“The college really works as a community, as members of a team,” focused on teaching and learning, Leas said.

From Washtucna to Grand Coulee, BBCC serves 3,500-4,000 students in a 4,600-square mile area. And students here, just as they are all over the nation, struggle with math, he said.

BBCC students had a 40-percent success rate in math courses until the college decided to switch to an “emporium” math model that “flips” the classroom and homework: Students watch a lesson online, then bring their questions to class to get help from the instructor.

Leas said the college’s success rate has now jumped to the 80-percent range, which feeds successes in all its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses.

The most in-demand courses at the college include its two-year registered nurse course, flight training, aviation maintenance, industrial electricity, welding, and mechanized irrigation system technology.

The college has also just restored its computer science division because of demand from the region’s growing server farm industry, and they’re looking at programs to support skills for the Global Positioning System and possibly even unmanned aircraft — drones.

Leas said the challenges that face him, as president, involve selling the Legislature on capital funding for the school, which hasn’t gotten any from the state for 50 years. He said the school needs a new professional/technical center for its departments still housed in aging, ill-designed buildings left over from its airbase history.

The welding school, he noted, is housed in former officers’ quarters.

Leas also interested in exploring an AVID program for the school, to follow up on success some high schools in the area have with the Achievement Via Individual Determination program.

Leas had met earlier in the day with Grand Coulee Dam School District Superintendent Dennis Carlson to talk about the possibility of a “College in the High School” program here.

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