President Jill Tiefenthaler talks about alumni giving, her failures last year, the hot tub in her backyard, and “the man”.
If you could take one class at CC what would it be?
You know I think I would take the Spanish department’s semester in Mexico, and the reason is that I always regret that I never became fluent in Spanish. I can read and write okay, but I really need the immersive experience.
CC ranks among the lowest in alumni giving. How are you planning to encourage more alumni to give to CC, especially outside of Colorado?
The first year was about the year of listening and I was trying to speak to as many constituencies as I could, speaking with faculty, staff, and students in small groups. I also talked to alumni and parents around the country. I was trying to get a baseline understanding about CC and about the culture, and now we are starting our year of planning. I want to take everything I learned and apply it to the future of the college.
What do you think you failed at during your first year as president?
I think the biggest thing I failed at was I spent so much time trying to listen to everyone, traveling around the country and meeting with alums that I never got to spend time getting to know Colorado. This summer I finally got to spend some time really trying to get to know the mountains and appreciate this place, my new home, with my family. It really helped me understand why people love this place so much when you get the whole experience.
What is your favorite restaurant in town?
We love Pizzeria Rustica in Old Colorado City. We get to go there almost every week. My husband and I love the Rabbit Hole downtown because we can get a really late dinner there.
Students at CC seem to be minimally engaged in Colorado Springs issues. Do you think that is a point of contention between the campus and the city and do you think it is a problem that the college needs to work on?
I don’t think that it is unusual for college students to be a bit distant from local politics and where they live primarily because they continue to vote and remain engaged in their home states. Also, students tend to see college as a temporary stop more than a permanent one. But I hope our students get more involved because I just think there are so many wonderful mentors in this community and opportunities to learn, so when they do go out and find their home, whether it be in the Springs, in Colorado, or somewhere else, they can bring that value of being engaged with them wherever they go.
When students tell people they go to CC, people often think they mean CU-Boulder, Colorado State, or a community college. Have you ever run into that issue and how can we put CC on the map for everyone?
Yes, I do. Even locally, which is surprising. I would say that it has happened to me at every institution I have ever been at, whether it be St. Mary’s or Colgate or Duke… I think the best thing we can do is continue to educate students and have great alums and that is the thing that will change. We will never be known to everybody.
What do you think of the whole “Harvard of the West” comparison?
I’d rather just be CC of the West. We are a very different place and I think we need to be our own institution.
A lot of students say they miss Dick Celeste’s trampoline. Can you get a swimming pool in your backyard? Maybe go-karts?
I have a hot tub, an outdoor ping-pong table, and my husband just hung a rope swing from 50 feet up in a tree in the backyard of the president’s house.
Does that mean we can come over any time and use them?
Yes, but maybe they need to ask before they use the hot tub.
What do you think is the biggest “myth” students have about the administration?
I think the biggest myth is that the administration is somehow “the man” and we are working at cross purposes. In the end I think people see things from different perspectives, but I really completely think that students, faculty, and staff—everybody is just trying to do what’s best for the college and we can do more together than by ourselves.