Around 9:15 a.m. this morning, Friday March 25, Western’s Board of Trustees voted 8-0 on a motion to proceed with the appointment of Brad Baca as the next President of Western Colorado University. The decision is pending contract negotiations and final Board approval, which are anticipated to take place next week. Trustee Theresa Szczurek was the lone abstention amongst the Board’s voting members.
Baca has been with Western since 2002, and currently serves as both Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for the university. In a brief discussion preceding the vote on the motion, Trustees detailed their support for Baca. Trustee Kara Buckley, who lives in Crested Butte, praised Baca’s passion for the Gunnison Valley.
Trustees repeatedly mentioned Baca’s business and financial capabilities as a factor in their decision. “I think it is a very good business decision for Western right now for the continued stability of the organization. I also appreciate his respect in the local community, I think that’s really important,” notes Trustee Kristen Blessman.
“As a new Trustee, I’ve been impressed with Brad’s financial acumen and his ability to work with the state legislature and other financial officers within the state. [I] look forward to working with Brad for the success of Western and [I] appreciate his long service to this university,” added Trustee Cecil Gutierrez, a Western alumnus.
“I’m excited about a first-generation [college student] Latino President for the university, since inclusivity is one of our core values…it’s very exciting to me that we are really pursuing our value of diversity,” relays Trustee Szczurek.
A consistent theme of the Trustees was Baca’s consistent presence in the valley over the course of two decades. “I think Brad represents a strong foundation for this university, he’s been here a long time, he know its strengths, he knows its weaknesses, [and] I have full trust that we will address them and take us forward successfully,” says Trustee Erich Ferchau, the Board’s Vice Chair.
Board Chair Pam Shaddock also chimed in, “I’ve known Brad for the six years that I’ve been on the Board. I have seen him deal with crises with a calm head, and a full heart because he loves this place, he bleeds Western…one of the things that I think Brad has been very successful at doing is working with the faculty. This has been an issue [historically], and I think that he always tries to include the faculty in the appropriate discussions.”
Board of Trustees Chair Pam Shaddock’s full email to the campus community, sent via Interim President Nancy Chisholm:
The Board of Trustees of Western Colorado University proudly announces it has selected William Bradley (Brad) Baca, M.A., as Western’s 14th president. Baca is currently the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Western and previously served as the university’s interim president in 2013.
“We are grateful that Brad accepted the position as he has in-depth experience and understanding of Colorado higher education, which he consistently uses to the betterment of the University. Moreover, his passion and commitment to Western cannot be rivaled,” said Pamela Shaddock, Chair of Western’s Board of Trustees.
Baca’s selection is the result of a nationwide search led by James Pribyl, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee. Pribyl and 10 other committee members from the board, faculty, staff, students, and community at large worked with AGB Search to identify a pool of highly qualified and diverse candidates. Baca emerged as the best candidate to lead the university forward with the input of members of the campus and Gunnison Valley communities.
“Brad has an outstanding resume and a long history of service to Western, and he is well known and respected throughout the state,” said Pribyl. “Throughout the selection process, Brad conveyed his deep commitment to the Western community and the wellbeing of students, faculty, and staff.”
During his tenure, Baca has been instrumental in re-establishing Western’s financial stability. He has guided Western’s finances as the university’s education and general fund went from a negative balance to more than $14 million in reserves. He has also overseen more than $128 million in construction and maintenance projects on campus, including the renovation of academic buildings, the construction of the University Center, and much more.
Before joining Western, Baca served more than three years as director of budgets for the Colorado Community College System. He also served as a budget and policy analyst on the staff of former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer.
Baca is a Colorado native and a first-generation college student of Hispanic descent. He holds a B.A. degree in Government from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. He also earned an M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Colorado-Boulder. He has built lasting relationships with Colorado lawmakers and with colleagues in higher education through his membership and service with a number of organizations and boards and serves as the current President of the Western Association of College and University Business Officers (WACUBO).
Editor’s note: Look out for more coverage regarding Baca’s selection.