Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group

President Tim Foster - Colorado Mesa University - Full Circle With The Christi Reece Group - Episode 12

March 08, 2021 Tim Foster Season 1 Episode 12
Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group
President Tim Foster - Colorado Mesa University - Full Circle With The Christi Reece Group - Episode 12
Show Notes Transcript

We've all heard the news by now that President Tim Foster at Colorado Mesa University is retiring at the end of this year.  Christi sat down with him to discuss his legacy, how the school has changed during his tenure (including the impact of COVID-19), new developments at CMU, and what's next for him!

If you prefer to watch your podcasts, the full video is available at https://youtu.be/qe0eK_sI-50

Bonus question for Tim:
What's your advice for your successor at CMU? 

Take the time to understand the community both in the Grand Valley and across Western Colorado.  There is a unique spirit here which is very western in terms of openness and a willingness to embrace new ideas and find ways to make things work.  The people here love the University but you have to spend the time to make sure they understand whatever one wants to do. 

Christi Reece:

The Full Circle Podcast, compelling interviews and incredible tales from Colorado's Western slope, from the mountains to the desert, Christi Reece and her team here from the movers, shakers, and characters of the Grand Valley and surrounding mountain towns that make the Western Slope, the place we all love. You'll learn. You'll laugh. You'll love with the Full Circle. Welcome everybody. I'm so excited today to talk about more extra special guests , Tim foster, president of Colorado Mesa University. Tim, thank you so much for joining us. My pleasure, Christi. Thanks for having me. Yeah, well , um, last, last month we talked to your brother and he was quite entertaining. So you've got a little bit of a , something to live up to he's way more entertaining than I am. I'm sure he would say that too. That's true. Well , um, we are so sad that you are leaving CMU, but , um, we were happy for you to , I mean, obviously you deserve a little bit of break. You've been working so hard at our amazing university here in town. Um, let's start with talking a little bit about your background and you grew up in Grand Junction, right?

Tim Foster:

That's true. I did, born and raised and went to school all the way through high school, little old Grand Junction High School, kind of amazing. It's still standing really, but

Christi Reece:

Right. We can talk about that some other time. Right. It needs to not be standing anymore. I think. Um, did you, did you think you wanted to get out of here? I mean, obviously you , you left for a while and then came back. Did you , did you think that he would come back to grand junction to work?

Tim Foster:

I don't know. Yeah. I don't know that I, I'm not a big advanced planner and so certainly, yeah, I was excited to go to school. So out of, out of town, out of state , um, it's funny when you watch and think about how folks do it nowadays. Um, I applied to three schools, Brown Amherst and Kenyon college didn't visit any of them and just , um, and I actually went to Kenyon , uh, because the football coach recruited me. Um , and it just so happened. My high school coach, Ron Stoneburner grew up in a little town right next to the where this college was and his comment was I wasn't smart enough to go there. So you should go there. Oh , well, okay. I'll take a look at them . So off I went

Christi Reece:

And we know from talking to your brother, that skiing was a big part of your childhood and your family. Okay .

Tim Foster:

Yeah. You know, we just had a lot of fun , uh, and in those days, and I think with the community was, it's interesting growing up here and watching and, and, you know, paddle horn was a community effort. It was really everybody in town putting a hundred dollars in and electricians going up there and working on the lifts and getting lift tickets and exchange , um, you know, to contract everybody who worked up there really was a labor of love. And so that was not a scary that some wealthy person came and was going to make a lot of money with, it was a community that wanted a community ski area for their kids and families to ski . Yeah .

Christi Reece:

Well, and while the skiing has been so good the last few weeks, and after talking to Mike about, you know, the history up there a little bit, it really has given me a different perspective when I'm up there. And I , I love that thinking about the old days.

Tim Foster:

Yeah. It was funny when, when we were kids, you know, it was okay, let's go, we're going to go. And they'd cut runs and we'd make a , you know, one of those , uh , bucket brigades and throw logs off into the trees. And so when people say , Hey, let's go ski the trees , the techie , I know what's in those trees. You don't want to go bang it in the Alfa racers edge. Cause there's a lot of logs just right off the edge.

Christi Reece:

Right. Wow. That's neat. Um, and you also , uh, swim a lot and you did growing up as a lot of your family members did, and that's still a passion of yours. I hear

Tim Foster:

It's something we try to do a couple of three days a week or four days a week. And you know, we've gone and done the Escape from Alcatraz a couple of times where you go jump in the water and swim in. So that's a fun swim.

Christi Reece:

Yeah. Well what , what's the distance on that? Okay .

Tim Foster:

It's a couple of miles, but it's partly the water's cold and current strong . When you, when you sign up, I was just telling somebody this over lunch, you initial five different times that you could be swept out under the Golden Gate bridge, get hypothermia, get attacked by a Harbor seal, get attacked by a great white shark, get run over by a , some major shipping lane. And all of them are, yes, I could die. And I know that and I really want to go do

Christi Reece:

This to get out there

Tim Foster:

And go, wow , whose idea was this idea?

Christi Reece:

What's your favorite distance to swim?

Tim Foster:

You know, I just, I do it for the exercise, so I don't compete anymore. I'm too old to compete,

Christi Reece:

But , uh, every week, every day, how often do you swim?

Tim Foster:

At least three days, if not four or five. And then in the summertime ride my bike, you know, as the weather gets better and I'll ride to, you know, Grand Junctions, great cause I can ride my bike to work, you know, have a frustrating day ride my bike home. Yeah . I'm happy, you know, kind of burn all that up .

Christi Reece:

So , um, your love of bike riding, does that help influence , uh, what's happened with CMU and how you have integrated , uh, cycling so much into that community?

Tim Foster:

I think it's just, I'm a believer in student athletes. Um, and so, and, and what they bring , uh , and what they learn through their sport. That's complimentary of their academic experience. And, you know, it's part of being a division two . Um, we had , uh , a number of division, one conferences approaches here a couple of years ago and said, Hey, wouldn't you all like to be division one because that's so wonderful. And we said , um, I think division one is lost its way. And it's got the emphasis is on the wrong things. It's becoming, you know, semi-pro athletics and how do I prepare myself for a professional career? And so really cycling is part of that. Swimming is part of that triathletes , uh, beach volleyball. I always want to call it sand, but we're just, that's just meeting with the , uh, young women who play beach for us. And, and , uh , but they're just a great group of young people who are competing at a high level are really working hard at their, at their academics too .

Christi Reece:

I'm taking tennis lessons with a CMU tennis player. Yeah. And I absolutely love it. And he's so great. Yeah. Really enjoying that . Um, so talk a little bit about what your goal was when you first took the role you've been at CMU 17 years. What did you see in the school that excited you and what was your vision at the time when you started there? Just like

Tim Foster:

When I started, you were in elementary school.

Christi Reece:

Oh yes. I was. Thanks

Tim Foster:

Pin that down . Um, you know, at the time I had a , I'm kind of a, non-traditional kind of, I am a non-traditional precedent . And so I did not start my career saying I want to be a college president. It just sort of worked out that way, serendipitously. Um, but looking at, and so I had joined then governor Owens cabinet and ran the department of higher ed for a number of years. And then it was okay. Now try to time to go find something new to do. And sort of from that education I gained, you had schools saying, Hey, would you like to be a president here, there, or elsewhere?

Christi Reece:

So you have numerous job offers and opportunities.

Tim Foster:

Well, let's just say we interviewed a , one of my wife said she wouldn't live there. So we left before we completed that interview. Um, but this, this one, just the culture is different at Mesa. The people, I think it's, it's this wonderful kind of combination of , um, we call them teachers scholars. We have faculty who are really active in their scholarship and very well-regarded and do really high level work. You know, a partner Palmer has discovered a what's called a tire guard, which is a microscopic , uh, oceanic animal , um, and S and just story after story, after story of folks like that, but they love to teach. And so they kind of take that and combine it. And so knowing a little bit about it , um, I guess another, I have a sister, one of my sisters went to Stanford , um, and so got interrupted because she had an illness and had to come home. And she will tell you still today that the best professor she ever had was a professor at Mesa. And so she was back here in grand junction taking classes and just, wow. He was amazing. And so there you are comparing, you know, to one of the premier schools in the country. And I would tell you, I think, I think we go toe to toe, not as a research institution, but as a place to get an education. So knowing that background , um, and then we were fortunate that we used to be in this system with Adams , Western Metro and us. Um, and that was a bad , uh , that was managed by least common denominator. So whoever was not performing well, all the resources were funneled to prop them up. And so a year before I came, they had spun out and we got our own board. And so you had looked at getting our own board and realizing that the leadership here had not done a good job. Um, so you don't want to follow John wooden, right? You want to follow the guy who didn't have a great answer , and they were spending more money than they were bringing in, which is not a good approach, but knowing to me, it was just ready to go , um, that culture thing and what we had to offer. And if we were successful, the capacity to take that success and reinvest it in the operation would just say, we can go bigger, better, better, bigger , um , really have a better impact.

Christi Reece:

Well, it , it's amazing what you've done. And I know it's not a single person effort. You've had a team around you and, and, but you've done amazing things. And I think the biggest question I think of , uh, because I've been in grand junction for 20 years almost, and I was amazed at how you were able to expand the school during the recession, when the economy was really suffering, how did you accomplish that?

Tim Foster:

You know, there's an old , uh, John Dillinger quote, right. And they asked him, why do you Rob banks? And he said, well, that's where the money is. Right. Um, and so it really is in this arena, you gotta be opportunistic. And so sometimes the money is at the legislature. Sometimes the money , um, is in the enterprise. And so we could borrow money and we were very fortunate. You know, our debt is at two, one, 3%. Um, and so we would borrow money in areas like housing, which will pay for itself. Then you have the city and County helping us and , and giving us money. And then we have just a great , um , very generous community. Also writing checks to us. I mean, we just cut the ribbon on our center for reflection and, you know, I mean , um, Craig Springer and , uh , Robert Bray, you know, they've helped raise over a half million dollars to help build that building.

Christi Reece:

I can't wait to see that what a phenomenal idea that is.

Tim Foster:

We've got to see it, is it Monda Atkinson who taught music for us , um , walked through it and he came out and said, it is amazing. You just feel this calm spirit in that building. And so when you want to come, let me know, cause I gotta swipe you in with a math card cause you have to, so he got to have a swipe card.

Christi Reece:

Thank you. I'd love to see it. And what a great thing during this challenging time with COVID. I mean, really great timing on that .

Tim Foster:

The students to be able to go in there and they actually used it the other night. They , they do a day of remembrance. And so there's a grotto where they can like candles and do those sorts of things. Think about students who've passed away in the last decade.

Christi Reece:

Wow. That's awesome. Um, you are known for being able to execute on your goals and your vision. How would you describe your leadership style?

Tim Foster:

Um, I'm hands-off uh , with folks , uh, you know, the Dallas Cowboys built a reputation on drafting , uh, football players, and it was the best athlete available. Right. And so taking and finding folks that were just really talented and then plugging men. And I would tell you, I think my strength is analyzing talent and finding people who are very bright, John Marshall would be a classic example. Um, you know, he was running campaigns. I met him cause he was working for the governor, you know , right after he graduated. And , um, so he's running campaigns and I'm like, John running campaigns is not the way to raise a family and you're starting to have kids. And so why don't you come run the foundation? And then he did a wonderful job there. And so great. Now let's move you over and let you run admissions and financial aid. And so Derek Wagner, Liz Meyer, you can just keep going through. Kurt has all the people, Jeremy Brown that we have that are just, I don't have to push them. They push themselves our second level down. You know, we have a young woman who was an All-American basketball player for Australia , Seltzer who is just so driven and so talented. U m, and so it's just, they, t hey go, they have ideas and you just say, all right. And I think you have to have a capacity for failure. U m, I mean, you appreciate that b eing o n the real estate business, right? Not every project is going to be a dead ringer w inner. A nd, and so I think, I think we have folks in this campus and understand, we think this will work, but it isn't going to be, it didn't work you're fired. Right? Yeah. There's that old story about a young man who started at IBM. This is a true story. Um , started at IBM. They gave him a big product project , uh, spent a couple million bucks, came back and went to the CEO and said, total failure. You need to fire me. And the CEO said, we just invested $2 million in your education. We're not going to fire you. I think that's, I think having a capacity for four , um, failing, and then everybody understands our mission. And it's how do you educate kids and, and non traditional students and how do you change sort of the human capital in Western Colorado? So we need to do, when you have that kind of common purpose

Christi Reece:

Building the team is, is the most important thing, bringing the right people together and finding the right niche for them. Right? Exactly. Yeah . You , and you just mentioned , um, untraditional students . It's got a lot of in traditional students at CMU and how great is that? Okay .

Tim Foster:

You know, it's so fascinating. And then oftentimes we'll have parents and kids, right. And that's, that is a students , uh , young students, worst nightmare. When your mom is in the class with you guess what? She's not partying, she's not playing, she's studying and she's going to set the curve. And then you look at you and say, what the hell are you doing? And we've had more than one.

Christi Reece:

Yeah . He's speaking up. And yeah,

Tim Foster:

It's like, you got to tell a parent, okay. Maybe you got to go a little less hard cause you're really making life tough on yourself.

Christi Reece:

Love it, love it. And you also have a lot of first-generation students,

Tim Foster:

Two thirds of our student population. It's either first gen or low income, which is, and you know, I mean, and this is part of, I think, why the city and the County, because we're unique in our community's investment in this institution, you know, in CU Boulder older sues see you to stop them from doing things. And here they invest, invest in students. And , and so I get, we want to have nice streets and sewer and water, but human capital is going to define who's successful in our time. Um, and so I think in investing in people, I think they're so smart to do that. And there's people that that's not your core mission when I say, you know, missions evolve and the world has evolved and people, talent is never been more important.

Christi Reece:

That's for sure. And, and wow. And this change of , uh , of this era of technology, when things are going at lightning speed, we have to be evolving all the time.

Tim Foster:

Yeah. Yeah . And, and yeah, just being flexible. And that's these kids you think about when , when I went to school and I say, I teach a class and I say that students, you have all my sympathy because I got a book, maybe a couple of other books. And I knew what was in them was accurate because people improve and you all have to deal with just this absolute cascade of information and try to figure out what's, what's accurate and what's not so good on you , but yeah , I wouldn't want to be you guys

Christi Reece:

Different counting so much information. I see that in my, my kids, I've got one in middle school and one in high school. And just, yeah, I think about the difference of , you know, we had a set of encyclopedia Britannicas right. And library right . Where I was when I grew up. So that's all the resources I have and maybe a textbook, but , uh, yeah. Vastly different now. Totally . And reading through all of that, to the , the correct answers for things is challenging. For sure.

Tim Foster:

You verify it. And what do you rely on? And what's opinion and what's fact, and it's your, your children. It's a whole different way .

Christi Reece:

Yeah. Yeah. Well , um, I , I asked my team earlier today. If you could ask Tim Foster any question, what would you ask him? So I have some questions for my team members. Uh, one is, how do you recruit for the school? Uh , what kind of students are you looking for? What do you do to recruit and how do you recruit , um , faculty as well as students?

Tim Foster:

No , to two totally different , um, approaches. Uh, we don't have to recruit faculty. They, we get huge applications because as you look across the country, we're one of the few schools it's growing and financially stable and successful. And so faculty from engineering, for example, we had a faculty member for one of the two research universities in Colorado apply. And I interview all the faculty we consider hiring. And so I'm sitting there with this young man and I say, okay, I don't, I kind of asked you this question at this university, we're going to pay you because he's an engineering faculty, six figures, they pay you six figures plus 20%. So you're going to take a 20% haircut to come here. You teach a two course load. We are going to require you to teach four . You know, you're going to get paid less and teach more. And his answer was, I teach a three 41 in engineering class. I have 120 students in it and I have eight TAs . And I hate my job. I will teach here, I'll teach a four course load. Your average enrollment is less than 30. So in four courses, I'll teach fewer students than I teach in one course. And I'll actually get to have that interaction with them. So yeah, I'm ready. I'm willing to take a pay cut to come there. I was like, okay,

Christi Reece:

So many factors play into that. It's not just about the , uh, the living atmosphere that they'll have in this community, but also that teacher, student ratio and the beautiful campus that you have built.

Tim Foster:

Well , that's our community. I tell you, we , uh, we do leverage off what we call the pine cone discount, where you're going to come over here and guess what? I can go skiing and not sit in traffic. You want to go skiing. You don't want to go around the river. You want to go fishing. You want to ride your bike. If you're not going to sit into hours worth of traffic to gain 10 miles, or what have you been students? Um, we look really kinda small city, big town rural. And so we recruit Reno. We don't recruit Las Vegas, Nevada. Um, we'll recruit Lakewood, we'll recruit , uh, Littleton , we'll recruit Greeley , Fort Collins, you know, Denver, Denver , um, not so much because those kids are gonna come here and go, wow, this is so boring. There's nothing to do. Whereas a kid from those other places are, Oh, cool. I can go up on the Mesa. I can go do all these things or I can make my own fun. Cause they're used to doing that. Yeah, they will love it. I'm a big city kids going to think they've gone into that .

Christi Reece:

Right . There's , there's nothing to do here. Um, one of our team members asked about that why and what is the Hawaii connection to CMU?

Tim Foster:

That's interesting. Hawaii is a very , um, tightly knit state. And , and so , um, we got lucky and got a number of Hawaiian students. We had a volleyball coach, rusty Crick , um, who was retired military. And so he can fly free. And so he would fly to Hawaii and recruit volleyball players. And so from volleyball players became football players became baseball players. And interestingly enough, you know, the sort of social friendly nature of the West is the same as Hawaii. And so they really enjoy that. And then slowly but surely, pretty much, if you run into a Polynesian in this town, they're probably a CMU grad and they wrap their arms around those students. When I was here early on, we went to Hawaii and we're out in the hinterlands with my kids. And this young kid says to one of my children, where are you from Grand Junction? Oh, that's where Mesa is. And I looked at him and I said, you know, there's people in Denver, Colorado that don't know Mesa is in Grand Junction and who knows where Hawaii and some , well , my friend or my cousin or my sister goes there, you know, it was just so that sort of begets itself and they really have a culture. And it's a great group, great group of kids.

Christi Reece:

Yeah. It's really neat to see a culture like that here in the mountains and

Tim Foster:

Live on the campus of I'll tell you that. Yeah.

Christi Reece:

Awesome. Um, back to , uh, first-generation students. So we , um, were able to donate some money to the first generation scholarship fund, which was really exciting to us because we really didn't know much about program. And we got really , uh, interested in learning more. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that's come about?

Tim Foster:

So we talked a little bit about human capital is, is the, and , and you see the stats. I see you see 80%, 90% of jobs today, and tomorrow requires some college, if not a two year degree or four year degree. Um, and yet when you look at our communities and if you do Montrose, Delta, Mesa, and Garfield, you have almost 70% of the population of Western Colorado, the Western half of the state. And none of those communities are above 25% of their population, a degree. Um, and so you really say, Hmm , our path forward. And , and I mean, when your two year four year, I don't care, but you , you gotta have something post high school. Uh , and so that means because that's that the level of educational attainment that seventy-five percent of the populations , parents probably didn't go to college, man . So if we're really going to elevate and make this a place where folks can make a living and afford a house and all those sorts of things, we've got to get them in and out of college. And so, and again, in the electric lineman program, one-year program there , the kids out there off at 29 road , the Kime , all the poles and you part of like just average salary, that's $90,000, you know, so it's not all Oh, EV and that's where people could confuse, Hey, college isn't for everybody. It's like, you need to understand. College is a broader conversation than what we immediately think of, which are, you know, liberal arts and those sorts of things. There's all sorts of college. Um, and so those, and thank you for donating because those kids, those students have no idea. And all they do is read stories about, Oh my gosh, college is $50,000 a year and you don't know, what's not, and there's lots of financial aid available and you, you, you can, and you have to go. Yeah .

Christi Reece:

Um, before I going to , to our next question from our team , uh, you talked about , uh, linemen and some of those career things, and you've built some really strong relationships with the other educational institutions in our community. How important is that to the strength of CMU ?

Tim Foster:

I would say just, you know, I mean our relationship with district 51 with, you know, and with hospitals and everybody else is just, it is who we are and it's, and it's part of the DNA of our community. That people don't just sort of silo themselves and say, you know, I'm not interested in what you do. We've got our own problems. Um, and they really jumped in and , and her open arms, and it makes a big difference. It allows us to do things with less resources than other folks who shake their heads and go, how do y'all do that? And Gary Harmon , who wrote for the daily Sentinel one time, I said, you know, there is not another university or college that has a community who donates money, a city or a County. It gives money and he didn't believe me. And next thing I know I'm getting all these presidents calling , asking, cause he called them and they're , how do you get the city to give you money? And I said, not that I did. It's something this community does. They just support one another. And we do things with this. You know, we stood up up police Academy because GJ PD came to us and said, we need a police Academy when we're not getting what we want out of the other academies, we will put people, power resources into a , you, you all have the knowledge base to do that. And so again, here you go. Now we're turning out college police officers. And the data out there says college educated police officers don't commit the kind of things have had everybody riding in the streets and protesting this summer. Um, and so they just are much better educated and they think about what they're doing more. Yeah. Well ,

Christi Reece:

Uh , I have a question from Suzanne on our team and , um, she said years ago when she attended Mesa, she got a B in hiking. And she was wondering if you could look into that for her,

Tim Foster:

I'm going to fix that, Greg. Yeah.

Christi Reece:

He's just perplexed how that happens, how I get to be

Tim Foster:

I'm perplexed to , was she not going to hiking class or we shouldn't , that's

Christi Reece:

Been going fast enough or something.

Tim Foster:

I don't know. We'd have to talk out if she wants, I'll look it up and let you know why she gotta be. I don't think once that to happen ,

Christi Reece:

There must be some notes somewhere. Um, Tim , uh, obviously COVID has faced , uh, has had you faced a number of challenges? Uh, unprecedented. I mean, we throw that word around a lot, but , uh, it has been really just a crazy time , uh, especially for schools. I mean, businesses have suffered and businesses have had to make changes, but schools a totally different ball game. Um, talk about that to your lens and some of the other challenges that you've faced while you've been in tenure there.

Tim Foster:

Well, I'm , you're right. COVID um, has been an interesting challenge for us and I guess we're , we're a little more , uh, we're not risk averse, I guess you could say. And so we sat down as a team early on, back in March and April and said, what are we going to do in the fall? Because you know, this is going to be here. Um, then , and , and we had to send anybody home. We went online and I think our faculty tried really hard, but it was not great. Um , and we knew that. And so in April we said, you know what, we're going to come back live , and we're going to come back live as long as we can. Um, and , and our dream would be to get to Thanksgiving and have completed the semester live and not had any major incidents. And I gave a lot of credit to, you know , again, John Marshall and the folks here, cause everybody jumped in. You know, we had coaches, you know, doing COVID tests and just everything under the sun. Uh , but also we'll tell you again, it's this community we have. So we reach out to Mesa County health, Community Hospital, St. Mary's who have really bright, talented folks who understand pandemics and infectious disease. And we said, would you all serve as sort of a, a, a board for us to bring plans to here's how we're going to deal with dining years are going to deal with classrooms, recreation, athletics. You know, there's an old saying that a campus is a village in the middle of the city has literally everything that you do in the city we do on campus and to their credit. They said absolutely. And early on, one of the examples of that was we were talking to him about, okay, we're trying to figure out what to do with residence halls. And so, and you can tell immediately, they're all thinking about the residence hall that they are, they experienced. And we said, Whoa, we have soup to nuts. When it come , you know, we have the old-style dorms, we have suites , we have apartments, you know, we had Jack and Jill's. And so as a group, eight of them came over here and spent an afternoon touring our residence halls so they could get an appreciation for. And so then we could have those groups that we formed on campus, bring plans up and say, all right , we're going to try this. And they would poke holes in it and say, you need to try something different. And then we've been fortunate with other partnerships. And I told you, we were going to be in partnership with Harvard and MIT. They were going to be singing our praises in terms of what we're doing. You would have said, nah. And, but you know, Dr. Silvetti, who's like the nation's leading expert in infectious disease, and pandemics will tell you, and she's lectured in classes for us here. And just is so impressed that she done goes back to culture and say , it is, it is the culture of this place. It really rings true. And so that's probably been our biggest, our biggest challenge , um , is really trying to get through, trying to make sure that we have students who can go to class, have as normal of an experience as they possibly can. And they've done. They've been amazing. The students have been super onboard and compliant. Um , but grand junction is a different place when it comes to the pandemic. You've been to Denver, I've been to Denver, they're in a whole , wow. We are so much closer to normal. Yeah. You've been in our altered state that we all whine about.

Christi Reece:

Yeah. And we forget sometimes because we are a little bit insulated from that craziness

Tim Foster:

And our health department. I will tell you, I would , I would say our leadership at the health department, Jeff Kerr , number one in the country, number one of the state. I mean, I'd put him up against it, super pragmatic, but also, you know, very real about here's what we have to do. And I hate to do this, but we are going to have to do that. Uh, but advocating for balancing, you know, public health, which also takes into account the health of people and economy. And can you make a living, can you pay your rent? So I, you know, he's , he's , he's the man of the year. I mean , just really has steered us through this.

Christi Reece:

Well, I appreciate you calling him out because you've done so much and your leadership has been so appreciated, but the app is a lot of people in this community who have really made it, help us get through this time, much better fashion than we could have. Otherwise,

Tim Foster:

I we've been more successful than I thought we ever would have a shot at being. Okay .

Christi Reece:

Yeah. And what are some of the other challenges or things that you wanted to accomplish at CMU that , um , maybe just weren't able to get done or,

Tim Foster:

You know, I, I would say you try things and they fail , um, for a long time, the hotel about costs me, my sanity. Um, we had hired a hotel manager, you know, that was a risky thing to do in some of the trustees. Where are you? Sure you want to ? I said, look, we have a hospitality management. We have called a, we need a teaching hotel. Um, but we lost our management company just about the time we were getting ready to finish that hotel and was like, Oh , hello . I know what, I don't know how to do, which is run a hotel. But we got very lucky. There was a , a man, a young man who, who , uh , retired from Aspen ski Corp who stepped in. I said, I, I always love when people I'm going to give you 10 hours, 20 hours. Next thing you know, he's like 50, 60 hours. And he's just, you know, he, he got us open and we found a great partner and off we go,

Christi Reece:

How many other schools have something like that? I think that's such a great addition to the campus and the community ,

Tim Foster:

A couple. Um, and actually the firm, we have manages a number of them and on the Eastern part of the country. And so that was one of the reasons we picked them is they understood. We want students to work back of the house, front of the house. We want students to wait tables. We want them in the kitchen. And, and it is interesting when X , a young person comes out and it's gonna give you, provide whatever service. When you know, they're a student, you give them a little more Slack and , and, and we all enjoy, you know, they're funny, where are you from? What are you doing? You just get a little more of that personal story out of them. Yeah.

Christi Reece:

It's a great restaurant, but haven't stayed at the hotel yet, but loved the restaurant.

Tim Foster:

Yeah . The hotel take your kids. And there's, this is, this is Tim's addition to the hotel. And I claim credit for this. We have a bunked King bed, so it's a King bed above a King bed. And so if you have friends coming with little kids, it is like little kids love being in a King bed up above mom and dad. So your junior high and high school student would particularly appreciate

Christi Reece:

To try that they are two

Tim Foster:

Of the biggest bedroom you walk in and go, Whoa, that's a lot of beds .

Christi Reece:

That's really fun. Well , uh, on the flip side , uh, we've talked about the challenges you've accomplished. So, so much, I mean, so many changes that CMU, what are you most proud of? I'm sure there's a long list, but give us some of the highlights for your time.

Tim Foster:

Our retention, when I came, our retention was , um, about 50, 60%. And I remember talking to our academic vice president and said, I want to get our retention to 80% because that means kids, the students who come here stay and are going to get value out of what they're doing. And she said, Tim , you know, a 10% gain in retention is unheard of. You're not. I said, we're going to get to 80. So we're at 77%. Wow. So huge jump. Our graduation rate has jumped, has doubled. Um, and so it's that. And then , and then it's getting to know students. I mean, I, they are so interesting and so wonderful. I was just talking to a young woman from Montrose and she said, I've been on campuses all over the country. And I love coming to your campus because students say, Oh , they opened the doors. You can talk to them. You know, they aren't just blowing you off. And we just have really out , you come on this campus and you know, you can come eat lunch in our, in our dining hall and for six bucks and you sit down and it will renew your faith in this generation because they aren't, you know, we always say, Oh, that generation they're pleasant. They're interesting. They're motivated. They have different appearances, opinions and perspectives than we do, but they're, they're a great group of kids. They really know , and young people and old people, and it's just amazing. So that's

Christi Reece:

Great. What's your current enrollment

Tim Foster:

Or we're right at , we will push just about 9,600 this year.

Christi Reece:

Did you ever, was that one of your goals when you started, did you ever think you'd get to that number? That's a lot of students

Tim Foster:

Backing up. Cause we were talking about this and , and most presidents start on a honeymoon. Right. And then if, sort of, they leave with everybody saying, don't let the door, but when I was a non-trad nontraditional president. And so , um, I will say those in the academic community and at the daily Sentinel, weren't too wild about yours truly. And I remember, and I love Gary Harmon. Um , but he was sent over here to write a story and from page thing and it was, and I said, well, we're going to do this. And only Gary in print can do right. And then, and we're going to do that. Sure. You are, and we're going to do this and we're going to grow student partner . Oh yeah. Good luck with that. Um, and so it just continued to grow and I think we've been able to hit most of those targets. So yeah, one of those goals was if you're going to take our population in Western, Colorado, those four counties and get us above the statewide average States , one of the most educated States in the union, and you're going to stay there. We need to be about 14,000 students because most of our students stay in Western Colorado. Um, and so that's a big benefit to this university. Wonderful.

Christi Reece:

So focusing on students a little bit, what is your best advice for college students on how to get the most out of their higher learning experience?

Tim Foster:

No, they're in a rush, these kids and it's, I slowed down it's four years. It is the one time now, should you try to work to enter ? Absolutely. But they come and , you know, they'd want to come in with 20 or 30 credits from high school and be at , so there's plenty of time to work. I get it. You can work and support yourself while you're here, but, and explore different subjects and different topics. Um, you know, I can't tell you how one of my sons thought for sure. He wanted to be a business major, took one business class, poly PSI. And then you say to him, what are you gonna do with a political science degree go Moscow, which is what he did so sure enough, but I it's really encouraging them to explore and really get a frightened sense as to what, what they want to do.

Christi Reece:

Well . And , um, so many kids in high school just overload themselves so much. You know, they're taking all these extracurricular and trying to get the best grades and extra classes. And I mean, they don't have enough time to sleep. And I, I think about my kids and going to college and I want them to yeah. Explore and really experience life away from

Tim Foster:

Local kids. It was funny. My oldest son decided he was going to come here and he played lacrosse for, for our team. Um, and earlier he said, well, I'll just live at home. And I said, Oh hell no, you're not going to know you need to go live on campus. And , and I tell his friends are from Arizona and California and Hawaii and all over the country. Um, because he came on campus and lived on campus, a totally different experience than living at home and kids who live at home just tend to come to class, go home. And they only know then the people they were in school with in high school, and now they haven't had a collegiate experience.

Christi Reece:

Well , uh , self this question from me , um, I am a big fan of yours and I see you as a real risk taker and you you've quoted a number of people during our conversation. I , I , I see you take inspiration from a lot of different angles. What's your best advice for business leaders and community leaders on how to get things done. You've been so successful in execution of your ideas. What's, what's your advice on them?

Tim Foster:

You know, I, and you gotta , and , and maybe it's partly partly his legal training. You got to understand the other person's perspective. Right. Um, and that's difficult to do sometimes because I know what I want to do. Let's go. Um, and so when you're talking to somebody and you do this in the real estate business, you've got, you know, if you got a buyer, you gotta understand the seller. And if you gotta sell it, you gotta understand the buyer. And so once you can get yourself into their shoes and then the difficulty for you in your profession is getting your client to make that transition and understand, I know, want to sell, but we got to understand what the buyer is trying to get done too. And then, and then we can find where the sweet spot is, where they're going to get what they want, and you're going to get what you want and you're going to get all, but maybe you get all of it. And yeah, I did a great job, right. He did a great job make that happen , but at the end of the day, and my dad was a big proponent of win-win negotiation, right?

Christi Reece:

Yeah. Us too. Yeah. Win . Lose is not nearly as much fun .

Tim Foster:

There's this one transaction, you know, you do win, lose, and that's the only one you're going to do and they're not going to come back. And so we try to always think about, okay, what's the other person's perspective? How do we make it good for them? As well as for us, we don't have to get a hundred percent. Um, and we see that a lot, you know, as we're at the state legislature and negotiating with other colleges and universities , um, I always tell our guys hen for 17 years has been true. We don't want the biggest funding increase. We want number two or number three. Cause if you're the biggest, then everybody's unhappy and they're gonna make sure you don't get that next year when you're number two or number three, nobody pays any attention to you. And

Christi Reece:

So second

Tim Foster:

Or third, and that's fine. You can be, the big project will be the medium sized project. Nobody's going to say, see, you got a $30 million project. Nobody's going to say, see , you got a $17 million project, but you know what? We can, we can make those work all day long.

Christi Reece:

Wow. Love it. Love it. All right. The question of the day is what's next for, to foster?

Tim Foster:

You know, no idea. We're going to go to the San Juan islands. Uh , the month of August, I'm going to go stay on Lopez and then San Juan, and then we're going to come back. And my second son's getting married in September. So we're going to get that over first. I'm probably going to print resumes and walk up and down main street and say, who needs a little help

Christi Reece:

For hiring? We're hiring for an executive assistant here at the Christi Reece Group.

Tim Foster:

I don't know if my typing skills or Computer skills are quite there, but in all seriousness to me, the problem with, with planning, what you're going to do while you're still in your current job, pretty soon, your attention is more on what you're going to do than what you're doing. And so we're gonna stay focused on , on doing this. Thankfully, we've had enough success. We can take a couple months off and then, then we'll see

Christi Reece:

Then regroup and figure out the rest of your life.

Tim Foster:

Yeah, exactly. I know one thing at least is not ready for me to be home every day .

Christi Reece:

That won't be part of the plan.

Tim Foster:

It's that old Jack Nicholson aligned, right honey, I'm home and she'd see her go .

Christi Reece:

Well, Tim Foster, thank you so much for talking with us on the full circle podcast state . It's been a real pleasure and , um , just can't thank you enough for everything you've for the school and the community, and just being a part of the community besides being university president, just being a real integral part of our community and a community member. We really appreciate you. Thank you. You too. All right . Thanks for supporting our students. Absolutely. We love it. Nomads . Exactly. All right. Thanks everybody for listening today. This is Christi Reece with the Full Circle Podcast and make sure you follow us on YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts so you can get notified of upcoming interviews and we'll see you next time.

Speaker 3:

Hi . Thanks for listening. This is Christi Reece signing out from the Full Circle Podcast.