CMC Steamboat names current interim leader to top job on campus

Jonathan "JC" Norling was named vice president and dean of Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs last week, continuing the job he has been working on an interim basis since September 2020. (Courtesy)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Jonathan “JC” Norling, who has been the interim leader at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs since September, has been named the permanent vice president and campus dean at the school.

The college pursued a variety of candidates for the role, but the process resulted in Norling “unanimously” standing out among the college’s leaders.

“It wasn’t just a matter of a home-grown guy naturally ascending to that role; they really looked far and wide,” said Bob Kuusinen, who is the Routt County representative on the Colorado Mountain College board of trustees. “It turned out we had the best candidate right in the community.”

Having been with the college as an administrator since 2012, Norling has worked on the Steamboat campus for the past five years in various academic and student services roles. Kuusinen said having someone who already had a connection to the community is an asset to the college.

“I think it is his collaborative style that won over a lot of people,” Kuusinen said. “He doesn’t make decisions in a vacuum. He brings in stakeholders, whether it be the community or the campus.”

Norling peels the interim label off his title, as the college is finishing up a school year during the pandemic, which has starkly changed the atmosphere on campus and limited access for the broader community. Currently, the college plans to reopen the campus for in-person classes this fall.

“We are really looking forward to opening back up, because we are here for the community,” Norling said.

Enrollment at the Steamboat campus is down this school year, as it is across the college’s system, and Norling said recovering those student numbers is vital. Part of the reason student numbers have decreased is because all online classes are organized out of the college’s central services and not the Steamboat campus.

Despite that, Norling said CMC will graduate more students this year than it has in the past.

“We have less students, but more are persisting to their degree collegewide,” Norling said. “What we just don’t know is what is going to happen to enrollments when we come into the fall.”

The question is how do students want to take their classes, Norling said, especially after a year where they became accustomed to online and remote classes.

“The student now that is coming out of high school is very different than the student was five or 10 years ago,” Norling said. “I think they don’t see college as this liberal arts education as much as how am I going to get a good job out of this.”

Currently, CMC Steamboat Springs is on track to have a full residence hall this fall, Norling said.

As it is for many in Steamboat, housing students can sometimes be tough. The residence hall is consistently filled each year, and after their first or second year, students often need to find off-campus housing. For Norling, this is part of the school’s mission to be accessible.

While tuition at CMC is pretty low, and the college offers many student scholarships, cost of living is consistently the largest cost burden students need to shoulder to attend the school.

“Housing is an issue in all of our mountain communities right now,” Norling said. “The college is looking at alternative, apartment-style housing for students.”

One of the biggest things CMC needs to focus on in the coming years is continuing to adjust to the workforce needs of Northwest Colorado, Kuusinen said. He pointed to the nursing program — set to graduate its first cohort this spring — as a program created to address workforce issues locally.

“That is a good example of the college being there to help with positions that are difficult to fill,” Kuusinen said. “The better we can do with placing graduates into our workforce, the better.”

Workforce shortages are one of the biggest problems currently facing employers locally, said Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO Kara Stoller. She said Norling has been a good resource and partner with the chamber during his time at the Steamboat campus — not only listening but responding to the chamber’s questions and ideas with action.

“I think we have huge opportunities to further collaborate with CMC —upping the number of internships that we make available to help businesses and provide those real world experiences for the students,” Stoller said.

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