CMC VP, campus dean Kathy Kiser-Miller retires after 25 years at Steamboat campus
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In her 25 years at Colorado Mountain College’s Steamboat Springs campus, Kathy Kiser-Miller has been a huge part of keeping the institution moving forward and adapting to an ever-changing world.
For the past five years, she served as college vice president and campus dean. She helped to bring four-year degrees to the college about a decade ago and instituted the dean system across all 12 campuses.
Working for the past 15 years on the Higher Learning Commission, Kiser-Miller also brought a wealth of knowledge home from her experience evaluating other colleges and universities across the country — learning what works and what doesn’t.
Kiser-Miller announced last week she would be retiring at the end of August. J.C. Norling, currently associate dean of academic affairs in Steamboat, will serve as interim campus leader.
“Our college is indebted to Kathy for her vision, stamina and thoughtfulness,” CMC President and CEO Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser said in a news release. “She has earned my deep respect and sincerest gratitude.”
Kiser-Miller’s career in teaching and administration spans 35 years. She started out teaching as an adjunct professor at several Front Range community colleges. Wanting to find something full time, she applied for a position at CMC in Steamboat, not thinking she would get it.
In 1995, Kiser-Miller moved to Steamboat with her husband, Dan, raising their identical twin boys in the community. But they had been coming to Steamboat long before that, including on their honeymoon, which was spent at Steamboat Lake in 1981.
Before moving into administration, Kiser-Miller taught communication, speech, humanities and theater courses at CMC.
In 2011, Kiser-Miller was named CMC Faculty of the Year and Colorado’s E-Learning Educator of the Year. During her tenure, she served as Faculty Senate president and communications and humanities discipline coordinator.
Prior to her current position, Kiser-Miller held the roles of dean of academic affairs on the Steamboat campus and as the college-wide vice president of academic affairs, during which time she oversaw a comprehensive redesign of academic affairs.
“Her predecessors tried unsuccessfully to align CMC’s academic structure; many said it could not be done,” Hauser said. “With her characteristic vigor and affability, Kathy persevered.”
Those changes added collaboration, oversight and consistency across all 12 campuses in how courses are offered and how they are delivered to students, Kiser-Miller said.
Bringing four-year degrees to Steamboat “fundamentally shifted what we can offer to students here and the college’s footprint in the community,” she said.
One of the biggest changes Kiser-Miller said she’s seen over her career is an increased focus on workforce development.
“What employers are wanting these days is for students to come prepared with the skillset to be successful,” she said.
That also includes soft skills, she added, like communication and teamwork.
Kiser-Miller said she’s also seen an increase in hands-on and experiential learning opportunities for students. It’s become less of a “sage on the stage” approach, she said, and more of a “guide on the side.”
“Classrooms look very different from where they used to be,” Kiser-Miller said. “They are noisy and full of activity.”
She gave the example of CMC’s Bear Park permaculture program, and the integration of the hands-on experience into the syllabus.
“It’s not just a rubber stamped degree,” Kaiser-Miller said. “It’s what can you do with that and how is that useful in the world today?”
Choking up a little, Kiser-Miller said she will miss the people most, as well as the opportunities she’s had to see the college progress, which kept her continually excited and engaged about education.
In retirement, she plans to continue to try new things. She’s always been civically engaged and is exploring more opportunities in public service.
Kiser-Miller plans to remain in Steamboat, but now with more time to spend with her husband, who is also retired, and to visit her two sons and one granddaughter, who all live in Denver.
Kiser-Miller will continue working on the Higher Learning Commission and in higher education consulting.
“I have known Kathy and her husband, Dan, for years, and during my time on the board of trustees, it’s been a pleasure to see what a pillar she has been to the college and to the Steamboat campus,” Bob Kuusinen, CMC trustee from Steamboat Springs. said in a news release. “As a former faculty member, she has never lost sight that students are the center of everything the college does. I wish Kathy and Dan the very best in the next chapter of their lives.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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