Steamboat Living: 5 Minutes With…Colorado Mountain College CEO Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser |

Steamboat Living: 5 Minutes With…Colorado Mountain College CEO Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser

With a master's and Ph.D. degree from UCLA and a resume spanning executive roles in higher education institutions, private foundations and the public policy arena, Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is well qualified to head Colorado Mountain College's 11 locations throughout the Rockies. But she's also an avid outdoorswoman, summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro, climbing to the Mt. Everest base camp and guiding rafts down the Grand Canyon. Behold her take on town, CMC's Alpine Campus in Steamboat and the college's future.

In Her Own Words

The first time I ever visited Steamboat was in 1999 to play a doubles volleyball tournament. It seems like yesterday.

Each of our 11 campuses is unique in its own way, as are the communities they serve. Although several are a stone's throw from excellent ski areas – including Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge – the Steamboat campus is the only one that actually overlooks the local ski mountain. It retains a lot of its original Yampa Valley College flavor.

Its programs are different. How many small, public colleges can boast an award-winning astro-photographer like Jimmy Westlake? It's also our only campus where we offer ski and snowboard business (I ski on a pair of skis designed by one of our students), as well as hotel and resort management. And it's the home of our CMC Ski Team.

Our new academic and student services building still takes my breath away. It was designed to bring the community into the heart of the campus, which it's done well. The Dining Center offers the best views in town; community members grab a cup of coffee and meet their friends here. The Allbright Family Auditorium has drawn numerous speakers and performers, and the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center supports local startups and small businesses.

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CMC is for everyone, whether you want to learn English or cross-country skiing or want to earn a certificate, associate or bachelor's degree. I like that we are driven to try new things, to test something at one campus and, if it works, roll it out more broadly.

Our communities face a great challenge, as employers increasingly desire higher levels of education. We need to connect with more students to ensure they get the education they need to be prepared for the jobs of today and the future.

We're fortunate to have support from our local property taxpayers, especially with state revenues for higher education falling. We've been able to keep tuition low — our in-district students get the third-most-affordable bachelor's degree in the country — but we need to remain innovative and nimble.

The Yampa River through Dinosaur is one of my favorite stretches of river anywhere. The Yampa is one of the last major free-flowing rivers in the Colorado River Basin; it's special and I hope it always stays that way. I serve on the board of American Rivers, which does great work to protect endangered rivers like it and the Colorado.

My outdoors and coaching background helps me lead CMC. Bringing disparate individuals, or 11 campuses, together in sometimes uncomfortable or competing situations to work toward a common goal as a team is like running a river with a group of people or climbing a mountain or playing a basketball game. The more in sync everyone is, the better.

I love every season, but summer's my favorite time in Steamboat. I love the unique blend of Western culture, ranching lifestyle, outdoor adventure and serious local pride.

My husband and I love the trail and county road system near Hahn's Peak — for biking, cross-country skiing, backcountry touring, snowmobiling and hiking. It's beautiful, with a ton of great outdoor options. As for lift-served skiing, Steamboat's glades and trees are hard to beat, especially on a fresh dump of Champagne powder.