By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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“It’s been a pretty busy 13 months for me, a bit of a whirlwind,” Robins said told about 60 people at the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Robins took the helm of Peninsula College, which is based in Port Angeles with branches in Forks and Port Townsend, in July 2012 after Tom Keegan, who was president of the college from 2001 until March 2012, left to lead Skagit Valley College.
Changes on the Port Angeles campus will begin with the completion of the last 10-year campus master plan.
That will include the construction of the Allied Health and Early Childhood Development Center, expected to begin in 2014 or 2015, and the formation of new programs such as the Center for Conferences and Institutes, which is planned to bring educational conferences to the three college campuses, Robins said.
Concepts for how to use that new campus, and how to serve the public need for education, is the next step, he said.
Robins has spent the last year getting to know the community, his staff, and the state funding and governmental processes before getting his feet wet, to make sure he knew what needs to be done, and can be done, he said.
“Our current strategic plan has sunsetted, and this is the beginning of creating a new one,” he said.
The strategic plan will help guide the college for the next 50 years, he said, creating a general conceptual direction for the college’s development.
“It’s a general direction, not a turn-by-turn road map,” he said.
Robins suggested career education sharing with other colleges, especially for those programs that require expensive training equipment.
The equipment could be rotated among three or more colleges to serve community needs in turn without flooding the local markets with too many workers in a narrow field, and save the colleges money on the cost of starting up those programs, he said.
Peninsula College, with more than 6,000 students, is one of the few two-year colleges in the state that is still growing, Robins said.
“We are still exceeding our [enrollment] targets,” he said.
Community colleges are strongly affected by the economy, he said.
Enrollment tends to rise during economic downturns as job seekers look for training, and fall as people move into new jobs.
Peninsula College’s numbers are still strong, and Robins said he wants to keep them that way by making Peninsula College a destination school — where students from other areas, including international students — travel to Port Angeles to learn.
Robins pointed to the school’s nationally-ranked soccer program and a growing international education program as the beginnings of attracting students from outside the North Olympic Peninsula, and from out of state.
In the 2012-13 school year, Peninsula College had 132 international students and 295 out-of-state students, according to college enrollment statistics.
Students also could be attracted to the college by adding an honors college, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or Stem, academy, and niche programs for unusual or narrowly targeted studies, Robins said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.