By Joey Defalco – News Editor
When Tim Cook came to interview for the position of faculty adviser at a school that he had never even seen before he applied, much of what is now concrete and glass was grass and overgrown plants. “The growth of our physical campus has changed dramatically since I was here,” Cook said.
His instructions were to prepare a brief teaching demonstration on college success. Not wanting to be boring, Cook turned the people in charge of hiring him against one another in a gladiatorial game of Jeopardy. “I wrote up all these questions, I made this game, I went to the bookstore and bought prizes,” Cook said. “I remember going ‘this is going to go really well or it’s really not.'”
And it did go well, maybe a little too well. “The faculty got really competitive,” Cook said. “I think one of them was cheating at one point.”
This marked the beginning of Cook’s career at Clark, from faculty adviser to an interim and finally permanent position as vice president of instruction.
Cook will leave Clark to assume his new position as president of Clackamas Community College on July 1. Biology professor Travis Kibota will step in as interim VP of instruction and will assist in leading the Guided Pathways program during the transition.
Kibota is a long-time member of the biology department who has served as division chair for Life Sciences and as interim dean of social science and fine arts. Cook said he met frequently with Kibota during the Spring quarter to prepare him for the interim VP position and oversight of the Guided Pathways program. “He’s highly competent and I don’t anticipate any hiccups with Guided Pathways” Cook said. “I think it’ll be a very smooth transition. I’ll be available if they have questions down the road.”
Cook said that he was one of the first few people to champion Guided Pathways and that leadership of the project fell to him and Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden. “It’s because so much of that work is around working with faculty and curriculum,” Cook said. “It has to be the chief academic officer that does that.”
While certain programs like Guided Pathways will progress as usual, Cook said that he hopes the new VP will “really put their stamp on things” in the office of Instruction while prioritizing student success.
Cook said that his office has played an important role in bringing student success and retention to the forefront of Clark’s attention and that, when he first started working at Clark in the late ‘90s, it “felt like I was the only one talking about it… Now you could ask just about anybody on this campus and they could talk to you about the importance of retention, student success and completion.”
Cook said he was proud of other projects that he has worked on, such as establishing bachelor’s degree programs, the culinary program and co-leading Clark’s accreditation self-study process, which helps ensure federal funding and financial aid. “That was one of the best professional development experiences I’ve ever had because I got to meet just about everybody on campus at some point,” he said.
However, he stressed that these programs were not solely a result of his work. “This is all a big team effort … none of this I did on my own.”
As president of Clackamas Community College, Cook said, he will continue his focus on student success and retention. He expressed excitement at the opportunity to work on Clackamas’ Guided Pathways program from a different role.
“I’m sad for Clark,” Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson said. “I’m happy for him. He’s ready to be a president. This was the next logical step for Tim, but it’s a huge loss for Clark.” Williamson has worked with Cook in his capacity as a VP and on Clark’s Executive Council.
However, Williamson is optimistic about the Office of Instruction’s short term future under Kibota. “I think he’s a perfect person to be an interim,” Williamson said. “I think he’s well respected by faculty … [He is a] very thoughtful, intelligent, fair-minded person.
Williamson said that Cook’s departure is more than just a professional loss. “On a personal level, what I’m going to miss is his sense of humor,” he said. “He’s an incredibly funny guy.“
Williamson also described Cook as a man with an “unexplainable obsession with ‘80s music” who can laugh at himself. “He’s endlessly being ribbed about his bow ties.” In addition to his calm composure and facilitating skills, Williamson said he will remember Cook for a video where “Cook dressed up and performed as David Bowie at a talent show at the faculty and staff of color conference.”
Aside from the bow ties and ‘80s music, Williamson said that he will miss having Cook as a role model. “I’ve tried to take cues from Tim,” he said. “I’m not always the calmest person in the room. I try to learn from how he approaches problems and how he listens to people and how he always seems to create this environment of ‘we’re all here to solve the problem together.’”
“I grew up here at this college,” Cook said. “I mean, I literally grew up here.” He said Clark has taught him to be a teacher and an administrator and that it is “a really supportive place that allowed me to make mistakes.”
Clark College officially named Dr. Sachi Horback as the new Vice President of Instruction on June 13 from a group of three finalists. Horback, currently the District Dean for Business and Social Sciences at Pierce College, will begin her new position at Clark on July 2.