Riverland welcomes its changes in staff

Published 9:36 am Monday, September 16, 2013

Column: Riverland Community College, by Adenuga Atewologun

“In the life cycle of every college or university there are changes in leadership.”

This is the opening sentence of “Presidential Transitions” by Patrick Sanaghan, Larry Goldstein and Kathleen Gaval. It later continues that it is “critical” a new president quickly establish a strong working relationship with his or her college administration to succeed.

Adenuga Atewologun

Adenuga Atewologun

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When I started at Riverland Community College in July, I was the third president in 13 months. President Terry Leas left in 2012 after nearly 10 years, an admirable tenure longer than the national average. Interim President Dr. Kent Hanson successfully served a single academic year until I was named president. That’s a lot of change.

Riverland also faced other transitions in leadership as valued administrators retired, advanced to different colleges or proceeded to enhance their educational credentials. Because of these transitions, I began my new presidency with many new leaders to help shape the future of Riverland. It became one of my exciting first priorities to stabilize Riverland’s leadership team. Besides serving as our region’s community leaders, they work closely with faculty, staff and students to enhance Riverland’s excellence.

First, Dr. Mary Davenport, originally hired by Hanson last year on an interim basis to serve as a vice president of academic and student affairs, continues with us as vice president. She brings a breadth of knowledge of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, our state and federal government relations and invaluable leadership expertise.

During recent months, we have also hired four new academic deans:

Matthew Bissonette has been hired as the new dean of workforce education. Bissonette was originally hired in August 2012 as the director of training and development and transitioned into his role as dean last March. Bissonette’s experience with the private and nonprofit sectors brings fresh collaboration skills that will strengthen and build Riverland’s relationships with business and industry.

Gary Schindler was named dean of students. Prior to his return to Riverland in August, Schindler worked at Spoon River College in Illinois and for Anoka Technical College as the dean of student affairs at both colleges. Schindler’s goal to build a strong student services team focused on the needs and success of students is admirable and necessary for the college’s successful future.

Dr. J.C. Turner was recently named interim dean of liberal arts and sciences. Turner’s experience in teaching is important to growing strong faculty, while his experience within the four-year college environment will bring opportunities to enhance collaboration with our university partners.

Most recently, we have appointed Dr. Pamela Tranby as interim dean of academic affairs for allied health. Tranby will be a great asset to our college leadership team as we continue to move Riverland toward continued excellence in health care teaching, learning and service to the region.

I am confident that this dynamic new team, joined by veteran administrators, Celeste Ruble, vice president of employee and public relations, Brad Doss, chief financial officer and Steve Bowron, dean for institutional advancement, are positioned to “respect the past, know the present” and lead Riverland to the excellence our students and communities deserve.


Adenuga Atewologun is the president of Riverland Community College. He holds a doctorate in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.