Following FRCC’s controversial reorganization into a college-wide “One College” model, so to speak, FRCC’s administration has eyed a next step in the continuation of this reorganization of the college to this model.
Their next step? Graduation.
The administration, particularly the President’s Cabinet, have expressed interest and taken steps to form a committee that will help take steps as to what FRCC’s next graduation will look like.
A handful of rumors concerning next graduation have spread around campus even within the relatively light summer semester’s student and staff population. One in particular is that this new committee will consider a single unified graduation, while another is that the committee will have to look at different venue options because of the closure of the 1stBank Center at the end of November this year.
Dr. Gabriel Castaño, the Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Success for FRCC and one of the members of the President’s Cabinet, is one member of this committee. He is the co-chair of the committee, along with Beryl Durazo, the Executive Director of the FRCC Foundation and Community Partnerships and who is also a member of the Cabinet.
Dr. Castaño explained that FRCC’s President, Dr. Colleen Simpson, asked him and Durazo “to co-chair a group that will collect folks from all the different campuses to think about ‘what does the future of commencement look like and what are some different options that we may be able to explore?’”
As co-chairs, Beryl Durazo explained that their duties include “organizing meetings, ensuring representation from different stakeholders, and keeping discussions on track as we consider all options,” as well as leading the committee overall.
Castaño confirmed that the 1stBank Center’s upcoming closure had been involved in some fashion with the committee.
“The decision to pull together a committee to plan graduation was discussed prior to the announcement of the closing of 1stBank Center,” he said. However he clarified that, “the announcement of the closure of 1stBank accelerated our decision to form this committee as soon as students and faculty return in the fall, since there are very limited venue options in the area.” He also added, when asked, that no other additional reasons played a role in the progression of the committee.
So, what will the people on this committee do exactly?
According to Dr. Castaño, the committee will be providing recommendations to the President and her Cabinet as to how they can improve the next commencement.
He mentioned, however, that “they’re not making any final decisions. Ultimately, the President and the Cabinet will likely make the decisions, just like the vice Presidents for each campus did in the past … Really, the President is the one who makes final decisions. But I will say, she’s very collaborative and she cares a lot about student input. And ultimately, we’re all here for students, right?”
The committee will operate in the fall, in large part because they “want to make sure that we include faculty and student voices in that group as well,” Castaño explained.
Beryl Durazo corroborated the Cabinet’s desire to serve students, adding that “to me, it’s important that students enjoy graduation and are proud of becoming FRCC alumni.”
Gabriel Castaño also provided another major reason for the committee’s operation in the fall, rather than later in Spring: “I think [the decisions for graduation are] time sensitive. So I just know that there are very few spaces in Colorado in general that can accommodate large groups, and every high school and every college has a graduation around the same time. So, you know, graduation season is tricky.”
He continued on, naming last year’s graduation for the University of Colorado Denver, and the recent hailstorm at the Red Rocks Coliseum: “I know that many graduations take place outdoors. Coming from [the] University of Colorado, just this last year, graduation was planned for outside and it stormed. So, fortunately, they had a backup plan to book the Denver Coliseum. And so they were able to move it at the last minute, the very next day, to say ‘we’re gonna move it indoors.’ But because of that, many places will have primary spaces and backup spaces booked. Lots of high schools do graduations at Red Rocks and I don’t know if you heard about the hailstorm a couple weeks ago, it was crazy. So there was a massive hailstorm and they [got] rain and lightning and thunder. And like it’s tricky.”
He concluded that “[the committee] don’t think they have a deadline [yet], but I imagine they’ll need to do it in the fall semester fairly soon because we have to make a plan and reserve space and figure out what we’re doing.”
This committee is also another way the administration has eyed to have the college move further towards adhering to its relatively recent One College policy.
Gabriel Castaño said the purpose of the upcoming committee is “primarily to decide what are the best things that are happening at each of these three graduations and how can we create a consistent experience. So, for example, if we proceeded with three different graduations, do we want them to each feel or be so different?”
He also touched on a desire to create unity between the students who attend FRCC. “[All] of our students deserve to have the same kind of Front Range experience. … So no matter what campus you go to, you should be like “I’m a part of FRCC”, right? That’s the President’s vision of One College. Like we are one college.”
Aside from the co-chairs, no one else is confirmed to be on the committee yet. Gabriel Castaño explained one of the Cabinet’s deans was going to be another confirmed member, but they had stepped down to another position and are no longer going to serve as a result.
However, Beryl Durazo did suggest that there would be about 10-15 people on the committee, with the approximate, but ultimately undecided, breakdown of “2-5 faculty members, and 2-5 students.”
Gabriel Castaño expressed the desire to have “representation cross-functional from across units [of the college]. So from Student Life, from Academic Affairs, from Facilities, from Campus Safety and Security, from students.” He also mentioned the heads of certain departments could recommend members to serve on the committee, including those the Cabinet may overlook.
Castaño had expressed that the Cabinet would have liked to create a call to action for students and faculty who would have wanted to volunteer at the beginning of the fall semester. However, this call to action was scrapped due to time constraints: “We need this committee to meet several times in a very short period of time to provide recommendations to President Simpson. As a result, we are not able [to] have a ‘call to action’ to open this up to gain members.”
As for these meetings, Castaño explained that “I would imagine that we’d have a handful of meetings over the course of a month or two so that we can provide some recommendations by the middle of the semester, so I would imagine we’ll probably create virtual meetings so that people can attend from all campuses. … And this way they don’t have to travel: we could just do it on Zoom or Webex.”
Despite the call to action being scrapped, Gabriel Castaño said that volunteers will still be in the know about when the committee meets: “We plan to finalize the meeting dates first. This way we can share those dates with Academic Affairs and Student Government Association, so that potential volunteers know when the meetings will be … [and] know when they will have to be available in order to participate. We will likely schedule these near lunchtime, open periods, and on Fridays, to maximize possibility for participation.”
For students or faculty who may consider joining the committee, Gabriel Castaño was asked about potential benefits or drawbacks to joining the committee. He responded that “I can’t foresee any. I think it’s just an opportunity to have your voice heard and to represent your peers.”
Constraints, particularly those pertaining to the budget, were also asked about, with Castaño responding, “I have not heard from the Budget Office that [the] budget for our commencement celebrations would be more or less. So I anticipate that we’re working with around the same pool of money, and I think the biggest constraint is just the timeline and the limited venues that we have available to book, given our space and our needs.”
Due to the rumors floating around concerning venues for next graduation or whether or not there will be one unified graduation, inquiries were made about the presence of potential ideas for next graduation that may be brought up.
Beryl Durazo responded that the committee will essentially start from scratch: “The committee has not met, so nothing has been decided yet. There is no set of potential solutions that we are selecting from. We plan to assess the existing three ceremonies, and what works well at each, as a foundation for building recommendations.”
The One College decisions made during the last school year were controversial. With the potential for next graduation to be drastically different from what it was in the past, there could be as much of a negative response to the outcome of the committee as the One College reorganization.
Beryl Durazo explained that the responses to these decisions concerning One College in the past were valid, and that the administration listened to this feedback and made changes where appropriate. She continued on, saying that “Overall, we found that the majority of our community members were supportive of the decision to better align our institution and resources in the interest of student success. As we implement new structures and processes this fall, FRCC will assess what’s working and what needs to be adjusted—and we are committed to continuous improvement.” She implied these responses would occur in the event of backlash towards decisions for next graduation as well.
She added, “Collecting input from this committee will be an important step to make sure a variety of voices and opinions are heard. While we cannot predict the future response to recommendations and decisions that haven’t yet been discussed or formulated, we are committed to doing our best to address concerns, gather feedback, and make informed choices that prioritize the well-being and inclusivity of all involved. Our intention is to foster an environment of transparency and respect, ensuring that the collective voices of the college community are heard and considered.”