Hank Dunn, the newly hired president of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, says he's ready to listen, plan and engage.
During an on-campus reception, Dunn, whose hiring was announced Jan. 25, sketched out his long-term goals: put student success first, make the college a top choice for students, create an atmosphere where people want to work, be the trainer of choice for local businesses, and build a reputation far and wide for the educational services A-B Tech provides.
These are ambitious goals, but Dunn isn't shy about setting the bar high. "With a long-term strategic plan, we can move mountains," he told Xpress in a recent interview. "If a student has an obstacle in their way, that's a mountain, and we can help move those mountains. We can use data to make us a better institution and one that uses best practices."
Dunn, 57, worked as chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis before accepting his new post. Ivy Tech, a system of 14 regional colleges, has more than 21,000 students. Before that, Dunn worked as president of student services at Sinclair Community College. In Asheville, Dunn will oversee an operating budget of $51 million and about 1,000 employees. A-B Tech has an enrollment of more than 27,000.
Dunn replaces Betty Young, who announced in March 2009 that she would leave to take the helm of Coleman College, a member of the Houston community-college system. Coleman specializes in health-sciences programs and is located at the Texas Medical Center. In announcing her plan to leave A-B Tech, Young cited "discontent" and "division" on campus. Young was inaugurated in May 2008 as the college's fourth president. The first woman president of the college, Young replaced long-serving K. Ray Bailey, who had been A-B Tech's president since 1990.
Dunn described himself as a listener who will dive into the local community. "I'm a hands-on-the-table kind of guy. I try to be a communicator. I try to be engaged in the community. I like to be engaged with people, and I have a very team-member approach," Dunn said. "I'm committed to a collegial environment where trust and respect are practiced religiously. I also want us to be organized and disciplined in using data and analysis to inform and transform."
Dunn knows Western North Carolina well. He and his wife have owned a home in Wolf Laurel for about 10 years and have visited Asheville frequently. Dunn says he loves the outdoors and writes fiction in his spare time. Not that he has a lot of that.
"I tell people that because I love what I do, I don't work anymore. It's fun. It's not a chore," he says.
Dunn holds a doctoral degree in higher education leadership from the University of Florida-Gainesville and a master's degree from Florida Atlantic University. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and an associate degree from Indian River Community College. He and his wife, Darlene, an attorney, have three children and two daughters-in-law.
A-B Tech's Board of Trustees hired Asheville-based Gold Hill Associates to conduct a national search. Trustees also met with campus and community stakeholders. The trustees' search committee culled a pool of 58 applicants down to five finalists, who visited campus in December for interviews. Trustees then narrowed the field to three, submitting the names to the state Board of Community Colleges for reference checks before trustees made their pick. Trustees also sent a three-member group to Dunn's college, where they conducted interviews of Dunn's students and colleagues.