College town hall draws large Malheur County crowd

By John Braese

And Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

ONTARIO — Treasure Valley Community College is an asset to the community but needs to do a better job of marketing its strengths and build a stronger bond with local residents.

Those proved to be three key themes from a town hall session Thursday night held at Four Rivers Cultural Center. The session attracted a standing-room-only crowd of about 125, including residents, elected and appointed officials, students and college executives and faculty.

“There were some real valid opinions that are not voiced much and they need to be voiced,” said Samantha Savage, the secretary for the TVCC student government.

The town hall – sponsored by the Malheur Enterprise and moderated by publisher Les Zaitz – featured presentations from the college administrators and then an open forum.

Speakers from the floor focused on four subjects: Student needs and wants, business community needs and wants, community expectations for the college and what opportunities could be captured to increase enrollment.

One reoccurring theme that emerged from the open session centered on the perception of the college. Some of the participants said the local college needs to publicize its strengths.

“We need to do a better job of advertising, marketing through social media. I think we need to figure out the most effective way to market the college,” said Dana Young, college president.

Feedback from the crowd ran the gamut from praise for the college, suggestions for the future – such as more vocational training and better access to housing for students – and the need for more recreational outlets for students in the community.

Nyssa-area farmer Dirk DeBoer said the college can be a good resource for job training and retraining.

“We don’t have the trained employees that companies want. We have to reeducate the existing workforce and that is where TVCC can be very successful,” DeBoer said.

Another vital element to the success of the college is stronger bonds with the Malheur County community.

“To make Treasure Valley grow we need to bring the community together,” Fernanda Rogel, TVCC student administrative senator told the crowd.

John Briedenbach, Ontario Chamber of Commerce president, pointed out that one college challenge he encounters every year is the lack of housing for students.

Breidenbach said every fall he fields phone calls from parents who can’t find housing for their children who are attending the college, often because landlords refuse to rent to rent to them.

“As landlords, as businesses we should think about that,” he said.

The session was informative, said TVCC math instructor David Reynolds.

“It seemed like people were comfortable sharing ideas and opinions,” he said.

Savage said she hopes the session will create an opportunity.

“I want to see the people that have the ability to use their voices to make change to make change,” Savage said.