Stability is the last ingredient

NSC beat odds in formative years, turns to new president to lead it into next decade

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

VEGAS INC Coverage

There were doubts about its future, especially given the many challenges of its infancy. But in just a couple more moons, a healthy Nevada State College will mark its 10th anniversary.

A parade of permanent and temporary leaders somehow kept things on track during the institution’s first decade, including the likeable Fred Maryanski, a crusader who gave the school a public face for five years until cancer took him.

Last October, Bart Patterson was appointed president, having actually worked his way up to the top job. After a career as a lawyer, Patterson had joined the school in 2001 as part-time faculty. He became its general counsel and held the positions of vice chancellor of administrative and legal affairs. Now he is leading it.

Last spring, the Henderson campus graduated more than 300 students representing all 24 degree programs, its largest class yet. There are now some 1,500 alumni in the world. Half of all its students are the first in their families to attend college. More than half are from ethnic backgrounds.

“I want the college to position itself to help all students succeed,” Patterson said, “but in particular the demographics we have.”

He reminded me the school is not just for teachers and nurses, but is now filling the mission of the comprehensive state college that was planned in its beginning.

NSC has had a 45 percent increase in enrollment over the past five years. The catch is that it corresponds with a 35 percent budget cut during the same period. The school has taken creative measures to get by — such as using part-time faculty, the role Patterson had 10 years ago. And full-time faculty have taken on more responsibility.

But one of the touted strengths of NSC is the “personal connection” it forms with students, and Patterson knows it’s tougher for students to connect with a teacher who isn’t on campus every day.

Patterson is a self-made achiever, and not likely to spend much time moaning about budget issues. Just like the college, he also had relatively modest beginnings, living with his folks in a trailer until he was in high school. He seems focused on moving the school onward with its mission — whether its teaching is conducted in a classroom, online or both.

Patterson said he draws “strength and vision” from his time with Maryanski, who became a close friend. And although his style and personality are different than Maryanski’s, he intends to be just as visible.

“I’m going to do what I can to get the name out,” he said.

As Nevada State College moves toward its teen years, that visibility can only help. And although the school has shown an ability to survive frequent leadership transitions, this particular president might change that pattern.