The More You Pay, the More it’s Worth

Opinion by Dr. David Svaldi, President, Adams State University

Some respected print and online publications have recently given a lot of attention to a report from PayScale, a salary comparison website, that purports to calculate the ROI – return on investment – of a degree from more than 1,300 U.S. colleges and universities. The resulting lists of the “Best” and “Worst” colleges for one’s money appeal to readers’ quest for quick, information – the print version of a soundbyte. . .

What is lacking in Payscale’s report, however, is sense. If its assessment of my university is any indicator, Payscale’s flawed methodology proves the old adage, Garbage In, Garbage Out

Read more.

This column appeared in the April 11 Valley Courier, and will shortly be published in Dr. Svaldi’s blog on the Huffington Post.


Apply for Hilos Summer Institute by April 18

Faculty and staff are invited to apply for the 2014 Hilos Summer Institute, to be held July 20-24 in San Luis, Colorado. The application deadline is April 18. Hilos Summer Institute application form and information.

Now in its third year, Hilos is funded by Adams State’s Title V Institutional Grant. Twenty faculty and staff members will be selected to attend the institute. Attendees will receive an $800 stipend (less payroll taxes) and will be eligible to apply for a $1,000 Student Engagement Grant upon successfully completing the program. Hotel and meal accommodations will be

Questions may be addressed by contacting Lillian Gomez or Anna Torello. at 719-589-7691. or

Svaldi: Why retire?

I have announced my plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2015 Academic Year–why am I retiring?

Some of my fondest recollections are of my childhood. Those were the years when summer break seemed to stretch out before me beyond the horizon. The drudgery of returning to school – just six short blocks down the street from our house – seemed eons away. I especially looked forward to having time to read, as it was my passion and primary occupation, apart from trying to construct a go-kart without any good parts (no wheels, especially) and  playing sand lot baseball with my friends. The library was only four blocks away – about five minutes on my trusty Schwinn – and there were shelves and shelves of books to read. I could usually choose to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it – at least, as long as my mom agreed. I was good kid, so she usually did.dave-truck

It is this freedom that I have increasingly missed as my career in higher education has entered the latter half of my fifth decade as a student, graduate student, faculty member, or administrator. I entered college in the fall of 1966 and have never really left! Forty-eight years is a long time to work in the same “industry.”  For the last 17 years, my calendar has driven my life, professional and personal, and a small but gradually louder voice has insistently tapped my shoulder and said: “When you retire you can do what you want to do when you want to do it, and you won’t even have to ask mom!”

So for those who keep asking-why are you retiring? – now you know. I am also of a certain age proven by a cardboard ID card I received from the government which certifies that I am no longer middle aged, but now entering a twilight that presages old age. But the great thing for me is that there are still shelves and shelves of books to read, and most now exist in an electronic format that I can actually enlarge; on my I-Pad they are even backlit! Few of my friends are around to play sandlot ball with; anyway the game would just take too long, as we would have to hobble from base to base. But I do have a nearly new set of golf clubs that Virginia gave my for Father’s day a year or two ago, and I am also looking for, not a go-kart, but a big truck to drive toward the horizon as I head to retirement to do the things I want to do when I want to do them (if Virginia says it is OK).

- Dr. David Svaldi

Campus improvements continue

Rex Activity Center to create state-of-the-art climbing wall

Adams State University’s indoor climbing wall is going to get a whole lot better. The Rex Activity Center, in conjunction with architects from Eldorado Climbing Walls, will install a new climbing terrain designed to be an all-ages and all-abilities- accessible climbing wall.  The new climbing wall will be designed with everyone in mind to accommodate bouldering, adaptable terrains, dihedrals and arêtes for technique training, and a rappel ledge.

Architect's rendering of new Rex climbing wall.

Architect’s rendering of new Rex climbing wall.

The Rex Activity Center will be closed from May 10 – August 8 for project completion. Due to the short-term closure, Conley said such services as yoga and general summer activities will be relocated to other campus facilities.

“Adams State has seen an increase in rock climbing with the addition of our ASU Climbing Team, so a new wall is much anticipated,” said Elvie Conley, Rex Activity Center coordinator of recreational facilities. “We’re ecstatic to be able to offer a new climbing wall to our community, with a total of 2,080 square feet of new climbing surface. The layout and look will be an entirely new feel for the facility.”

The present wall is 1,800 square feet and was installed during the facility’s original renovation in 1995.  Rex Activity Center offers a variety of recreation programing, ranging from intramural and club sports to outdoor adventure programing.

For more information about the Rex Activity Center, please contact Conley at ext. 7018.

Richardson Hall work underway

Vice President for Finance and Governmental Relations Bill Mansheim announced tours of the Richardson Hall remodel-in-progress will be scheduled once demolition and abatement have been completed.

A view southwest standing in what will be the welcome center, which used to be the RH break room. The center arch and the two adjacent arches will comprise the new main foyer. Note the main foyer used to be between the center arch. The restrooms have been relocated in order to expand the main foyer.

A view southwest standing in what will be the welcome center, which used to be the RH break room. The center arch and the two adjacent arches will comprise the new main foyer. Note the main foyer used to be between the center arch. The restrooms have been relocated in order to expand the main foyer.

End of Year Events

2014 Adams State University Employee Recognition Ceremony
4 p.m. Wednesday, April 30
Carson Auditorium

Join your colleagues to celebrate and recognize the special contributions that our employees have made to Adams State, including faculty promotions, tenure, and emeritus status.

Years of Service honorees

Alumna Cathy Mullens to give Commencement Address

Spring Commencement
Saturday, May 10
10 a.m.
Plachy Hall

 “Great Stories: Right Here, Right Now” is the topic of alumna Cathy Mullens’ commencement address for this year’s spring ceremony. A 1982 Adams State graduate, Mullens served as District Attorney for the 12th Judicial District, the San Luis Valley, from 1992-96. She had the distinction of being the first woman elected District Attorney in the state.

Mullens received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and government from Adams State and went on to earn a J.D. in law from Campbell University in Raleigh, N.C., in 1985. She began her legal career in the San Luis Valley Office of the District Attorney.

After leaving office she worked in several District Attorney’s Offices throughout the state, retiring in 2009 after serving as Chief Trial Deputy in the Pueblo District Attorney’s Office. She worked mainly in the area of felony domestic violence cases, including prosecuting homicides.

Mullens is currently an Instructor at the Law Enforcement Academy at Otero Junior College in La Junta and works as a photographer and reporter for The Signature Newspaper in La Veta.

Roundtable generates ideas

Eighty-two faculty and staff participated in last week’s Campus Roundtable, which reviewed progress on retention and gathered ideas for the Strategic Plan. CIELO and Executive Team members facilitated the group.

Dr. Michael Mumper, senior VP for Enrollment Management and Program Development, reviewed retention work completed since the last Roundtable. The chairs of new retention subcommittees summarized their work to date:

Academic Advising & Career Services

Deb Chapman, asst. director of Student Engagement & Success, said her group is working to improve the consistency and accuracy of student advising, and developing ideas for getting undeclared students to choose a major sooner.

Making campus business practices more student-friendly

Morgan Ramsey Daniel, asst. director of Financial Aid, said her group is working to streamline One-Stop procedures, revise the work study employment process, and explore ways to mitigate textbook costs.

On-boarding new students

Karla Hardesty, Enrollment Management program manager, said her group is reviewing university interactions with new students between the time they are accepted and actually enroll. This will entail an audit of the communications process and refinement of the various processes.

Student Engagement

Mick Daniel, director of Student Life & Recreation, said his group has gathered information of what various departments do in this regard and is reviewing academic probation policies and procedures.

Non-returning students

Eric Carpio, asst. VP for Enrollment Management, and Ken Marquez, VP for Student Affairs, are exploring ways to reduce attrition, such as developing exit interviews, re-recruiting students who have left, connecting students with distance education, and improving communication processes.


In addition, Michelle Romero, asst. director of Admissions, described ongoing research using the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator. Three hundred current freshman took the assessment, and two workshops for faculty and staff have been held. The project has been funded for a second year, and incoming freshmen will be contacted once they apply for housing. She explained the data could greatly aid in retention and recruitment.

Math Stakeholders

Dr. Matt Nehring, professor of physics and chair of Chemistry, Computer Science and Mathematics, explained that his group is reviewing the university’s general education requirement in math, as well as exploring the best configuration of developmental math courses.

ASU celebrates Women’s Week


Sociology major Tori Vigil has organized a week of events in celebration of Women’s Week. She said the idea began with wanting “to simply show the film Miss Representation to the community. It quickly grew from there, because of the shared passion regarding the betterment, equality, and growth of women by the staff, professors, and students at ASU.”

The week includes showings of two films, a variety of presentations by faculty, a poetry slam, the Tunnel of Oppression, and International Women’s Day presentations.

Schedule & details.

Student & Program News

Childhood Trauma lecture March 7

PSI CHI (international honor society in psychology) and SWAG (suicide watch awareness gang) are co-sponsoring a lecture by Dr. Christy Olezeski, a clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University.


“Childhood Trauma: Behavioral and Biological Correlates and What We Can Do to Help”
Friday, March 7
3 p.m. in MCD 101

 Read more.

Psych/Soc major presents at Harvard

ashlee-deherreraJunior psychology and sociology major Ashlee DeHerrera will present a paper at the Ivy Plus Symposium, to be held at Harvard University in March. She was one of 150 students selected for the symposium from universities and colleges across the nation. Read more.

SSS Leadership

Eight Student Support Services students have been accepted to SSS Leadership Training, in which they will read, reflect, and discuss Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Participants will apply each habit personally by completing a series of assignments including written reflections, a mission statement, a time management schedule, classroom discussions, and exercises which help them apply new paradigms.

Nursing welcomes new cohort

The Nursing Department began a new cohort of 33 students this semester. Students are admitted to the program each January. Director Shawn Elliott notes this group has the highest number of male students to date: eight.

How is small business like wrestling an alligator?

Tayler-Else-gatorStudents in Dr. Pat Robbins’ Small Business Management & Entrepreneurship class recently learned how alligator wrestling is like business. Guest speaker, Jay Young, manager of Colorado Gators and Reptile Park, presented to the class Feb. 18. As a successful entrepreneur and business man, Jay advised up and coming entrepreneurs to know their limits, assess the situation, don’t hesitate, and don’t let go. This is how you start and run a business, as well as how you wrestle an alligator. Business success is also fueled by remembering that communication is crucial; your best advertising is good customer service; and don’t think outside the box — destroy the box and use your imagination. Jay Young walks the talk, as Colorado Gators has grown from a local attraction to an international one. A San Luis Valley  “celebrity,” Jay has been featured on “Animal Planet” and “What’s My Line,” and is an entrepreneur and entertainer in every sense of the word.

Jay’s presentation wrapped up with an alligator wrestling demonstration. Business students JR Watters, Tayler Else, Jamison Bobo, Luke Lowery, Brian Bertrand, and Ben Williams took advantage of the 80-pound alligator in the match, and found that you assess the situation, don’t hesitate, and don’t let go! Several students and Dr. Robbins, chose to hold the alligator (a much safer alternative to wrestling). It’s always a challenge to make business less theoretical and more real to students, but this presentation did just that.

Archaeology acquires LIDAR
Tilo Voitel presents the LIDAR unit to Tim Goddard, Co-Director of Three Bears Consulting, an archaeological consulting program of ASU.

Tilo Voitel presents the LIDAR unit to Tim Goddard, Co-Director of Three Bears Consulting, an archaeological consulting program of ASU.

The archaeology program now possesses a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) scanner, donated by Tilo Voitel of Denver.  This equipment will allow researchers to perform high density scans and detailed 3-dimensional models of archeological sites, historic buildings, and just about anything else that needs a highly accurate, detailed 3D model.

Common Reading Experience

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates was selected for the fall 2014 Common Reading Experience. The author is Wes Moore, Spiegel & Grau (2011), ISBN: 978-0385528207. The biographical stowes-moore-bookry follows two kids named Wes Moore who both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods.  How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.

Players touch hearts

b-ball-plyrsAdams State basketball players Mariah Gonzales and Justin Kauffman recently received the Touching Hearts Through Athletics Award, presented by Touching Hearts Through Athletics. The award is earned in recognition of athletes who are team playesr, accept academic responsibility, and demonstrate sportsmanship, on and off the court. The goal is to encourage and honor athletes of outstanding character, athleticism, and sportsmanship. Read more.

Trustees seek Presidential Search Committee members

The Board of Trustees is accepting nominations for campus and community members to serve on the Presidential Search Committee, which will be chaired by Trustee Paul Farley. The board requests nominations be sent to the President’s Office by Feb. 7, so that it may confirm the committee appointments at its Feb. 13-14 meeting, to be held in Denver.

The committee will consist of 15 members, as follows:

  • Three trustees
  • Three faculty
  • Two exempt staff
  • Two classified staff
  • Two students
  • Two community leaders
  • One alumni/foundation representative

The Board invites the various stakeholder groups to nominate their respective representatives though whatever means they wish. Trustees Leroy Salazar, Kathy Rogers, Randy Wright, and Dr. Rob Benson will identify potential representatives of the community.

The search committee’s goal is to identify up to 12 finalists for the Board’s consideration by Jan. 1, 2015. The Board of Trustees, acting as the selection committee, will make the final decision regarding the appointment of a new President.

Further details on the committee and its task are available in Farley’s recent letter to campus.


ASU Trustees elect officers, welcome new members

The Board of Trustees for Adams State University elected two alumni as chair and vice chair at its Dec. 13 meeting. Arnold Salazar, Class of 1976, was elected chair, and Tim Walters, Class of 1973, vice chair. Both will serve two-year terms in those posts. Read more.

San Luis Valley natives Kathleen Rogers and Randy Wright will be confirmed as new trustees at a Feb. 13 hearing before the Colorado Senate Education Committee, in Denver. Both will serve three-year terms concluding in 2017. Read more.


Recent Roundtable focused on retention solutions

Nearly 100 faculty and staff brainstormed on ways to improve student retention at the Oct. 22 Campus Roundtable. Dr. Michael Mumper, senior VP of Enrollment Management & Program Development, conducted the meeting with assistance from CIELO group members.

“Our data show that retention of non-graduating seniors has declined 12% the last three years,” Mumper noted, explaining the work underway to identify an explanation for this loss.

In a more detailed retention report presented to the Trustees recently, Mumper noted continuing students choose not to return to Adams State for quite different reasons than do entering students.


“Continuing students are much less likely to leave for academic performance reasons, with the exception of those who have not completed the math requirement. In the fall of 2013, for example, 90 seniors were enrolled who had not completed their math requirement. Another 90 failed to return to Adams State without completing the math requirement. Not completing math is one of the factors most closely correlated with not-returning across all four years.”

noted, “There were many, many good ideas, especially regarding improving the academic advising process, and I urge individual departments to implement changes they believe will improve their advising process and not wait for the larger plan.”

He added the written comments will be transcribed and forwarded to a smaller group to be assembled by Dr. Mumper. That group will create an action plan based upon the suggestions, which will then be shared with the campus.

Important info from Human Resources

Health Fair and Exempt and Faculty Open Enrollment

 Wednesday,  Nov. 6
7 – 11 a.m.
SUB 309

This year’s Employee Health Fair now includes bone density tests among the free health screens and blood draws this year. To sign up or obtain more information about the Health Fair please visit the HR website.

Open Enrollment for Faculty and Exempt employees begins Nov. 6. Open enrollment is an opportunity to review your current benefits and make any changes you feel necessary. Employees will have until Wednesday, Nov. 27 to turn in any changes for next year.

Those with Flexible Spending Accounts MUST enroll each year; forms are available from HR. All changes will take effect January 1, 2014.

Employees will soon receive their enrollment packets with current benefit selections, benefit changes for 2014, and forms for employees to return to HR.

Questions or concerns may be directed to Shannon Heersink, ext. 7990.

Announcing the Dependent Eligibility Audit

Through the remainder of the fall semester, Human Resources will conduct a Dependent Eligibility Audit, which is required for all employees with dependents covered under the CHEIBA Trust health plans.

“We appreciate your cooperation in promptly completing this audit, and in helping control the ever-increasing cost of healthcare,” said Human Resources Director Tracy Rogers. She noted the Dependent Eligibility Audit is a critical element in controlling constantly rising healthcare costs. Its goal is to:

  • Update the records of all covered family members
  • Confirm that each dependent is eligible for the health plan
  • Remove any ineligible dependents

In short, the goal is assure that eligible plan participants do not have to pay the costs for dependents who do not meet the eligibility requirements for health coverage.

Web-Based Audit

Employees will complete the Dependent Eligibility Audit on a secure, confidential website designed exclusively for Adams State University.  The website will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from Nov. 4 through Dec. 18, 2011.

  • The audit may be completed from any number of places: work, home, local library, or any other location with a high-speed Internet connection.
  • The audit is easy to complete and should take approximated 10 to 15 minutes to answer all the questions. Employees will not need to interpret rules, make decisions, or determine eligibility.
  • Employees will simply answer factual questions about their marital and child relationships. The online system has the Adams State University eligibility criteria already built in, and that’s what determines eligibility.
  • At the end of the end of the audit, the website notify the employee about which documents should be submitted to verify dependent relationships.

Those without Internet access may call the Dependent Eligibility Center and provide answers to a customer service representative.

Audit Benefits All Employees

It has become a smart business practice to conduct dependent eligibility audits because it is not unusual to have ineligible members enrolled (such as ex-spouses, grandchildren, grandparents or friends).  The claims of ineligible members cost every member; as our group’s claim experience grows, our premiums increase.

In general, feedback from employees who have participated in these surveys shows they appreciate the employer’s efforts to hold costs down. And since most have nothing to worry about, overall it is seen as a very positive program.

The Audit is Mandatory, with Penalties for Non-Compliance

The Dependent Eligibility Audit is mandatory for ALL employees with covered dependents. Audits that are incomplete, inaccurate, or that are not submitted by the December 18, 2013 deadline will trigger loss of dependent benefits.

It is also possible that you may be asked to provide additional proof documents (such as birth or marriage certificates, federal tax returns, child support agreements, and so on) to verify and confirm your answers to the online audit questions.

The Audit Instructions will be Mailed to Your Home

A  few days before the start of the audit, a complete package of instructions about how to complete the audit online will be mailed to employees’ home address. The package will contain all the information  needed to successfully complete the audit within 10 to 15 minutes. It will explain in detail:

  • The information to gather before starting the online audit
  • The web address and appropriate passwords to access the customized audit site
  • The toll-free hotline number in case of difficulty navigating the site, understanding the questions, or lack of Internet access.



Identify a Student Scholar today!

Do you know of a promising student whose work should be shared with the campus community? Encourage them to apply for participation in Student Scholar Days. This is a multidisciplinary, two-day conference that highlights the academic achievements of ASU undergraduate students. This year’s event will be April 3-4, 2014.

Each major is eligible to nominate two undergraduate student projects, including projects with multiple student authors. Projects will be allocated 20 minutes of oral presentation time during the event

In order to participate in Student Scholar Days, every student must identify a suitable mentor to assist in their preparations. Mentors will:

  1. Advise in the preparation of the application packet
  2. Present feedback in practicing for the event
  3. Guide in the specifics of a good presentation
  4. Provide introductions at the Student Scholar Days event

Students application materials will be submitted in early 2014. In the interim, now is the perfect time to begin exploring potential presentation topics and crafting a proposal. If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer Gawronski.


Trustees set tentative schedule for presidential search

At their Oct. 11 meeting, the Board of Trustees for Adams State University established a tentative timeline for the search to replace President David Svaldi, who intends to retire by the end of the spring 2015 semester. Board Chair Steve Valdez asked for trustee volunteers to serve in the search committee.

Fall 2013

  • Form Trustee committee
  • Establish search budget
  • Form Campus & Community Advisory Committee
  • Begin crafting position description, & institutional description
  • Determine organization or office to administer search

Spring 2014

  • Draft position description completed and circulated throughout the ASU and SLV Community and revised as needed.

Late Spring:

  • Place ads in relevant publications

Fall 2014

  • Select top applicants

December, 2014

  • Conduct airport interviews

Spring 2015

  • Finalists on campus for interviews

Late Spring 2015

  • Appoint new president