By Ethan M. Rogers

Clackamas Community College President Tim Cook joined The Clackamas Print in our recording studio to talk about the rough start to the winter term, new board members, and the state of the college.

The Clackamas Print: So this is the winter term, 2024. And we got off to kind of a rocky start. Let’s talk a little bit about that.

Tim Cook: Right off the bat, we had pretty significant ice and snow event that I don’t want to say came out of nowhere. We saw the weather reports coming but it ended up knocking us out for about a week just for safety reasons we couldn’t open the college. And right as that week was ending we had a very significant cyberattack that then knocked this out for a few days more. And, actually, we’re still recovering. So it’s been an interesting start to 2024, to say the least.

TCP: Is it true that the cyberattackers have been caught?

Cook: Yeah. News today, Lockbit is the company and they’re the largest ransomware company in the world by a significant factor. The article I read said something like 1,700 different companies that they’ve attacked. The FBI, I don’t want to say Interpol but a group out of the UK and another group too, said that they’ve seized their information, they’ve shut them down.

TCP: Nice. And then something else significant to the college is we’ve lost a board member and are in the process of selecting a new one. Can we talk about that process a little bit?

Cook: Sure. So just for people who don’t know, we have seven elected board members and they represent different zones or different areas of Clackamas County. Chris Groener, who’d served for Oregon City on the board, had resigned a couple of months ago. The way the process works, when somebody resigns in the middle of their term, the board has the ability to appoint a new member as long as they live in the district in that area. So we had to have somebody that lives in Oregon City. We had six different individuals that had applied for that position and the board spent a couple of hours interviewing them.

TCP: You’re also planning the State of the College address. What goes into that?

Cook: Oh my gosh, State of the College is actually really fun. It’s an opportunity to really highlight accomplishments over the last year. And so what goes into it –  it takes a couple of months to put together. We survey deans, directors and say, hey, you know, can you give us some updates, give us some things that we should highlight in the State of the College? We get a lot of people from the college that tune in, that come in person or go on Zoom and watch it. But we get a lot of our local politicians, business leaders, others that, you know, want to keep up with what’s happening. I always think about it in terms of how do I really showcase the great things that we do, because not everybody, even that work here, knows all the great things that we do here at the college. We did an economic study about how much value the college really extends out to the community, and people have been surprised at how much of an economic impact we have.Then in the latter part, because we’re going into a bond campaign, for November 2024, we’re planning a bond election, assuming everything goes the way we think it will, it’s kind of a showcase for the projects that we’re thinking about the bond. 

TCP: Now you just hit your five-year mark.

Cook: I’m in my sixth year. Last July was my five-year mark.

TCP: What would you say is your proudest accomplishment in that time?

Cook: Oh boy. We just had the ice storm and the cyberattack, but, you know, going through a global pandemic and during a time where we had wildfires that caused us to evacuate the campus, along with an additional ice storm that caused us to shut down the campus and a crazy heat wave that actually melted some of our systems. You know, the natural disasters over the last several years have been, I hate to say the word unprecedented because it just feels like everything is unprecedented. But it was a lot, right? So when I think about accomplishments, I’m really particularly proud of how this campus has been resilient and really in spite of a lot of challenges, has really come together and people really work together. People are really committed to student success and making sure that our learning here is still excellent in spite of all of these impacts that we’ve had. I’m particularly proud of that. I’m really proud of our work around diversity and equity and belonging, you know, and how we’ve tried to create an environment here that anybody and everybody can come and succeed and do what they want to achieve their goals. 

TCP: It’s kind of interesting that you bring that up because the college is so committed to diversity and Clackamas County  just closed its DEI office. Has that had any effect on the college or on the way things are being done here?

Cook: It has, yeah. It was really unfortunate and we were very disappointed because the DEI office of the county has been a great partner with us. Indigenous Peoples Day is probably the biggest example of that where, you know, every year we host it with the members of the Grand Ronde Tribe. The county helps organize it and we host it. Now as we move forward, thinking about those resources and what the county brought, we have to really think differently about it. So it does impact us. I mean, on a positive note, you know, people see the college as a place that is a safe place or a place that really welcomes DEI. And so people are coming to our events, people are coming in wanting to work here because of those types of things. But when, you know, it’s just unfortunate to lose a big partner like the county.

TCP: Are there any final thoughts, words of wisdom that you would share with the people?

Cook: It’s an exciting place to be. This bond that we’re working on. Hopefully I’ll have another opportunity to come on later, maybe talk about that, really is going to set us up, I think, to be a state-of-the-art institution, certainly for Clackamas County. We want to always be ahead of the game. We want to make sure that people are coming here and getting that education that they need and they want, and that we’re providing educated workers for our workforce here in the county. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and space. To hear the full interview with Cook, visit The Clackamas Print’s podcast on Spotify. 

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Ethan M. Rogers