Andy Hanson remembers well the first day of college in August of 1988 when he stepped onto Lewis-Clark State College’s beautiful and historic campus. Like many students then and today, Andy was both nervous and excited about starting college. His goal was to study mathematics and education so that he could become a high school math teacher.
“I was nervous – insecure,” said Hanson, a Lewiston native. “I had no idea what to expect. I felt pretty comfortable with my math skills, but I wondered if I had what it took to get a college degree in it. I came here knowing what I wanted to be but had no idea of how to get there. I didn’t even really understand how credits worked.”
Fast forward almost 30 years and Hanson is careful not to forget those early worries and questions. Perhaps this is why he’s been so successful in his administrative role as LCSC’s Vice President for Student Affairs – he tries to put students at ease as soon as they step onto campus.
“I know a lot of our students are like I was -- ambitious and hopeful but often in need of guidance and direction,” he said. “The college has changed a lot in 30 years. When I was a freshman, no one had an email account and none of us knew what the internet was. Advances in technology have radically changed the way we deliver and manage education but the fundamental need to support students and help them find successful pathways to earning a credential hasn’t changed at all.”
Hanson’s work over the years reflects this sentiment.
“I started working for the college as a recruiter and would travel to every high school across the state with representatives from the other Idaho colleges and universities to promote Idaho higher education.”
Reflecting on his years as a recruiter, which included three years working for the University of Idaho, Hanson noted, “We are a very diverse state but, with a total of well over 1,000 presentations to prospective students, I found that students are consistent in what they think is important as they are choosing a college. Without fail, students would always list program of study, cost, and placement as the top factors in their decision.”
Hanson’s experience includes work in student retention as well.
“In the early 2000s, I wanted a chance to expand my professional skills,” he said. “The college had received a grant that was intended to support student success through technology. They needed someone to manage the grant and I volunteered.”
The grant funded several projects, including an early version of a user-friendly degree audit and the creation of online advising resources.
“They liked what I did, so I was given a chance to get involved with academic advising and even started a more formal approach to first-year experience programs,” Hanson said.
These programs quickly led to one of Hanson’s pet projects – new student orientation.
“I was visiting with some faculty colleagues in Spalding Hall one afternoon and we were lamenting the fact that so many of our new students struggled to know where to find assistance with various issues they were having.” Hanson said. “Thirty minutes later, we had the basic outline of our new student orientation program.”
Student orientation is held at the beginning of each fall and spring semester and includes family members of the new students.
“We want to empower family members to be a part of their student’s support system,” Hanson said.
New Student Orientation includes information sessions, entertainment, and a lunch with faculty and staff from the instructional divisions.
“For years students have told us that getting to have lunch with the faculty in their programs makes their first day of classes just a little more comfortable,” Hanson said.
Hanson has witnessed several changes through the years at the college, including the addition of many new state-of-the-art buildings to campus as well as growth in enrollment. The college now serves an enrollment of close to 4,000.
“I remember doing the orientation tour one time and saying we had just under 2,000 students,” said Hanson. “So we have certainly grown a lot. We are much more of a cultural and entertainment center to the region then when I was a student. It’s a much bigger deal to have your event at LCSC. And we have a broader, deeper curriculum.
“We have a much younger campus as well. I remember telling people when I was doing tours that the average age of a student at LCSC is 33. Now it’s 24. The student profile has changed and the kinds of services we offer has changed and improved as well. One thing that has never changed though is our commitment to student success and well-being. That’s been consistent since the very first day I stepped foot on campus.”
Hanson said he is appreciative of his deep roots at LCSC.
“I am proud to work at LCSC and I credit this college with coalescing my adult life,” Hanson said. “Had it not been for this college, I would have never met my spouse (Elaine Williams) and certainly wouldn’t have had the life I enjoy today. Thank goodness Lewis-Clark State College was here for me and helped make all of that happen.”
As for the future, Hanson believes it’s bright for the college.
“Higher education is in a period of great transformation and we have the opportunity to play a lead role in making critical changes that will help more people access our college and, as important, enjoy success,” he said. “We’re going to have to rethink and re-engineer some of our approaches and we’ll most certainly need to challenge some of our own assumptions about ourselves. But, we have a 125-year track record of doing that very thing and doing it quite successfully. I’m looking forward to being a part of it!”