Truckee Meadows Community College’s Fred Lokken
July 31, 2017
Name/Title/Company: Fred Lokken, Professor of Political Science/Chair of Business, History and Political Science/Truckee Meadows Community College
Number of years with company: 26
Number of years in the profession: 35
Education: ABD University of British Columbia/MA Washington State University/BS University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Last book read: The American Spirit by David McCullough
Favorite movie: The Martian (both for the science AND the politics)
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Favorite musical group or genre: Mitsou (French Canadien)
Spouse, kids or pets: wife Sandy – married for 30 years; 2 children (Theresa and Sean)
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about your company and the duties of your position.
Fred Lokken: I joined Truckee Meadows Community College in 1991 as a faculty member in political science. TMCC is a comprehensive community college offering regionally accredited transfer classes/degrees, excellent occupational certificates/degrees and noncredit options (workforce development, community education and grant-funded ESL and HSE). Today, the college plays a pivotal role in workforce development as it helps to transform Northern Nevada's economy. TMCC is recognized for quality programs in Allied Health, Technical Sciences, and college transfer as well as two new four-year degrees in Logistics Operations Management and Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Lokken: In my 26 years at TMCC as a political scientist, I have served more than 20 years in various administrative roles; most related to Distance Education. Most recently, I served as dean of WebCollege, stepping down in 2015.
NNBW: Do you belong to a professional organization related to your career field?
Lokken: Unexpectedly, much of my career has been in Distance Education. I certainly never planned for that. A simple conversation in the hall turned out to be life-changing for me. I was recently elected the chair-elect of the Instructional Technology Council (ITC), an Affiliated Council of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). I will serve as chair-elect for one year and chair of the ITC for two years. The ITC has a membership of 300 mostly community colleges and is focused won online learning. For the past 13 years, I have conducted a national survey on Distance Education at community colleges and draft the annual report on the results. I am recognized nationally as an expert in the field.
I'm also an active political scientist and am considered an expert on Nevada politics as well. The national attention on Nevada's politics has inspired numerous interviews and commentary.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Lokken: I did not plan to be involved in Distance Education. To be honest, few have in this field. It is a rapidly emerging field as online learning has only been around for about 18 years. I was recruited since I have an interest and passion in technology, am a tenured faculty member, and am by nature socially gregarious. Distance education represents a significant change in learning and access and enticing faculty (and administrators) to commit to this transformation represents the challenge.
NNBW: What do you enjoy most about working in your field?
Lokken: Online learning has greatly improved access to higher education. The inherent convenience and flexibility of virtual learning has made degree completion a reality for many who historically were unable to attend college. I have always enjoyed the role I've played in creating and expanding that opportunity for others. The growth in the field, especially at the community college level, has been substantial. In Nevada, online enrollments represent anywhere from one-third to half of the enrollment at our community colleges. Nationally, more than six million students now take online classes.
NNBW: What is the most challenging part about your job?
Lokken: The challenge with many fields is thinking beyond now. In the 21st Century, higher education is undergoing the most dramatic transformation it has ever had to deal with. Sustainability as well as creating an education that is adaptive and relevant to a rapidly transforming economy are the challenges we face; helping faculty and administrators to understand the transformation they are in the midst of is sometimes daunting.
NNBW: What do you foresee in the future of your profession?
Lokken: Higher education will have to deal with an unprecedented level of competition and change. Community colleges will play a critical role, especially since we are by nature and design more nimble and adaptive. Empowering our students to learn "how" to learn will be the key to their success — and ours. Virtualized learning will be the norm — never replacing traditional education models — but we need to greatly improve our ability to teach and educate in that virtualized environment.
NNBW: What advice would you give someone who wants to get into your profession?
Lokken: The field has greatly expanded and offers career opportunities in administration, instructional design, training, technical support and student services support. There are positions in the private and public sectors. There are even specific programs and degrees to support the field. In my view, this is the bright future of higher education and offers an excellent career track based on your interests.
NNBW: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you either professionally or personally?
Lokken: Any start-up program deals with a steep uphill climb — we adopted the mantra of "never give up, never surrender!" to remind ourselves of the value of persistence. You have to believe in what you're doing and commit yourself to success.
NNBW: Has there been someone who was especially influential in helping you establish your career or in reaching your higher goals? If so, who and how?
Lokken: Dr. Paul Davis. He has been my teaching colleague at TMCC since I arrived in 1991 but he has also been a mentor. He always has encouraged me to take a chance and to try new things.
NNBW: How do you manage your time between the responsibilities of your profession and your personal life?
Lokken: I'm a multi-tasker by nature; the more I commit to, the more focused and organized I become. I've had several administrators remind me of the importance of family, and I've taken that advice to heart. Life after all is about balance. I make sure that my role as a husband and father is at least as important as my career.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in Northern Nevada? What do you like about living/working here?
Lokken: I came from Wisconsin, so admittedly, it took some adjustment to a very different Western lifestyle. I love Nevada and deeply respect the many talented people that work hard every day to govern us, seek to improve and diversify our economy, and nurture our amazing quality of life. We have our share of challenges but also have the leadership prepared to move us forward.