SMC President Odenwald Garners Top Grades for First Year at the Helm

Performance review time can be a stressful time for even the best in the business, but for Southwestern Michigan College President Dr. Joe Odenwald it was certainly a rewarding one.

Odenwald underwent his first performance review as President of the institution at Wednesday’s first regular meeting of 2021 on the Dowagiac Campus of the school and the results were very positive.

Each trustee anonymously and individually completed an extensive questionnaire with multiple quantitative measures in six different categories including:

  • Operations
  • Leadership skills
  • Communications
  • Board relations
  • Internal relations
  • External relations

Responses were tabulated, combined and shared in closed session with Dr. Odenwald, who assumed his role as SMC’s eighth president at the beginning of 2020.

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Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon says, “If this was an academic grade, it would be an A+,” adding, “During this unprecedented time in the college’s history, Dr. Joe has managed the institution with tremendous financial responsibility, stewarding the taxpayers’ resources with utmost care. He has committed to communicating transparently with the board, faculty, staff and community stakeholders, and he is creating new ways to grow the college in the future. He is certainly an entrepreneurial leader and one that will be transformative for the institution.”

During the public input portion of the agenda, Professor Dr. Jeffrey Dennis affirmed his appreciation for Odenwald’s approach, saying, “This past year has been so challenging for the whole college. I don’t know how anyone could have managed the situation more effectively or appropriately than did Dr. Odenwald.”

Professor Dennis went on to say, “He showed himself throughout this year to be a person of genuine integrity and transparency, a person who really works hard and does his research. He’s incredibly capable and, very important to a lot of us, a person who’s marked by compassion and kindness. I thank the board with all my heart for his appointment and I hope he will remain with us for many years to come.”

In his President’s report, Odenwald summarized steps taken by his administration to guide SMC through pandemic financial challenges while avoiding employee furloughs or layoffs, such as not filling over a dozen open faculty and staff positions due to retirements or other attrition, implementing travel restrictions and general belt-tightening throughout the organization.

At the same time, SMC invested in more faculty training to deliver online classes and new technology systems to make the college better able to serve students both in-person and remotely in the future.

Odenwald says, “I think we made the right call to put more online,” and adds, “We’re going to have 68 classes fully online and about that many hybrids. Preliminary reports Tuesday were that online versus traditional student success rates are within a point or two, which is encouraging.”

In other business, the board re-elected Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon, Vice Chairman Keith H. McKenzie and Treasurer Becky Moore. William M. White stepped down as Secretary and will be succeeded in that office by Trustee Beth J. Cripe. The board also includes Trustees Dr. Elaine Foster and Tracy D. Hertsel.