Promoting Campus Security 7 Schools at a Time
CS Higher Education Director of the Year Stan Skipworth has proven to be adept at addressing the challenges in working with separate institutions with different cultures.
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Those who have worked in the higher education environment are familiar with the delicate and often lengthy process of making changes on a college campus.
Even the most trivial policy adjustment can require hours of meetings and negotiations. Fortunately, most members of the university community understand the importance of collaboration.
But even as they praise teamwork, many campus officials admit it sometimes makes them pull their hair out. It can be difficult to implement new ideas at an institution of higher education. Now just imagine making changes across seven campuses at once.
This was the challenge facing Stan Skipworth, who is director of campus safety at the Claremont (Calif.) University Consortium, a coordinating and support organization for seven independent schools known collectively as the Claremont Colleges. Since accepting the position two years ago, Skipworth has proven adept at navigating the challenges that are inevitable when working with people from separate institutions, each with priorities, ideas and innumerable opinions.
Skipworth has achieved this not by ignoring dissenting opinions, but by seeking them out. He’s succeeded not despite bureaucracies, but because of them. That’s not to say that Skipworth loves all of the procedures and formalities that come with meeting with different department heads and organizations, but he understands they’re an essential part of improving his public safety department, and that’s always been what motivates him.
The Claremont Colleges Profile:
The undergraduate Claremont Colleges include Pomona College, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College. The consortium’s other institutions include Claremont Graduate University, Keck Graduate Institute and the Claremont University Consortium.
Each school has its own campus, students and faculty, and each also has its own mission statement.
In total, 7,700 students and 3,600 staff members are involved in the consortium.
Skipworth Sets the Tone Early, Encourages Honesty
In his short time with the Claremont University Consortium, Skipworth has impressed others with his determined efforts to improve his department and himself. Those efforts start in the form of constant self-reflection, which allows the people he works with to check their egos at the door.
“It’s all about being honest with ourselves about what we can improve,” Skipworth says. “Every chief, in my opinion, needs to be looking at their organization on a daily basis, asking questions to everyone they come in contact with. I ask a lot of open-ended questions so I can understand why someone thinks something is good or bad.”
That honesty has helped Skipworth develop professional relationships that are based on a level of mutual trust.
“Stan opens himself up for critical examination, and in turn feels confident enough to challenge other people’s paradigms,” says Ernie Didier, the supervisor of campus safety for the Consortium. “Everyone has come to respect Stan, and that’s really allowed him to bring the seven campuses under one umbrella, which was no small challenge.”
Skipworth Learns A Different Language
It’s not hard to guess where Skipworth got his ability to level with others. Before joining the consortium, Skipworth had a successful career in California politics, first as a planning commissioner and later as a city council member and mayor of Corona.
During that time, Skipworth also served as the president of the California Association of Councils of Governments, or CALCOG, where members share their experiences pushing initiatives and agreements in the state.
“That was one of the pieces of my political experience that I look back on with fondness,” Skipworth says of his time with CALCOG. “It taught me so much about constituents and stakeholders, and it helped me understand the different communities that people were serving.”
Skipworth has used the insights he gained while in office to develop the type of versatility that’s helped him manage the divergent viewpoints at Claremont.
“My colleagues tease me, they say, ‘You’re bilingual – you speak politics and a little English, too,'” Skipworth says. “Being an elected official has helped me a lot in higher education. I really learned how to work well with people holding different perspectives and find a way to match those perspectives up with everyone’s goals.”
Skipworth also credits his time as California State University Long Beach’s police chief for his adaptability.
“Stan has such a wealth of professional experience, he’s like a chameleon,” Didier says. “He can change with the circumstances if he needs to.”
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