Where are they now? Dr. Stacy Klippenstein
Interviewee: Stacy Klippenstein
Interviewer: Kyle Hansen
Dr. Stacy Klippenstein is the current President at Miles Community College in Miles City, Montana. Stacy received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Montana College in 1990 and 1994 and was also involved in club baseball on campus. He has travelled to many different states during his tenure as an educator. Stacy most recently served as Vice Chancellor for student affairs at Montana State University Billings before taking the presidency position at Miles. Stacy is married to his wife Carrie and has two sons, Steven and Ty.
KH: Where are you now in your professional career and what has been the path that has taken you there?
SK: I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degree in education at Eastern Montana College (now MSUB). Back in ’94-’96 I went and worked at Texas Tech University. After that I worked at Northern Arizona University, and then Central Washington University, and then came back to MSU-Billings as the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment back in 2006. Then I came to Miles Community College in January of 2014.
KH: What drew you to the education field in college?
SK: I pretty much knew back in 3rd grade that I wanted to be a teacher. So even when I was in high school I was a TA for the history teacher. My senior year I went after scholarships for teachers and I had some friends who graduated high school before me who went to Eastern Montana College. They absolutely loved and I knew it was a great education school, and it was far away from home. I grew up in Hamilton, Montana, and with my friends already there that made perfect sense for me to go to Eastern and get my education degree in history. I got it in history and political science with a little coaching certificate that they had way back when. But I knew very early on, when I was in 3rd grade, that I wanted to be a high school teacher and coach.
KH: What drove you to become a president of a community college like Miles?
SK: I knew that once I received my doctorate degree from Nova Southeastern University and my time spent on the leadership team at MSU-Billings, and also working with the City College, I really started to kind of get a little bit enamored with the two-year philosophy of open enrollment. Really trying to work and deal with many types of students and help them be successful. So, I knew with what I was involved in at MSU-Billings with the City College and that two-year movement, when the Miles Community College position opened up, a presidency was something that started that I back in 2012 really started to take a look at what it would be like to move up into a leadership position and then that two-year kind of system opened up and in my eyes in regards to where I’d like to work and when Miles Community College position opened up it seemed like a great natural fit. I knew a lot about it, I knew the former president. It was still close to Billings. It was in Montana still which at that time was very important. It really was a perfect situation for me.
KH: Aside from Miles being a two-year school and MSUB being a four-year school, what are the similarities and differences that you notice between the two schools?
SK: The general open access to Miles Community College. Even though I had to work a lot with the City College, which actually has more enrollments than Miles Community College, and any college is still generally an open access-type institution. I would say, one would be open access side of things. Two would be that gen ed transfer. We have a lot of students here that are getting their two-year degrees and moving on to four years, so being on that early stage of helping them be successful and that transition. I would say that the other thing to is the size. I’ve worked at large institutions like Texas Tech University and Northern Arizona University. Medium sized like Central Washington. Generally, in some ways, Billings is not a large institution. But it is definitely a difference than Miles Community College in size. I’d say that the community and the community support, you know, we’re it in Miles City. Billings has a lot of Bozeman folks, U of M, it has Rocky Mountain College, now it has Yellowstone Christian College. It has a lot of things going on in a town. In Miles City, Miles Community College is very much a big entity here. There are a lot of people who live in Miles City who actually went to school here and graduated from here and who went on to get four year degrees and then come back and work in the finance or the agriculture field. It’s kind of a neat community in that regards is that MCC is kind of it. And I have enjoyed that.
KH: When it comes to Miles Community College, what did you learn as Vice Chancellor at MSUB that you took with you to be president at Miles?
SK: Enrollment, and enrollment advantage, teaching enrollment planning, retention and recruitment. Those are all big things that I’ve worked a lot with over at MSU-Billings. Also budget, budget management. Working with the state system. Being up at the legislature a couple of times when Ron Sexton was the chancellor. I’ve seen that side of the operation. Working more closely with the deans and some academic items. Strategic planning for our whole university, our whole college. That was big, it really helped me out. I worked a lot with alumni relations and understand the importance of alumni. I was on the foundation board for six years and, from Marilynn Miller, I learned a lot from her in regards to how to look at fundraising and its benefit to a college. I would also have to say my mentorship with both Ron Sexton and Rolf Groseth. Both being chancellors who helped guide me and gave me good feedback and helped me prepare for this was a big factor as well. So there was a lot of things I had to do as a Vice Chancellor that helped prepare me for this role.
KH: Have you enjoyed your career in education?
SK: Absolutely. I would never go back. There’s still that itch to go teach in a classroom at the K-12 level. You know, a high school history class or political science class or get back into coaching. Those things drive me at times as well. But really education was where it was at for me. When I got involved as a student leader at Eastern, I had the opportunity to be the Petro Hall director. It just sucked me in and I love education and this environment my whole life.
KH: Could you describe to me your coaching career?
SK: Way back when at Eastern I had to do some internships and I actually helped coach track for a season at West High. Then I got involved in baseball. I was a player-coach for Eastern Montana College baseball club team. I got heavily involved with the Billings Scarlets. I started coaching legion baseball back in ’88-’93 or something like that. When I was in Texas I helped coach travelling All-Star teams. When I got to Ellensburg, Washington at Central I actually coached with the high school program. Ellensburg High School baseball. When I came back to Billings I was able to coach some All-Star teams in Little League and Senior League with my boys. I would go down and help with the Scarlets during their tryout portion prior to the beginning of the season. Baseball was a really big part of my life there for a while with coaching.
KH: Is baseball your favorite to coach?
SK: Absolutely. I’ve always loved baseball. I had the opportunity to go play at some other colleges way back when. Coming back to Eastern as an RA and doing the club sport and then getting involved as a coach back in ’88 or ’89, one of those two. Boy that just sucked me in as well. I loved it. I loved the baseball scene. One of these days, I always gave Rob Bishop some grief when we hired him from MCC over to MSUB, I told him one of these days I’m going to retire and he’s just going to pay me a dollar and I’ll be his pitching coach. One of these days I’ll get back into it. I enjoy helping. You see that one young kid who is struggling at the plate and you work with them a little bit in the cage and work with some mechanics and all of a sudden they’re hitting the ball well. And then that pitcher on the mound who now is able to throw strikes and that confidence it brings them and then watching that team aspect. The team coming together to play great baseball. It’s just fun and I just absolutely enjoyed it.
KH: What’s been the most rewarding part for you personally of being an educator?
SK: Basically for me, especially the last 20-something years but when I got to MSUB and here is commencement. One of the biggest things I take away is student success means a lot. Watching a student graduate, walk across that stage, and seeing some of those who I know struggled their freshman year. Maybe got in a little bit of trouble or struggled academically. To see them walk across that stage and knowing that they have actually landed a good job. And it changed their family dynamics completely. First generation student who got the first time ever in their family, here’s a college graduate walking across. Meeting their mom and dad and their mom and dad are all excited. There’s just something about that that I absolutely enjoy. Every commencement year I enjoy running commencement here in Miles. The second favorite is orientation. All the newness, the transition. I taught at MSU-Billings with the graduate program and taught student developmental theory and I tell you what there’s something about that freshman year, that first year, that first time on campus that I really absolutely enjoy. Those are some things I really enjoyed about education.