Get to know the new NIC President: Swayne brings with him a military background and a wealth of leadership experience

North Idaho College President Nick Swayne shared valuable advice he received from a mentor and friend who was his military superior when they served together in the US military.

“People don’t get up in the morning trying to ruin your day,” Swayne said last week as he sat in his office on the NIC campus. “When something happens and they ruin your day, it’s not personal. Think about it from their perspective.”

He gave the example of someone’s child destroying the family car.

“They feel as bad or worse than you do,” he said. “Yelling at them and scolding them for wrecking the car doesn’t help the situation. It doesn’t fix the car.”

Swayne said he was not prone to scream when life took a turn for the worse.

“I don’t get mad that way. But just thinking about it, when life is bad, something happens, they weren’t trying to ruin your day. It’s true 99% of the time,” said he said with a small laugh. . “But every once in a while you have someone saying to you, ‘How can we play with you today? “”

Swayne spent 26 years in the military and retired as a lieutenant colonel. During his enlistment, he was stationed or deployed in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, serving during Desert Storm on his first deployment to Bosnia.

Leadership was, and continues to be, the cornerstone of his work. In addition to his military postings, he attended several development schools where he learned how to prepare for the next level.

“In the military you learn how to lead people. Those are leadership skills,” Swayne said. become head of department or dean – but you learn by doing it in this job; you don’t have the opportunity to be taken out of that job for about six months and go through a leadership development program to prepare you for the next level. I think that’s a difference I bring.

Listening is also a key part of leadership, he said.

“You can’t see much for yourself,” Swayne said. “You have all these other people who are your eyes and ears. If you develop a sense of trust, and they trust you, then they give you feedback. You learn a lot through directional leadership, but you also learn , at the end of the day, you have to make a decision.”

Swayne arrived at the NIC on August 1. He is the third president in less than a year and joins the administrative team after a tumultuous time for the college.

He said he had no qualms about coming to NIC.

“I paid attention. I did my homework. I knew what I was getting into,” he said. “The school needs good leadership. I thought I could provide that.

Swayne, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho, is dedicated to uplifting and promoting higher education in northern Idaho, because that’s where he grew up.

“I am committed to education,” he said. “I think for a lot of people – not everyone, but for a lot of people – it’s an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and do something for themselves. It’s essential that we provide that opportunity to our children. I had this opportunity when I was a I think it takes dedicated people who will – despite the long odds – provide these kinds of opportunities for future generations.

Swayne spent 14 years on the Harrisonburg City School Board in Virginia, where he served as chairman of the board for many of those years.

“Public councils are made up of public citizens,” he said. “There are usually no qualifications, no expertise required and people have different understandings of the role of a board and different expectations. That’s usually where the conflicts arise.”

He has worked with many types of people and personalities during his tenure at the school board.

“We didn’t always agree, but we communicated and you could understand where each part was coming from,” he said. “Once the vote was done, once the majority was in, everyone rallied and moved forward. Sometimes it took more coordination and discussion, sometimes less, but either way, that’s how it is. that you manage things, through these kinds of debates.”

Swayne said the political climate in Virginia isn’t too different from northern Idaho. Cities tend to be more liberal or “blue” and rural areas tend to be more conservative or “red”.

“It’s no different than what we see here,” he said. “I think COVID has really caused a lot of polarization. And I don’t know if it was just COVID; there were a lot of other things going on that were causing a very strong polarization in the country.

“I can’t say I like it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good for the country, but that’s what we saw there.”

Looking ahead, declining enrollment is an issue facing NIC and community colleges across the country.

“NIC has had the same rate of decline – according to reports I’ve read – as a lot of schools, with a few exceptions,” Swayne said.

Factors that create a competitive environment for community colleges include: fewer people entering college as soon as they finish high school; women who have left the labor market to take care of their children; and entry-level jobs now offering high salaries.

“We’re in a really weird place in America,” Swayne said. “If you’re making $38 an hour with no training at Caterpillar or $18 an hour at McDonald’s, while living in your parents’ basement, now’s a good time to be employed. Over time, I think that will change.”

He said the high cost of childcare would make it difficult for women to return to work.

“Someone has to understand that,” he said. the opportunity to learn a trade or go to university. We are going to see some resurgence. This is my assumption. It’s hard to get data on that because we’re living there right now.”

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