Marianne Virgili: Experience leading chamber will translate to CMC
Colorado Mountain College board candidate District 2
- Occupation: retired as president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association
- Hometown: born in Cleveland, Ohio; now reside in Carbondale
- Years in Colorado: 38 years
- Family: husband, John; two grown children; and three grandchildren
- Civic Involvement: CMC four-year degree lobbyist; 7D for CMC campaign chair; Colorado commissions appointee for film, arts and education; CMC Foundation Board of Directors member; Valley View Hospital and Valley View Hospital Foundation Board of Directors member; Clean Energy Economy for the Region founding member; U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Institute of Organization Management Board of Trustees national chair; and CMC committee volunteer, including 50th Anniversary Celebration.
When I was a kid, my dad said, “If you continue to get straight A’s, we’re going to have to send you to college.” You can bet I wanted to go! My immigrant mother went to work to help pay tuition, and I became the first of my large Italian/American family to earn a degree. It was a gift that I can only repay by giving it to someone else.
I have been preparing for this role for 30 years. As the CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce for three decades, I know about small-town challenges and opportunities. I’ve learned how to engage diverse personalities and community groups. During my tenure at the chamber, we earned several national awards for excellence, not only for our organization but for the community. I didn’t accomplish this alone. I did it due to the vision and oversight of the best leaders in town, who served on my board of directors. These are the people who taught me how to lead.
Teaching and board governance are very different things. I taught nonprofit management for many years, but it was when I served on the U.S. Chamber Institute’s Board of Regents and eventually as chair of the national board that I became adept at governance. I understand how to take a 360-degree view, budgeting and fiduciary responsibilities, studying new educational trends and marketing techniques to attract students, identifying resources, appreciation of faculty and staff, listening to your constituents, navigating the political landscape and above all: accountability, transparency and stewardship.
I have been passionate about Colorado Mountain College for my entire career. Now that I am retired, I have the time to devote to the institution that is so important to every community it serves. I hope you vote for me so that I can contribute my leadership skills to you and to CMC.
Priority No. 1: Affordable education
This is where I put my money where my mouth is. I worked hard on two initiatives that eventually resulted in the passage of 7D for CMC in 2018. Effectively, that measure will keep tuition affordable because it allows the college to retain revenue that would have otherwise been lost due to the Gallagher Amendment. I am proud that the voters agreed overwhelmingly (by 71%).
I also serve on the CMC Foundation Board. We are committed to raising additional money for scholarships and facilities. We want to ensure than everyone who wants an education gets one. As a Foundation Board member, I support the income-share agreement loan program for immigrants who do not qualify for traditional loans. It enables these students to pay a fixed percentage of their income after graduation in exchange for up-front tuition.
It was the extraordinary vision of CMC’s founders that students should be able to study, live and work in their own mountain communities. It is my goal that the mill levy, stabilized by 7D, combined with $3 million to $4 million in philanthropy raised each year by the foundation, keep CMC the most affordable bachelor degree in Colorado.
Priority No. 2: Job preparation
Education equals jobs. Like everything else, education is becoming more competitive, and the return on investment is being examined by parents and students. Because of its affordability and wide range of technical and career courses, CMC should continue to shine in this area. But our work isn’t done yet.
I support education for vital positions in our communities: teachers, nurses, emergency responders, law enforcement, etc., and I think that we should expand high-demand classes (e.g., nursing) where the number of applicants far exceeds the space available.
I believe it’s the Board of Trustees’ role to be aware of emerging trends because we can’t even imagine the jobs the future holds. Health information technology, data analysis, digital transformation and clean energy economy positions come to mind. Above all, degrees and courses should reflect the needs and desires of the residents and businesses in our diverse communities. These are the people who pay the taxes to support the college. Researching their needs is critical.
Priority No. 3: Lifelong learning
The beauty of CMC is that elective courses reflect the distinct character and personality of each campus. At its heart, CMC is a community college, and these types of courses make it possible for every member of the community, very young to very old, to take advantage of continuing education. There is no age limit on learning, and we should continue to expand these offerings.
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