|September 5, 2013
Robert DePoe III begins his leadership as SKC President
By Lailani Upham
SKC President Robert DePoe III stops to visit and gets a brief overview on the SKC Computer Engineering program and NASA-funded internship on research and design of imagery satellites from SKC students Ryan Young and Robert Sanchez during DePoe’s morning walk across campus. Since his arrival DePoe has going to each Department meeting folks and soaking in the knowledge. (Lailani Upham photo)
PABLO — He has been described as a younger Joe.
Salish Kootenai College has a new face as president this year. Meet Mr. Robert DePoe III.
Since his August 19 start date, word has been circling the campus that his demeanor and leadership style is similar to the founding and long-time President, Joe McDonald.
As a young leader DePoe has what it takes to create an environment that is engaging, warm and successful.
DePoe says he believe “relationships” are key to leading.
The people that made the greatest impact on his life as a leader were his parents, Becky and Robert Depoe Jr., he said.
“They taught me the importance of serving and not just for monetary, but for the ability to it for others.”
DePoe remembers McDonald being a positive influence on him as a young man to carry on in higher education. He said he always knew that McDonald’s effectiveness was remaining in the community and that people knew who he was.
In an article in Forbes magazine last September the “four things young leaders do effectively” are: Be an active listener/learner; get to know people at their personal level; blend old and new ways; and earn respect by being less authoritative.
He carries all the above.
Being an active learner - is having an open communication.
Having an open door policy and caring for people are key to sustaining hope in an organization says DePoe.
“Building hope and helping them understand their potential by finding out what they value. As you do that, you can know how to overcome obstacles and they become strengths.”
By understanding “values” of a person you begin to understand what a person is good at, says DePoe.
“We do what we value,” he said.
DePoe said when students get bogged down with things even little things it takes away the vision, and you have to ask yourself, “Why am I here?”
As a leader it is essential to help students continue to see what they value and how the benefit outweighs the cost of what they are pursuing.
Listen and gather as much information as you can is a good guide to use as a leader, he says.
“Don’t be reactive,” DePoe added.
The most important decision you can make as a leader is to be a visionary says DePoe. “Be able to a visionary. See and plan for the future – not to be idle but work toward that plan.”
DePoe feels blessed that SKC has been an organization that kept the vision and continues to grow. However, in growth an institution’s vision can dampen the inspiration through a number of situations. DePoe says “growth” is not a measure of success, but what is “Done well” and analyzing that concept is central.
Another factor of leadership is encouraging creative thinking. In any organization trust must be built first says DePoe. “People can not be creative if they feel unstable,” he said. Creating stability helps creativeness to flow. When an environment is unstable, an individual or a team is mainly focused on survival, DePoe explained.
When asked what characteristic every leader should possess, DePoe said, Integrity. “Say what you say you’re going to do.”
It’s not always easy practicing every characteristic of leadership for DePoe or any leader, but DePoe knows where he finds his answers. “I’ve been put in situations, but always have been guided by my Creator and lots of counsel.”
His biggest fear he admits is the “human decisions” and balancing work with family.
“The hardest decisions will be human decisions, budgets and worrying about loss of students.”
“I want students to feel protected,” DePoe said.
DePoe says he remembers while working with parents in a college prep program years ago and what stuck out in his mind is the concern of the parents for their child’s security. Although DePoe has young children he knows that worry never fades as a parent.
DePoe says he is grateful for the opportunity to serve with a campus full of experienced and talented people. “I am humbled by the experience that I have an opportunity to work with great people that do marvelous things. Thank you for supporting me.”
Depoe, a CKST tribal member who grew up in Ronan, holds a master’s degree in Professional Communication from Southern Utah University and a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in sociology.
He was recently employed as an Indian Self-determination specialist for the BIA in the Southern Paiute Agency, St. George, Utah. Previous jobs include working as a trainer and program manager of the Western Community Policing Institute, and as Education Director for the Paiute Indian tribe of Utah from 2003 to 2010.
DePoe was appointed to the Governor’s Minority Student Success Working Committee in Utah, was an advisory member of Utah’s State Board of education, and he served as Chair of the Coalition of Minorities Advisory Committee of the Utah State Board of Education.
He recently attended the American Indian Higher Education Consortium’s 40th anniversary conference in Sante Fe, N.M. DePoe said it was an inspirational and vital opportunity to meet other tribal college presidents and leaders in the TCU spectrum.
DePoe said he admired those who have laid the foundation and put their life work into such a great institution (SKC): the boards, committees, those who have financially contributed to the college to be successful. He also praised that the past and present faculty, staff and students have made SKC a success.