By Mark Ladao | Staff Writer
John Morton, University of Hawaiʻi’s Vice President for Community Colleges, recommended Louise Pagotto to University President David Lassner to be appointed the next chancellor for Kapiʻolani Community College on Monday, the school announced late Tuesday night. She will begin serving as permanent chancellor on June 8, 2018.
Pagotto has worked at KCC since 1989 and has been interim chancellor since 2016, which she was appointed to after the unexpected departure of former chancellor Leon Richards. Pagotto was one of three final candidates for the position and was the only one to have worked at KCC or Hawaiʻi previously.
One of Pagotto’s main tasks will be to earn the trust of faculty. On April 11, a few days after all three finalists spoke in question-and-answer forums on campus, Pagotto said in a one-on-one interview that she wants to find out the problems that exist on campus through focus groups, which would consist of faculty, students and staff. One of the problems she hopes to learn more about are the fears of retaliation faculty members who are working toward tenure have when speaking out.
“This fear to me is one of the saddest things ever, just because it takes five years for a faculty [member] to be tenured,” she said. “Because that means for five years, somebody’s being quiet, somebody’s not sharing their thoughts, somebody’s not sharing their insights, somebody’s afraid to contribute to the institution, to their department, to their discipline. … That’s a long time to be quiet, and I think that’s very sad.”
Pagotto said such fears are not unique to KCC but that an atmosphere of distrust made faculty more vocal about it. She said that it will take time to earn the faculty’s trust again and that it will require major change, which she wants to help facilitate as permanent chancellor.
Regarding her time as interim chancellor, Pagotto said making major changes was not her primary task.
“It was never said, ‘Don’t make big changes,’” she said in the interview. “But it was said that I needed to make sure to settle down the campus, help the campus move through that transition period because the departure of the previous chancellor was unexpected and unanticipated.”
Pagotto said that major changes likely will not happen until next year, as KCC will look for re-accreditation in October 2019.
“You don’t want to be in the middle of a huge change when they come and ask you about the institution,” she said.
Pagotto is aware that, while her tenure at KCC has given her much insight regarding the campus and its issues, some people think new blood would have been necessary if there is to be any progress.
“I think that, at this point in the institution’s evolution, I want to see it just explode with new vigor. I want to blow some things up, make some real change,” she said. “I’m pretty convinced I can do that for the school.”