Tiefenthaler takes the helm at Colorado College

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Jill Tiefenthaler recently began her new job as Colorado College’s 13th president.

Tiefenthaler was most recently a provost and professor of economics at Wake Forest University.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Ind., in 1987; her master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Duke University in 1989 and 1991, respectively. Prior to joining Wake Forest, she taught economics at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. While there she chaired the economics department from 2000-2003 and served as associate dean of the faculty from 2003-2006.

She took some time recently to talk to the CSBJ about her new job and move to Colorado Springs.

How did you become involved in education?

About 30 years ago, I left the Iowa farm community where I grew up to attend a small liberal arts college. My college experience changed my life. I heard my first symphony, was captivated by contemporary art, struggled to improve my fluency in Spanish, read great books, enjoyed calculus, and fell in love with my discipline, economics. Most of all, I admired my professors. They were brilliant and shared their knowledge generously. They were my mentors — both caring and challenging. I decided that I wanted to be just like them. So I decided to forge a life that would allow me to spend the rest of my life in college. I went on to Duke University to pursue a PhD in economics and four years later left Duke for my first faculty position. I have been working in higher education — as a teacher, researcher, and administrator — ever since.

What’s your guiding philosophy regarding your new job?

Success in higher education is first and foremost about the people. Attracting, developing and retaining the very best faculty and staff is critical to our mission of providing an excellent liberal arts education. In addition, building a bright, talented and diverse student body greatly enriches the educational environment. By bringing together students from varied places and backgrounds, who come to CC with different interests, experiences and ambitions, we create a vibrant intellectual community where students are challenged both inside and outside the classroom.

How might your economics background factor into your role in Colorado Springs.

In addition to becoming very interested in the economics of higher education since I became an academic administrator (I will be teaching a course on the subject this winter), I continue to be engaged in my former areas of research on labor economics, family policy, and community development. In the past, I have been active in community-based research including projects to improve food stamp participation and increase Earned Income Tax Credit filings. I have also served on several non-profit boards where my background in finance, assessment, and strategic planning has been valued. I look forward to finding ways for my economics training and interests to be helpful in the Colorado Springs community.

How do you believe Colorado College and the city’s business community can best serve each other?

The futures of Colorado College and the Colorado Spring’s business community are closely linked. The college benefits from a strong business climate in many ways. For example, a growing downtown offers more social, cultural, and employment opportunities for our students. A healthy economy also results in less crime and investments in infrastructure that benefit CC. A strong local economy is also a real plus when recruiting talented faculty and staff.

Colorado College also makes important contributions to the Colorado Springs business climate including bringing thousands of visitors to our community each year, attracting talent to the region, and providing enriching cultural opportunities.

In these challenging economic times, it is imperative that we recognize our interdependence and find new ways to collaborate. Colorado College has bright students and talented faculty and staff who are an intellectual resource for the region. The Colorado Springs community has much to offer our students in terms of opportunities and mentorship. I look forward to building new partnerships that are mutually beneficial.

What’s your initial impression of Colorado Springs?

Colorado Springs is a beautiful and vibrant place. I am thrilled that Colorado College is located in the heart of the city. My family (my husband, Kevin Rask, and children, Olivia, 12, and Owen,10) and I are enjoying walking downtown, trying out new restaurants and shops, biking on the Monument Valley Park Trail and taking advantage of the many cultural opportunities that the city offers. We all feel very lucky to be a part of this community. nCSBJ