Leading an institution with two campuses separated by more than 100 miles and a mountain pass can be a challenge, especially when the communities served are distinctly and uniquely focused.
In Las Animas County, Colorado, our original Trinidad Campus of Trinidad State Junior College has served a traditional student population with residence halls and athletic teams for decades. This campus was actually the site of the first two-year college in Colorado, established in 1925, so a deep sense of history exists.
In Alamosa County, the Valley Campus is a commuter campus with a largely non-traditional student population seeking new workforce skills on a part-time basis. With roots as a separate vocational education center, this location became part of the college 25 years ago.
Unification of these two disparate campuses into a cohesive college has been a difficult task over the years.
This excerpt comes from the current edition of AACC’s Community College Journal, which focuses on sports at community colleges. Read the issue online.
Trojan athletics has been an important element in the Trinidad State tapestry. The college was one of the earliest members of the National Junior College Athletic Association, joining in 1938. At the time, we offered track and field opportunities to our students, becoming the first non-California participant to host a national competition.
Over the years, our focus shifted and at some point, we closed the track and field program. For us, the addition of cross country teams to our Valley Campus location seemed like a way to unify our two unique campuses, while honoring our traditions.
This strategy would be inexpensive to implement due to the limited equipment necessary to begin and — at more than 8,000 feet in elevation — the training environment was ideal. Despite the objections of a few local booster club members in Trinidad, we hired a coach and began recruiting.
The first season brought tremendous success. Valley Campus faculty and staff embraced the inaugural student-athletes, many of whom came from outside the San Luis Valley. The student body quickly became younger and more diverse, with participants joining us from as far away as England, Ireland, Kenya and Zambia.
The Trojan mascot, which was once disdained, became revered in Alamosa. Students at both campuses voted on a name for the Trojan, with Titus winning by a wide margin. Titus the Trojan has made appearances at college and community events for the past several years now on both sides of the hill.
More than just sports
Intercollegiate athletics can often bring a sense of pride and excitement to the campuses that choose to participate in sanctioned activities. Students become more connected to one another and to the institution when they are given the opportunity to cheer together for teams representing the college.
In addition, positive relationships build quickly between members of the student body, in general, and the student-athletes who represent them in competition. Shared classroom experiences build a sense of belonging for many individuals. In addition, support outside the classroom builds camaraderie across diverse groups of students.