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Alumnus Mark Browning Named President of Blue Mountain Community College

July 26, 2021

Note: A full version of this story was originally written by Erin Banks Rusby and published in the Idaho Press. To read more, visit their website. 

Mark Browning’s journey through higher education began at Idaho State University when he was nearly 40 years old. This fall, it will culminate in a new career- president of Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon. 

Browning, currently a vice president at College of Western Idaho, began college at 39, earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communications at Idaho State University and a master’s degree in public administration from University of Idaho. He will graduate with a doctoral degree from Idaho State in the fall. His journey to a doctoral degree has spanned nearly 20 years, a fact that helps him be more relatable to the students he works with. 

“I can say, look, I know what it’s like to go to school with three kids and a full-time job,” Browning said.

Browning hails from western Montana, where his parents farmed and managed a lumber yard, and later managed a farm and grain mill in Rigby, Idaho.

“I had an amazing childhood,” Browning said. “I worked so hard, I didn’t know I was working. I was just having fun.”

Browning continued to work in the family business into his early 20s before beginning a career in media. While still working for the family business, he spun records as a disc jockey for a radio station in Rexburg before landing a job at a television station in Pocatello creating and delivering the weekend weather reports. Thanks to “two tremendous mentors,” Browning learned the many tasks of the news business, from speaking on camera, to shooting and editing video.

Beyond the technical skills, Browning discovered the power of storytelling.

“What I really learned was the connection between community and story,” he said. “Everyone has a story.”

After graduating from Idaho State, he was hired as the news director for the CBS News affiliate, KBOI-2, in Boise. He later took a job as the chief communications officer for the Idaho State Board of Education, and then as the vice president of communications and government relations at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, where he worked for four years before being recruited to work at the College of Western Idaho in 2016. 

While at CWI, Browning spent a lot of time sharing the stories of students. It is a big decision when a person decides to become a student, Browning said, and it shows they believe the messaging from the college that an education there will provide better opportunities for themselves and their families, despite the challenges they might face in the process.

“School is not easy, and it shouldn’t be,” Browning said. “Anything of real value and significance should not be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible.”

Not all challenges students face are academic, Browning said. He has worked to share the stories of students facing hardship, including those who have trouble affording housing, health care, and enough food to eat, he said. In one instance, he talked with a student who was registered for classes and had a scholarship, but was considering not attending school because they could not find affordable housing.

“There’s a real debate within education right now about just how much do we function as an entity of instruction versus an entity of support,” Browning said. “The reality is that the sweet spot is somewhere right in the middle.”

People have been willing to share their stories, and Browning says he is looking forward to continuing hearing them in his new role as president of Blue Mountain Community College.

“We do everything with an eye for the betterment of all,” he said. “I just love it. I’m so excited for the future at Blue Mountain.”