Barnhouse will assume his new role on Jan. 5. He succeeds Kaylen Betzig, who retires at the end of December.
Barnhouse is currently the vice president of student services and enrollment management at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.
“The WCTC District Board recognized, in this state of constant change, it was very important to search for a leader who brought with them multiple experiences and an eclectic background, and that’s something Rich possesses,” said board chair David Lancaster. “We are very pleased and highly confident in his ability to provide dynamic leadership to WCTC, collaborate with the business community, meet the needs of students and move the college forward.”
Barnhouse has been in his role at State College of Florida since 2016. Previously, he was associate vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management at the University of Wisconsin Colleges from 2011 to 2016, dean of students at Moraine Park Technical College from 2007 to 2011, and assistant campus dean for administrative services at UW-Sheboygan from 2004 to 2007.
Barnhouse has a Ph.D. in leadership, learning and service from Cardinal Stritch University, a master’s degree in sport administration from Central Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Brock University in Ontario.
Having worked in two- and four-year college settings, Barnhouse said his real passion is technical education.
“I’ve spent the last 16 or 17 years in this part of the academy, which I find to be the most notable and rewarding. We start by changing individuals and changing families, and then we can change communities. I feel like WCTC is where I can have an impact within the two-year college experience,” he said.
Barnhouse said he’s committed to meeting with leaders from K-12 school districts and industry, and to get a firsthand look at what’s happening inside local companies.
“I think the board thought I was joking in my interview when I said I’d carry a pair of steel-toe boots in my trunk so that I can get on the plant floor – and find out what the needs are, what we can do better and what’s coming up next – but I was serious about that,” he said. “You’ve got to get under the machine, with the folks who are running the machine, to figure out how to make it better.”
WCTC announced in September it had narrowed its presidential search down to two candidates – Barnhouse and Laurie Borowicz, president of Kishwaukee College – from a pool of 60 candidates.
Betzig, who has led WCTC since 2014, announced in January she plans to retire at year’s end.
Higher education search firm Don Stevens + Associates coordinated WCTC’s presidential search. Board members held video conferences in lieu of face-to-face interviews amid the COVID-19 pandemic.