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Paying it forward

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Lawrence Rouse
​Lawrence Rouse

​In 2003, Lawrence Rouse was dean of student services at Johnston Community College in North Carolina. He was thinking about reaching the next level in his career—the presidency—and wanted to enhance his skills and knowledge.

Rouse applied for the American Association of Community Colleges' (AACC) Future Leaders Institute and became part of the inaugural class.

“It was a great experience,” Rouse said. “They addressed a lot of issues that future leaders would need to be effective in their positions.”

Less than two years later, Rouse became president of James Sprunt Community College (North Carolina). In his position at one of North Carolina’s 58 two-year institutions, he sees the high turnover rates for presidents and people in senior leadership positions. And turnover has the potential to change an institution.

“I know that we have a leadership gap, and we’re needing additional leaders,” Rouse said.

That’s why he now sends his staff members to FLI. One dean he sent to FLI in 2008 is now a president at a community college in South Carolina.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to identify rising leaders,” said Lynn Barnett, AACC’s vice president of academic, student and community development.

Not everyone feels that way, though. Some people may worry that sending the institution’s leaders to FLI may encourage them to leave their current position and possibly leave the college, according to Barnett and Margaret Rivera, AACC’s director of member services.

“We argue that sending staff to FLI will make them more effective in their current job, and maybe at another college in the future,” Rivera said.

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