Taking college leadership to the next level

Editor’s note: This article introduces five community college CEOs new to AACC’s board of directors. Five additional new board members will be featured in tomorrow’s CCDaily.

The newest members of the board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges value the opportunity to have a voice in the national dialogue about the future of community colleges.

William Serrata, president of El Paso Community College in Texas, reflects the view of his colleagues on the board when he says, “It was an honor for me to be nominated for the AACC board, and I was fortunate to have been selected.”

“It’s also an honor to have the opportunity to give El Paso a voice on a national level, to help establish national goals for community colleges, and to work closely with AACC President Walter Bumphus,” Serrata says. He highlights one big success this past year for community colleges in the reinstatement of the year-round Pell Grant program, calling that victory “a tribute to Dr. Bumphus and his team.”

The first board meeting and retreat earlier this month “was very structured, with lots of information shared among a wonderful, colleagial group of committed individuals,” Serrata says. “We’ve already seen the results. Having the privilege of hearing directly from U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta reflects AACC’s standing in the nation’s capital.”

Merrill Irving Jr., president of Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota, also appreciated the chance to engage with Acosta and let him know about the great workforce programs underway at community colleges.

“The first board meeting was a great opportunity to meet fellow colleagues from across the country who experience some of the same challenges,” Irving says. “It’s empowering to feel that we’re not dealing with these challenges alone.”

Irving has already been involved with AACC as a member of the Commission on Economic and Workforce Development, the Commission on Academic, Student and Community Development, and the Presidents Academy Executive Committee, so he was looking forward to continuing his service to AACC by joining the board.

Staying informed and giving back

During his eight years as president of Southern State Community College in Ohio, Kevin Boys says, “I’ve come to rely on the state association and AACC as the go-to places when you need information and need help with advocacy.” Joining the AACC board is “a good way to give back and serve the nation’s community colleges.”

The first meeting was “an awesome experience,” Boys says. “All those gatherings are wonderful opportunities to meet other people from diverse institutions who are doing the same job and facing the same kind of challenges. We’re all looking for solutions together and supporting one another.”

Maria Harper-Marinick, chancellor of the Maricopa Colleges in Arizona, views AACC as “the leading entity representing and speaking on behalf of community colleges at the national level.”

AACC is the primary organization aimed at advancing the community college agenda to serve students in a better way and to establish strong relationships with the federal government, Harper-Marinick says. “If I want to influence our work moving forward, that is the place to be.”

The board retreat offered a good combination of learning and active engagement, she says. “There was an openness for people to speak up and share ideas. There was a strong sense of collegiality, and there’s an expectation that board members will be active and engaged.”

Ronald Rhames, president of Midlands Technical College in South Carolina, ran for the AACC board because he shares the beliefs espoused in the mission of AACC. “That is, I have a strong commitment to student success through quality programs, accessible higher education, relevant and timely training and workforce and community development,” he says. “In my opinion that is what community colleges do best.”

His colleagues on the AACC board are “caring professionals who are committed to the mission of community colleges and are strong advocates for students,” Rhames says. “I consider it a great honor to learn from and serve with these leaders of some of the finest community colleges in the world.”

About the Author

Ellie Ashford
is associate editor of Community College Daily.