Recognizing thought leaders on campus

Recently, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) was touted as a thought leader. And, while flattering, it gave me pause to reflect on thought leadership and how it plays out in the day-to-day operations of running a community college.

What is a thought leader? It is someone who can offer an informed opinion and who becomes a trusted source. Many of your colleges play a major role in the culture of your community and many of you are thought leaders. You have the ability to shape change not just at your college but also throughout your region.

Thought leaders do more than lead, they set the course for advancement, for innovation or for success in a particular area. More than that, in my opinion, thought leaders share their vision with others and show them how to create success. It’s an amazing notion and one that leaves me very humbled and very energized when it comes to looking at what’s ahead for community colleges.

This article comes from the current issue of AACC’s Community College Journal.

I believe that thought leaders are revealed because of their success. I know that you have many successes on your campus. Maybe it is a simple matter of recognizing thought leaders and capitalizing on the talent, creativity and passion that they have already shown? Exposing your thought leaders can have a positive impact on your brand. Both internally and externally, thought leaders become the go-to place for turning ideas into reality.

Tapping information

Each year, AACC produces its Fast Facts. It’s a chart of often-asked statistics that qualitatively provide an accounting, of sorts, of community colleges in the nation. The statistics themselves are quite useful. But, through the lens of thought leadership, those statistics become staggering. With 1,103 community colleges serving more than 12 million students, America’s community colleges are the largest system of higher education in the nation. Our colleges are adaptable, efficient, effective and willing to innovate and change to serve the needs of the community and its students.

So, how do we use this information to advance this uniquely American institution? How do we strategically utilize thought leadership to increase the visibility and the cache of our colleges where it counts? At AACC, it’s a matter of harnessing the ideas generated by your thought leadership and creating meaningful and substantive programs and services that advance the community college as a whole — whether it’s policies, research or legislation, the strength of our programs lies in our ability to effectively capture your needs and success and communicate for good of the whole.

On campus, I urge you to reflect upon the thought leaders that you see every day and understand how their work can help to forward the innovations and success at your college and beyond.

About the Author

Walter G. Bumphus
is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.