As more community college presidents head toward retirement, an increasing number of leaders from outside the sector are expressing interest in the CEO positions at two-year colleges.
Now they can get a little bit of help and insight from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) starting this fall. AACC is planning to hold a day-and-a-half session to expose these nontraditional leaders to the ins and outs of leading a two-year institution and to let them decide “if this is their life’s calling,” says Walter Bumphus, AACC president and CEO.
Bumphus says he’s been hearing from people from “outside of the mainstream”— those in business, military and in other areas of education, such as K–12 superintendents and vice presidents at four-year institutions.
“These are people who see the value of having done well, and now they want to do good,” Bumphus says. And they’ve chosen to “do good” at community colleges.
“No one questions the fact that community colleges are game-changers in people’s lives,” he adds.
This excerpt comes from the new issue of AACC’s awarding-winning Community College Journal.
An outside perspective
Peter Konwerski, vice provost and dean of student affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is looking to the switch from a four-year environment to a two-year college. He likes the idea of being a “champion in helping students stay on track to complete their degrees.”
“While I have a deep dedication to support student success, as I have spent my career helping diverse college students learn and thrive on campus, I am excited by the opportunity to work in a dynamic, creative environment where I can help bring about change that supports both the students and the communities we serve,” Konwerski says.
People like Konwerski can bring new perspectives and different skill sets to community colleges, Bumphus says. Those from the four-year sector may have new approaches for transfer models. Those from business can bring a financial focus on the bottom line, and leaders with military backgrounds may bring discipline.
Of course, they’ll also face challenges. Konwerski understands the challenge of “getting accustomed to a different college culture,” but he is eager to listen to students and help them achieve their goals.
“I have always been connected to the student experience…but to really understand the challenges community college students face, I would want to hear directly from students themselves—to listen to not only what they would say are their day-to-day struggles, but also to hear what their aspirations, hopes and dreams are,” he says.
People with nontraditional backgrounds also may have a difficult time getting past the search committee at a college. Walking in as a president may not be the easiest—or even wisest—first step, Bumphus cautions. Skills and experiences from outside the sector don’t necessarily translate well, especially to search committees.