Q&A: Updated competencies for a changing world


The AACC Competencies for Community College Leaders have been used widely in leadership programs for the community college sector. The competencies are aimed at guiding the development of emerging leaders and to assisting colleges with the selection of employees dedicated to the community college mission, vision and values.

The fourth edition of the competencies will be released soon. We talked with Angel Royal, senior vice president of strategic initiatives and partnerships at the American Association of Community Colleges, who wrote the latest edition, about the updates. (Editor’s note: This excerpt comes from the new issue of AACC’s Community College Journal.)

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Why is it important to review and update the competencies every few years?

Dr. Angel Royal

Spencer Johnson’s book “Who Moved My Cheese” accurately sums up the need to routinely review and update the competencies. The world is constantly changing meaning that the cheese is constantly moving. The competencies are revised to ensure that individuals serving the nation’s community college students have the skills and insights necessary to find the cheese. Were we not to update the competencies, leaders would be stagnant unable to address the changes that we are experiencing as a sector within our institutions and in the broader community. Their skills would not improve, thus leaving them ill-prepared to address emerging trends and issues impacting community colleges.

What was your process for updating the competencies? Did you talk to current leaders in the sector?

I am most proud of the process that I undertook to update the fourth edition of the competencies. I issued a broad call to the field through our communication channels to hear from individuals interested in contributing to the conversation, which resulted in 17 virtual meetings over about six weeks. The individuals that participated in the leadership dialogues represented different age groups (Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial), ethnicities (Black, Latina/o/x, Asian Pacific Islander, and Native American), positions within the college (faculty, entry-level, managers, senior leaders, new CEOs, seasoned CEOs) and sexual orientation (LGBTQ+).

More than 100 individuals participated in an open and honest discussion regarding what the 2018 issue of the leadership competencies missed if we evaluate it in today’s climate, what competencies need to be combined, consolidated, or removed. They brought to my attention very real and current issues impacting the community college leader at all levels of the organization, which greatly assisted me in creating the new document.

Can you talk about a few of the updates in the latest edition?

There are a couple of new features to the fourth edition of the AACC Competencies for Community College Leaders. First, I thought it was really important to write a preamble that is honest about the factors that impacted the development of the new document, most notably the Covid-19 pandemic and the social unrest resulting from the murder of George Floyd and Asian and Asian-American hate. These events spotlighted the need to place cultural competence and equity-mindedness squarely in the center of the guide. The preamble also provides a list of characteristics of effective leaders.

Second, I classified positions under the titles of faculty, entry-level, manager, executive and CEO. We identify the job titles that fall under each classification, so it is easier for individuals to identify where their job or the position that they aspire to falls in the document.

And last, in hearing from our leaders across the sector, I added the progression to certain positions. In the faculty section of the document, you see a progression to department chair. Under the executive section, the progression to aspiring CEO was added, and the chief executive officer category includes both new and veteran CEOs.

Read the full Q&A with AACC’s Dr. Angel Royal in the August/September issue of Community College Journal.

About the Author

Tabitha Whissemore
Tabitha Whissemore is a contributor to Community College Daily and managing editor of AACC's Community College Journal.