Making the adjustment
to a new environment
within a new institution
Personally, remember that there is an
adjustment period for your significant
other or family. Since, as a president,
you will be consumed with meeting
people and addressing issues, know that
your family will not have that same
opportunity. Think of ways to engage
them in the social aspect of your professional life, if possible.
Leaving home—and finding a new one—is never easy. The task can be especially hard for a college president hoping to make his or her mark on campus. For insights, the Journal turned to former AACC Board Chair John “Ski” Sygielski, who, after serving for three years as the president of Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore.,
last year made the 2,800-mile cross-country trek with his family to become
president of Harrisburg Area Community College in Pennsylvania.
What advice would you give to
a college president attempting
to move to a new institution?
My first advice would be to conduct
thorough research about the institu-
tion and the communities it serves. Be-
fore and during the interview process:
• Contact key formal and informal
leaders within the community (be-
fore you complete your application)
to learn more about the value of the
institution within the community
and the key challenges the institu-
tion is facing over the next three to
• Attempt to understand the internal
culture and related issues before your
• Determine if there is a fit between
your skill set and experiences and
what the institution needs in its next
• Attempt to better understand the
internal culture of the institutions
before your first interview.
• Remember, the interview is a two-
way process—ask ques-
tions, even if it annoys
the consultants, but not
the search committee,
for this is one of the most
decisions you will ever
When changing institutions,
is there an adjustment period
that presidents have to go
Yes, professionally, after assuming the
role as president, one must dedicate
him- or herself to understanding and
observing internal and external individuals and associated cultures.
how difficult is it
to make changes or
assimilate to a new
culture as the leader
of an institution?
It is all about mindset. If
you are passionate and
excited about your new
institution and committed
to its students’ successes, it
might not be too difficult.
Be patient and gentle with
yourself and those who are learning to
better understand you and your ways.
Above all, remember you (and yours)
need to be invited into the communities you serve. Avoid forcing yourself
into these communities.
What is that process?
Some parts of the formula I’ve used
• Question the fit between you and
the institution and communities it