10 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
By now, we’re all aware of the reality that community
college leadership is suffering from both a high
turnover and a shortage of qualified candidates
to fill empty positions. According to the American
Association of Community Colleges (AACC), half of
the 1,100 community college presidents in the United
States may retire during the next decade.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways for
people to prepare for presidency, including leadership preparation programs from AACC and other
industry organizations, as well as workshops and
coaching opportunities offered by higher education
institutions. These programs, which help people
confirm their interest and learn about the strategies
they need for advancement, are absolutely critical,
but figuring out a pathway can be complicated.
STREAMLINING THE PROCESS
“I’ve benefitted personally from several programs
that helped me expand my network and learn the
good, bad and ugly about what I was getting into,”
says Joseph Seabrooks, president of Cedar Valley
College in Dallas, Texas.
However, as Seabrooks points out, the process is
anything but intuitive. “Just because you work in
higher education doesn’t mean we lay out succession
plans and a career ladder for you. If you talk to 100
college presidents, you’ll hear 100 different journeys.”
Because no pathway is the same, people have to
design customized strategies. Helping aspiring lead-
ers—even if they are entry-level employees or simply
curious about a president’s role—understand their
options is not just helpful; it’s essential. That’s why
AACC decided to step in.
MAPPING OUT LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS
Last year, AACC leadership formed the Commission
on Leadership and Professional Development to
review leadership competencies and to keep the asso-
ciation apprised of leadership needs in the field.
“AACC felt that it would be beneficial to literally
map out the different options available to aspiring
leaders and provide guidance on the different path-
ways one might choose,” says Christine Sobek, pres-
ident of Waubonsee Community College in Illinois.
Sobek, who chairs the commission, says the goal is
to put together an inventory describing the various
offerings so that AACC members can determine
which program is the right fit.
“We talked about looking at offerings by func-
tions within the pipeline,” she says. “Are there key
associations offering opportunities for student
Taking the confusion out of college
An AACC leadership mapping initiative will help aspiring community college presidents figure out the best pathway.
By Ellen Ullman