AACC.NCHE.EDU JUNE/JULY 2017 | 15
“For a new president, a good way
to start is to get them involved,
especially someone who’s not
from the community.”
CAROLYN JOHNSON, board chair, Brazosport College
and helped to pave the way. “I was the first external
president they had hired,” she says, which heightened
people’s curiosity. “There were lots of opportunities,
during the finalist stage, for community and faculty
forums, which laid the base.”
Since she was new to the community, board
members opened doors within their respective
spheres of influence—they have included doctors,
attorneys, engineers and small business owners. “I
got acclimated to the community very quickly that
way,” she says. “That’s an important value: They
want good town-and-gown relationships. They also
had a provision in there for regular performance
appraisals, which I thought was wonderful.”
“They actually put money in her [budget] to go out
and be part of clubs and organizations,” Johnsons says.
“That has been fantastic for us. For a new president,
a good way to start is to get them involved, especially
someone who’s not from the community.”
DURING THE TENURE
As Holcomb grew into his position at WNCC,
he says he could rely on a couple of his senior
administrators with decades of experience to
help broaden his vision beyond simply running
the institution to representing it statewide. “That
takes more time, to understand and advocate for
your institution,” he says.
Among the changes Holcomb has instituted: the
fundraising department has added staff members,
which led to a $9.6 million campaign to support
facilities remodel and upgrade. The virtually
non-existent public relations and marketing
efforts have grown so that “people understand the
importance of our community college to western
Nebraska,” he says. “I’m proud that we started reach-
ing out to the Latino community and building a
diverse student body,” with the Hispanic population
growing from 9 percent to 23 percent.
As new board members come into the picture,
they’re sent to ACCT training opportunities to help
their onboarding process, Holcomb says.
The board holds an annual retreat, and Holcomb
has an annual evaluation that he’s found helpful.
When the board disagrees with Holcomb or with
one another, they’re very good about not making
their disagreements public, Holcomb says. “They
coordinate opportunities to find agreement and
work with one another,” he says.
Walworth says laying the groundwork for a
constructive relationship starts during the interview
process in ensuring that the new president will be
supportive of the college’s goals. Going forward, openness with one another is probably the most important
aspect of the relationship, she says. “Todd was always
very open to clarifying things—or if he didn’t have
answers, getting the administrative team to clarify it
for us,” Walworth says.
Generals and his board at Community College of
Philadelphia held a board-CEO retreat when he had
been in place for about six months to discuss their
evolving relationship. The session covered “how we
should function, my expectations of their fiduciary
responsibility, their expectations of me, bringing
Millicent Valek (right), president of Brazosport College, is
encouraged by her board to take part in community activities.
Western Nebraska Community College President
Todd Holcomb and Board Chair Julie Walworth.