4 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
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 will hold
a day-and-a-half session in September
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.
The session will happen in conjunction with AACC’s John E. Roueche
Future Leaders Institute and the Future
Presidents Institute, two staples of the
AACC Leadership Suite.
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
“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
“No one questions the fact that community colleges are game-changers in
people’s lives,” he adds.
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 com-
plete their degrees.”
“While I have a deep dedication to
support student success, as I have spent
my career helping diverse college stu-
dents 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 sup-
ports both the students and the commu-
nities 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
“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
Bumphus’ advice is that people inter-
ested in leadership roles should step back
and take a position as a vice president or
dean first—or even volunteer. That can
lead to relationships and experiences
that put the presidency within reach.
Konwerski has been doing his home-
work. He’s visited community college
campuses and spoken to current stu-
dents and connected with various staff
and faculty who work in the community
college sector. He’s also been networking
with several sitting or former commu-
nity college presidents and connecting
with national higher education thought
leaders, like Bumphus at AACC.
That relationship-building and
research may prove useful as he begins
applying for leadership positions.
Another challenge nontraditional
leaders may encounter is in under-
standing the importance of shared
governance. Community college leaders
must be aware that institutions cannot
be “top-down,” according Bumphus, par-
ticularly when it comes to working with
faculty. Buy-in from faculty and staff is
critical to an institution’s success.
“Everyone needs to work as a team,”
Those coming from the four-year
sector also will have to adjust to a change
in focus from research to teaching, and
an emphasis on workforce education.
But these challenges can be overcome.
AACC’s new session can help with that.
More information will be available
soon on AACC’s website.
Looking outside the sector
By Tabitha Whissemore