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2017 April 24 - 03:26 pm

NCCHC Is Filling Leadership Pipeline

As Hispanic Enrollment Grows, Focus Must Be on Developing Latino Leaders


Among recent executive community college appointments are Maria Harper-Marinick chancellor, Maricopa Community College District; Lorraine Morales, president, Community Campus, Pima Community District; and Robert Vela, president, San Antonio College, Alamo Community College District.

Harper-Marinick, Morales, and Vela are all former National Community College Hispanic Council fellows. Their appointments demonstrate the outcomes envisioned when (NCCHC) initiated its Leadership Fellows Program in 1990. Those NCCHC directors were certainly prescient, as evidenced by data released in 2016 by Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). Hispanic Serving Institutions represent 12.9 percent of all non-profit higher-education institutions, and accounted for more than half of all Hispanic undergraduate enrollments in 2013. Programs that prepare Hispanic role models for executive leadership are of increasing importance, especially as Hispanic enrollment in community colleges, now at an all-time high, continues to grow.

Data reported by the American Council on Education forecast the aging of college presidents nationwide, including the fact that “… between 1986 and 2011 the majority of presidents have shifted from 50 or younger, to 61 and older.” That same report, based on a 2012 survey, noted that the share of “racial/ethnic presidents has decreased from 14 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2011.” Just 4 percent of presidents were Hispanic, compared to an overall 13 percent for all minority presidents.

Data specific to community colleges are even more compelling: according to Community College Week, “Hispanic students in U.S. higher education were disproportionately enrolled in 2-year institutions. In 2012, almost half of all Hispanics in higher education were enrolled in community colleges…” American Association of Community Colleges data indicate that Hispanic students represent the single greatest enrollment by an ethnic minority, accounting for 22 percent of 12.3 million community college students nationwide.

They now represent 57 percent of all undergraduates (AACC Fast Facts 2016). And yet, as we begin 2017, Hispanics account for less than five percent of community college CEOs. Coupled with AACC’s survey results reporting the anticipated retirement of large numbers of current community college administrators, the data continue to confirm the need for such leadership programming. AACCdesignated ‘hot topics’ of national interest today include: “Leadership: Community colleges are facing an impending leadership crisis. College presidents, senior administrators, and faculty leaders have been retiring at an alarming rate. The average age of people in these positions continues to increase, and upcoming retirements in the positions are projected to be higher than normal.”

The demographic profile of the student population nationwide and the looming shortage of top administrative personnel together affirm the targeted approach of the NCCHC Fellows Program with specific focus on the preparation of Hispanic leaders for roles in community college leadership. There are more than 250 NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program alumni, most of whom serve in executive leadership capacities in community college administrations across the nation. A longitudinal study, conducted in 2015 by Leila Gonzalez Sullivan, concludes that the Fellows Program was valuable because it provides “a safe space to discuss issues of Latina(o) concern; showcasing Latina(o) models, creating support systems and camaraderie; helping with identity development and leadership goal formation; addressing cultural differences, celebrating heritages, and relieving stress and isolation.”

Harper-Marinick, Morales, and Vela are enthusiastic about the benefits of the Leadership Fellows Program, which is designed to provide a keenly focused professional development experience for Hispanic community college administrators who aspire to upper-level administration or a presidency. According to Harper- Marinick, “Participation in the NCCHC Fellows Program was an essential element in my preparation for advancement to the executive vice-chancellor/provost ceo position, and subsequently to chancellor. The rigor of the curriculum and the invaluable input of mentors throughout the program provided unique insights into my leadership strengths, as well as practical information I would not have learned otherwise.”

Established in 1985, NCCHC’s mission includes preparation and support of Hispanic leaders in America’s community colleges, to the ultimate benefit of the students. One of NCCHC’s first ventures was to offer a leadership program for aspiring presidents and executive administrators. With support from the Ford Foundation, between 1990-1995 the program trained 72 Alumni Fellows, 19 of whom are now or have been community college presidents. Many others in the original five cohorts have moved to positions of increased responsibility as upper-level administrators.

The NCCHC Board of Directors converted the program to a self-funded model hosted by a university partner. In 2003, the program was re-established and reconfigured at North Carolina State University. Another 63 Hispanics from 12 states across the country participated between 2003 and 2008. Two of these participants (now referred to as the Executive Fellows) became presidents and five have been interim presidents. In addition, eleven have completed their doctorates and more than 10 others are enrolled for doctoral studies. Twenty-one of the Executive Fellows already possessed a doctorate on entry to the program.

Robert Vela participated in the 2008 program cohort. “I was inspired after completing the program. I left with a renewed sense that I could be a college president one day. As I look back, I realize that many of the leaders I met during the Fellows program are still my mentors and role models. I owe my preparation to NCCHC. I believe it is imperative that we continue to provide contextualized leadership opportunities for aspiring future leaders.”

In 2009 the program moved to California State University-Long Beach, and the following year began a new curriculum aimed at mid-level administrators and select faculty with leadership potential seeking to make a transition to administration. Twenty mid-level fellows attended in 2010, and 18 in 2011. A new cohort of mid-managers was recruited for 2012.

Hosted since 2013 by the University of San Diego, the program recently added 22 more graduate fellows, representing institutions in 12 states to the NCCHC Leadership Fellows pipeline as the organization continues to help generate well-prepared and demographically diverse new leaders for the nation’s community colleges.

Topics in the NCCHC Fellows Program curriculum are aligned with the AACC’s ‘Competencies for Community College Leaders’ and provide the framework which guides participants through a structured experience focused on specific learning outcomes. For example, organizational strategy, institutional effectiveness, change process, culture and diversity, and strategic planning, to name a few. The University of San Diego is home to the prestigious School of Leadership and Educational Sciences (USD SOLES). Paula Cordeiro, former dean noted: “When we initiated the NCCHC Fellows program here at USD, we committed to ‘Setting the bar high…as we continue to …prepare educational leaders of tomorrow.’ It is an honor to host the NCCHC Fellows Leadership Program because its mission so perfectly reflects our institutional goals. Our faculty and students learn much when they become engaged with these future community college leaders. I especially appreciate Ted Martinez, Jr., who brings substantial value, a depth of administrative experience and comprehensive background as a longtime champion of leadership development programming for aspiring Hispanic administrators, along with his unique sensitivity and tenacity to this important advocacy.”

USD SOLES faculty members help select each cohort and provide the theoretical framework for the program. Participants also learn first-hand from presenters who are seasoned community college leaders in a wide range of professional capacities. In addition, individual mentors, many of whom are former Fellows themselves, help guide participants throughout the process.

NCCHC continues its commitment to the Leadership Fellows Program with a new initiative to provide an important national perspective of an advisory committee to oversee and guide program curricula and to assist with recruitment of fellows and mentors. An innovation that speaks to the organization’s investment in the program is the addition of a Fellows’ Representative on the NCCHC Board of Directors. Mike Munoz, dean of student success at Rio Hondo College, California, a member of the 2010 cohort, serves in that role.

“As an NCCHC fellow and now as a board member, I recognize the importance of preparing Latino leaders in the community colleges with the competencies needed to transform our institutions and the communities we serve while maintaining a focus on student success and equity. Programs like NCCHC are critical in helping emerging Latino Community College leaders grow their skills and competencies, find their voice at the table, and addresses the already strained pipeline of qualified administrative candidates.”

An exciting development which validates the importance of the NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program is the formation of a NCCHC national coalition of 11 community college districts to provide funding to sustain the program at USD through 2019. Spearheaded by Antonio Perez, president of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, the effort represents a commitment for each of the districts that enter into an agreement with USD to provide annual contributions to help underwrite program operations.

NCCHC will host a presentation, “Empowering Performance, Success and Equity: A Candid Conversation About Strategies to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion in High Performance Cultures” at the AACC conference in New Orleans April 22-25, 2017 Recruiting for the next cohort of NCCHC Fellows is underway. Application may be made through the NCCHC website www.ncchc.com.

Ted Martinez, Jr., Ph.D. is the executive director of the NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program, hosted at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as Adjunct Professor. He retired after a 41-year community college career, capped by service as the eighth superintendent/president of Rio Hondo College in Whittier, Ca. He also served in community college teaching and administrative positions in Texas, Chicago and San Diego. He has served as a member of the AACC Board of Directors, was twice elected as president of the National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC), and is a champion of preparing Hispanic leaders for public service.

Susan A. Herney, an author and communications consultant, is past president of the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR). She was named NCMPR’s national “Communicator of the Year.” She retired after more than 25 years of service in marketing and communications capacities at three California community colleges, following a prior career in the private sector.

This article is the continuation of a series authored by principals involved in the Roueche Graduate Center, National American University, and other national experts identified by the center. John E. Roueche and Margaretta B. Mathis serve as editors of the monthly column, a partnership between the Roueche Graduate Center and Community College Week.


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