The following article, written by Ellie Ashford, is excerpted from the Community College Daily.
Mid-level community college administrators trying to figure out the next step on their career pathway can find useful guidance at the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) John E. Roueche Future Leaders Institute (FLI).
Kerry Keith Mix, dean of business and technology at San Jacinto College in Texas, says the FLI he went to a couple of years ago “provides leaders with multiple opportunities to increase their skills set, whether they looking for a promotion or want to stay in their current job.”
Mix had already completed the three-year PhD program for community college leaders established by Roueche at the University of Texas at Austin and calls FLI a “compressed version of that.” [The Roueche Graduate Center is now at National American University.]
FLI provides an overview of all the issues a community college leader is likely to face, he says, including budgets, legislation, diversity from a holistic perspective, how to innovate based on shared ideas, how to decide what’s important and how to relate national issues to local concerns.
Mix had earned an associate degree at Coastal Bend College in Texas and taught at Coastal Bend and San Jacinto before continuing his education and moving into college administration.
“FLI brings in leaders from across the country to provide encouragement and advice,” Mix says. “It helps you learn from other leaders who have some something you aspire to.”
The workshop not only “gave me a different perspective,” he adds, “it reinforced what I knew to be true.” The training also “helps you refocus your effort and reminds you of the leadership principles.”
All that came into play when Mix interviewed for his current job. One of the FLI sessions focused on job interviews. Attendees went through various scenarios answering questions and had to give a pitch while other participants provided a critique.
“It’s all about learning from leaders – presenters or other attendees – who have been in certain situations,” Mix says. “It gives you an informal network so you can call someone later and say, ‘I’m having this problem. Have you ever experienced this?’”
Building a network
Merrill Irving, Jr., president of Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota, calls FLI “a great launch pad” that provides “extensive knowledge about the lay of the land among community colleges across the country through a variety of contextual experiences, roundtable discussions, interactive sessions and informal networking.”
Irving especially appreciated the opportunities to engage and learn from AACC President Walter Bumphus and AACC Chief of Staff Angel Royal.
When Irving attended the FLI in January 2012, he was chairperson of continuing and professional development at Miami Dade College in Florida. The insights he gained from the FLI helped him figure out his next career steps and “gave me confidence on how to engage as a leader,” he says, although, at the time, he wasn’t aspiring to be a college president.
He had been interested in returning to California, where he started his career, but discovered through discussions with members of his cohort that the political and financial climate in that state wasn’t ideal. So instead, he accepted a position as associate vice president at Oakton Community College in Illinois, which turned out to be a solid stepping stone to his current position.
While the FLI program has a strong curriculum – he calls it “a little taste of a variety of things” – it’s long-term value lies in the relationships formed with the other participants.
“That helps you create a focus for your next steps and who you might want to have a conversation with,” he says, adding that he has collaborated with several FLI colleagues on presentations at national conferences.
The next FLI will be scheduled for June 2016.