Editor’s note: The American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) Annual Convention is underway in San Antonio. This article is part of a series on the Community College Daily by Tabitha Whissemore that profiles nominees of AACC’s 2015 Awards of Excellence. This piece focuses on the four finalists in the category of emerging leadership. Winners in each of the seven categories will be announced tonight.
Since she became president of Clark State Community College (CSCC) in 2013, Jo Alice Blondin has worked tirelessly to empower staff and faculty by recognizing their leadership potential and helping to nurture it.
Blondin’s first action when she started CSCC was to meet with all faculty and staff individually. She keeps in continual contact with the campus community through her daily blog and has an open-door policy.
She also makes sure everyone at the college has a voice. During the college‐wide strategic planning process, Blondin encouraged the involvement of those who had little leadership experience and mentored them throughout the process. In addition, the Budget Advisory Council gives employees a first-time voice in the college budget.
“Dr. Blondin’s earnestness has really inspired each member to step up to the plate, leave any unfavorable history in the past, and become the leaders that the college needs to thrive,” said Mellanie Toles, assistant to the president.
She is just as open and encouraging with students. Blondin is often seen on campus, speaking with students and offering them help. When a student proposed installing a memorial to honor veterans, she supported that effort and allowed him to take a leadership role and offered mentorship.
“Dr. Blondin created an environment in which questioning is encouraged, developed, recognized and rewarded,” said Nina Wiley, dean of enrollment services.
Greenville Technical College (South Carolina)
President: Keith Miller
Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College (GTC), is putting the career goals of faculty and staff within reach. Using the “AACC Competencies for Community College Leaders” as a framework, Miller implemented several leadership development efforts to empower employees at all levels and give them the skills to lead.
The President’s Leadership Institute is a one-week program with a strong curriculum and skill application opportunities. Program participants hear from speakers, take part in team exercises and learn from case studies on managing vs. leading, data-driven decision making, conflict resolution and more. Miller is there every step of the way, and hosts a “Coffee & Conversation” for graduates to reconvene to provide input on issues that are important to the future of the college.
“My greatest takeaway from PLI was that Greenville Technical College values leadership development and wants to give people like me the opportunity to grow,” said Shirley Woods, an admissions officer.
Miller also encourages employees to take advantage of external opportunities for leadership growth through Leadership Greenville, Furman University’s Diversity Leaders Initiative, the state’s community college Leadership Academy and programs offered by AACC and the League for Innovation in the Community College.
“We are fortunate at GTC to have a blueprint for the best in community college leadership with Dr. Keith Miller,” said Becky Mann, director of executive communications and public relations.
Montgomery College (Maryland)
President: DeRionne Pollard
Through the transformational leadership of its president, DeRionne Pollard, Montgomery College has a bold strategic plan, a new mission, innovative partnerships and a new academic structure.
Montgomery College 2020 serves as the college’s blueprint to achieve and sustain excellence. The strategic plan lays the groundwork to ensure that, by 2020, the college will be a national leader in academic programming, in promoting and supporting economic development and in fostering community building, civic responsibility and intercultural understanding.
These efforts have led to the restructuring of student services and unification of multiple campuses so students have a common student experience. The college also is taking further steps to close the achievement gap. In addition, Pollard also implemented a participatory governance system, so all college members have a voice.
Under Pollard’s leadership, Montgomery College is more adept at responding to the needs of the community. The college has entered into a unique public/private partnership with Holy Cross Health. It’s partnering with K–12 and the university system to help students transition from high school through college completion, and with the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation to help at-risk youth and the adult incarcerated population.
“Dr. Pollard is committed to building a stronger and more responsive college to help all students meet their goals,” said Jason Rivera, collegewide director of learning centers.
River Valley Community College (New Hampshire)
President: Alicia Harvey-Smith
For Alicia Harvey-Smith, leadership is a calling to serve. As president of River Valley Community College (RVCC), she has used that calling to create a supportive environment where all can be successful, and has inspired faculty, staff and students to lead with passion.
Harvey-Smith has increased funding for professional development opportunities at RVCC and encourages all faculty and staff to take part in leadership programs. She also is an active mentor, and nurtures the development of emerging leaders. During monthly All Campus Forums, Harvey-Smith celebrates faculty and staff and their achievements. She shares that same enthusiasm with students.
“She has inspired us to work as a team to maintain and to improve our institutional culture and, most importantly, has modeled that behavior herself,” said Martha Mott, director of WorkReadyNH.
The culture of teamwork Harvey-Smith created has led to numerous successes. Enrollment is up at RVCC, as is early college enrollment. There are increased articulation agreements and successful program accreditations. Harvey-Smith also has enlisted the entire campus community to help with updating the college’s mission and vision.
“The faculty at River Valley Community College have a symphony to play, and it is an honor to call President Harvey-Smith our maestro,” said Jo Ann Clifford, a senior faculty member.