2016 Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges

New to the 2016 edition of Most Promsising Places to Work in Community Colleges, we highlight specific actions, initiatives, practices and programs identified by college student educatros (i.e., faculty, staff, and senior administrators) as important to their recruitment to and/or retention in this year’s list of Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges.

Promising Places to work logos
Institution (2-year Public)Chief Executive OfficerLocationFull-time EnrollmentPart-time EnrollmentInst. TypeFounding Year
Antelope Valley CollegeEdward T. KnudsonLancaster, CA10,0334,427HSI1929
Dyersburg State CCDr. Karen BowyerDyersburg, TN1,2261,631PWI1969
Front Range CCAndrew DorseyWestminster, CO5,80522,121PWI1968
Harrisburg Area CCDr. John J. "Ski" SygielskiHarrisburg, PA5,51613,605PWI1964
Montgomery County CCDr. Kevin PollockBlue Bell, PA3,8708,872PWI1964
Mountain View CollegeDr. Robert GarzaDallas, TX15,375N/RHSI1970
Oklahoma State U. Inst. of Tech.Dr. Bill R. PathOkmulgee, OK1,770706PWI1946
Seward Cty. CC/Area Tech. SchoolDr. Kenneth J. TrzaskaLiberal, KS8661,105HSI1967
Southwest Virginia CCDr. J. Mark EsteppRichlands, VA1,2161,347PWI1968


This study was first commissioned by NISOD and Diverse: Issues In Higher Education in 2014. The national survey is administered by the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE) at The Ohio State University, which is directed by professor Terrell Stayhorn.

The purpose of this commissioned study was to examine the extent to which diversity and inclusion permeates aspects (e.g., administrative structures, commitments, work environments, staffing practices) of the campuses of participating community and technical colleges, which are NISOD-member institutions, around the country.


The Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE) is an interdisciplinary research and policy center that promotes the important role postsecondary education plays in global society, especially the vital roles and responsibilities of public higher education. CHEE is committed to improving student success by conducting distinctive research, policy analysis and outreach that will help make higher education more accessible, affordable, engaged and all-around excellent.

CHEE’s mission is to become the country’s preeminent higher education research and policy center, solving issues of national significance. In terms of vision, CHEE exists to advance the higher education enterprise through the creation and dissemination of distinctive research that informs policy, strengthens communities and enables student success. For more, go to http://chee.osu.edu.


Educational Excellence: to ensure student access and success.
Research and Innovation: to make high-quality, distinctive contributions
Outreach and Engagement:to cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships.


Initial planning and development of this national study of community colleges began in summer 2014. The survey was adapted from the Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs survey. Given the project’s focus on workplace diversity, staffing practices and work environment, six initial categories guided the study, including family friendliness, salary/benefits, and professional development opportunities, to name a few.

The final web survey was mounted to a secure server managed by the Center for Higher Education Enterprise via Qualtrics, an online survey software. Using a list provided by NISOD, CHEE staff sent electronic invitations to institutional representatives at hundreds of campuses; electronic invitations included a hyperlink to the website on which the survey was placed.

Participants responded to the survey online, typically requiring 60 minutes to complete the instrument once data were assembled. No incentives were offered to encourage participation and respondents understood that their institutional identity might be released in a special edition of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.

The survey launched in late fall 2014 with release of the initial invitations to all NISOD-member institutions; follow-up reminders were sent at two-week intervals, and CHEE staff placed calls to campus presidents/chancellors and NISOD liaisons to call attention to the invitation and encourage their response. Accounting for bouncebacks and undeliverables, the estimated response rate is 20 percent.


Promising Practice #1: Demonstrated Commitment to Access and Student Success

Community colleges are known collectively for providing people in their local communities with access to higher education. This year’s list of Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges are also celebrated by the faculty, staff and communities for their demonstrated commitment to enabling access to higher education and subsequently ensuring that their students succeed at the college and in life. In addition to continuing to admit all students seeking postsecondary education, community college practitioners noted how their institutions used data to uncover gaps in performance and then fiscal and human capital toward initiatives designed to close those gaps.

For example, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) was praised by staff for its investment in the Minority Male Mentoring Program and TRiO Upward Bound after college leaders found large gaps in male student success and desired to better prepare local students for college.

In addition, faculty and staff found that most members of the faculty, staff and senior leadership are striving to achieve the same goal. At Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC), this was proclaimed on a former billboard that read, “We’re here for you!” A staff member shared, “It was not mere propaganda. … As long as the college remains true to that mission, I am happy to contribute as much as I can.”

Similarly, a staff member at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology shared that faculty, staff and administrators all have the same goal of “serving, educating, training and graduating our students with the confidence that they are prepared. This is true from custodial services to the president’s office.” As a result, faculty-to-student ratios are managed to allow for increased student engagement and interaction and to ensure appropriate attention is paid to students. Commitment to access and student success is not just found in the mission statement of this year’s Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges, but instead is enacted daily from custodial services up to the president’s office.

Promising Practice #2: Recognition of Good Work

It is essential to recognize the good work of faculty and staff at the nation’s community colleges. Like many institutions of higher education, this year’s list of Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges hosted formal ceremonies to recognize various members of their college community; these activities were one of the promising practices individuals noted as a positive attribute of the institutional culture that was beneficial to their and their colleagues’ retention.

Whether it’s the Mustang Awards, end-of-the-year staff picnic or the awarding of the president’s golden glove award for superior grant leadership, faculty and staff know that their institutional leaders notice and value their work. One staff member from SWCC said, “Most of all, I stay here because I believe my efforts are both needed and worthwhile.”

In addition to the institutional awards and ceremonies, many faculty and staff noted that their campus leadership also nominated them for regional and national awards, honors and recognitions.

For example, a staff member at MCCC recalled being nominated by the college’s president for the YWCA Tribute for Exceptional Women. The intentional gesture by the college’s president undoubtedly shaped the way she understood her place in and value to the MCCC community. It is clear that institutions should continue to invest in institutional recognition opportunities as well as those external to their organization to ensure that their college student educators know that the institution and senior leadership value the #GoodWork they do!

Promising Practice #3: Intentional Focus on Meeting the Needs of Local Community and Region

Inherent in the name and mission of community colleges is an unapologetic focus on the local community. It is then no surprise that employees of this year’s Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges take to heart the ways in which their institution lives up to this responsibility. By and large, faculty and staff who shared insights in the promising practices of their institutions noted their college’s connection to, service of and appreciation by the communities in which they are located.

One Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC) educator said, “The community values us as ‘their college,’ knowing that, without DSCC, Northwest Tennessee would miss the culture and education we provide.” Another DSCC staff member shared, “we take pride in what we are able to accomplish for all of our stakeholders and we strive to be the true meaning of a ‘community’ college” by being a part of the local community whether they live close to campus or not.

Those at SWCC identified several institutional investments that allow the college to provide “support to the business community through ‘rapid responses’ when there are training needs for new or expanding businesses,” namely through the Small Business Development Centers and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. As they indicated, “If new needs arise in our service area, the community never doubts SWCC’s ability to provide education and training.” This year’s Most Promising Places are truly committed to being colleges that are members of their communities.

Promising Practice #4: Institutional Support for Continuous Imporovment and Innovation

In addition to their focus on access, student success and serving the needs of its local communities, this year’s group of Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges also provide substantial institutional support for continuous improvement and innovation. Whether it’s a reliance on data in the way that made a senior staff member at DSCC suggest that “continuous improvement is not just a phrase,” but a way of life for President Karen Bowyer, or the awarding of innovation and innovator of the year awards at MCCC, this year’s Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges are invested in better serving students and their local communities.

Several staff members at SWCC found that college leadership encouraged collaboration and the sharing of data and information to support innovative efforts for solving students’ problems and prepared faculty and staff to work across departments and divisions to continuously improve the institution collectively. At MCCC, this has resulted in the freedom to experiment to enhance student learning through refined math courses and support services as well as more intentional efforts at cost reduction such as efforts to incorporate more open textbooks.

Promising Practice #5: Professional Investment in the Development of Faculty and Staff

In connection with their support of continuous improvement and innovation of the colleges, the Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges also prioritized their investment in the development of faculty and staff to better prepare them for leadership within the organization and broader community. As noted previously, some faculty and staff members have worked at their institution for as many as 32 years, averaging 10. This is not by accident. Faculty and staff alike noted numerous occasions in which they felt the institution and their senior leaders invested in their professional development.

As MCCC, faulty and staff noted the numerous ways in which the college demonstrated a commitment to them that suggested they desired for them to be an active contributor to the MCCC community. Two such programs were the Faculty Diversity Fellows program for junior minority faculty and the President’s Leadership Academy for staff members who were seen as rising leaders within the organization.

n addition, DSCC staff members discussed being attracted to the college because of the opportunities for advancement and recounting the numerous ways they were allowed to contribute more and more to the development of the college, while Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology staff members found that there were always resources available to support their pursuit of professional development on and off campus.

Regardless of their length of tenure, faculty and staff appreciated their institution’s commitment to their individual and collective professional development, asserting that their work, continuous improvement and innovation are in part possible because of their leadership’s investment in formal professional development activities.

Promising Practice #6: Institutional and Practical Support for Work-Life Balance

In addition to being recognized for their good work and being invested in professionally, a number of faculty and staff lauded their institutions, senior leaders and colleagues for valuing work-life balance, which included inclusion of family, partners and children as well as the modification of work hours to meet the increased or decreased demand from students.

For example, several members of the MCCC staff noted that the institution operates on four-day workweeks during the summer sessions. In addition, given the institution’s commitment to serving its community, a number of staff members shared that the leadership of MCCC provides flexible work schedules that allow faculty and staff to engage with the local community in ways that may seem to be unconventional.


Dr. Terrell Lamont Strayhorn (principal investigator) is a professor of higher education at The Ohio State University, where he is also serves as director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE). Author of 8 books, more than 100 journal articles and book chapters, more than 150 papers at international and national conferences and over 200 keynotes, Strayhorn is a prolific scholar, internationally known student success expert, highly sought public speaker, who was named one of the top scholars in his field by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education in 2011.

Dr. Derrick L. Tillman-Kelly (project coordinator) is University Innovation Alliance (UIA) Fellow at The Ohio State Univeristy, where he also formerly served as special assistant to the director in CHEE. Author of several journal articles and book chapters, his research interests consider three primary aspects of higher education: (a) leadership and organizational socialization of administrators; (b) minority-serving institutions; and (c) college students with specific consideration of race, gender, sexuality and spirituality as social identities.

Most Promising Place to Work in Community College Profiles

Antelope Valley College

Antelope Valley College

"Antelope Valley College is a very special place that prides itself on the professionalism and expertise of its administration, faculty and staff. Every employee of the college is dedicated to student success and academic excellence. On behalf of the entire college community, I am honored to be named a Most Promising Place to Work in Community Colleges."

-Edward T. Knudson

Dyersburg State Community College

Dyersburg State Community College

"Dyersburg State Community College was founded in 1969 and is proud to serve seven counties in West Tennessee with locations in Dyersburg, Covington and Trenton. The honor of being named one of the Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges for 2016 by Diverse is one that we are especially proud of. Being recognized is a reflection of our ongoing commitment to provide a diverse and enriching environment for our faculty and staff. We are pleased to accept this recognition from Diverse, one of the most distinguished media outlets that provides accurate and informative topics regarding higher education."

-Dr. Karen Bowyer

Front Range Community College

Front Range Community College

"We value employees for their commitment, knowledge, diversity, uniqueness and their strengths, as well as their potential. Because of our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are intentional about creating a learning and working environment that recognizes the value of individual and group differences and strives to provide opportunities and experiences for students of all backgrounds."

-Andrew Dorsey

Harrisburg Area Community College

Harrisburg Area Community College

"HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, is emerging as a promising place to work because of our five-decade commitment to providing an affordable and quality education in a safe environment for our diverse student population and workforce. The college also practices a shared governance model that encourages constituents to provide feedback and input related to important decisions at the college. HACC’s employees are the key component of helping the college achieve its ambitious goals contained in its 2015- 19 strategic plan entitled, Journey to Excellence. Finally, in an effort to better serve and provide additional opportunities to our students and the communities we serve, the college is embarking on its largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in its 52-year history by raising $14 million over the next four years."

-Dr. John J. "Ski" Sygielski

Montgomery County Community College

Montgomery County Community College

"Montgomery County Community College’s mission is grounded in a set of values that teaches us to encourage, listen, respect and treat fairly those whom we serve. Our faculty and staff are at the heart of this work, and I am proud of their efforts to create a diverse and vibrant campus community that celebrates our differences. This recognition from NISOD and Diverse underscores our commitment and builds momentum for future programming and conversations."

-Dr. Kevin Pollock

Mountain View Collge

Mountain View Collge

"We are honored to have been selected as a 2016 Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges for the second year in a row. At Mountain View College, our mission is to empower people and transform community, and our team lives by these words each day. In our 45-year history, we have impacted the lives of more than 700,000 students in a profound way, and our enrollment continues to grow thanks to the outstanding faculty and staff we have serving our students. Thank you for recognizing all the great work being done at Mountain View College. We are MVC Proud!"

-Dr. Robert Garza

Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology

Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology

"It is indeed fulfi lling to work at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology because we prepare real students for real jobs. As the state’s only university of applied technology, everything we do is designed to connect our students with the job market. We offer multiple degrees in specific work-related fields, and coordinate our curriculum with corporate employers who are eager to hire our well-trained graduates. In every discipline, we offer a hands-on education in advanced and emerging technologies that is designed to supply the expressed needs of our industry partners. It is truly rewarding to watch our graduates succeed."

-Dr. Bill R. Path

Seward County Community College/Area Technical School

Seward County Community College/Area Technical School

"Seward County Community College embodies the spirit, pride and brilliant energy shared by our college team, students and local community. In keeping with the High Plains way of life, we inspire each other to be a top-notch institution focused on service to each other in order to shape and inspire our students to make a genuine diff erence in the world."

-Dr. Kenneth J. Trzaska

Southwest Virginia Community College

Southwest Virginia Community College

"Southwest Virginia Community College strives to make diversity in recruitment a key component of our student and personnel outreach. Southwest is located in a geographically remote region of Virginia, sitting in the foothills of the magnificent Clinch Mountain Range. Because of its location in the heart of Appalachia, diversity recruitment can often be challenging. To overcome this challenge, SWCC reaches out to its minority communities through scholarships, programming and events that honor the contributions of diverse populations. In addition, the college works to ensure that the success of each student, regardless of ethnicity, is made a core part of its mission."

-Dr. J. Mark Estepp