Community College Representatives Stress Importance of Changing With the Times
Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton was not about to let
Cleveland leave Cuyahoga Community College behind on the city’s road to
Thornton, president of the Ohio college in the county surrounding
Cleveland, knew other businesses were poised to help revitalize the
city by training new workers. But Thornton saw that training as her
college’s job. So, she forged partnership with businesses and
government agencies in order to include the college on the comeback
“We wanted to be an integral part of what’s going on in our
community,” Thornton told participants at the 19th annual conference of
the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development
(NISOD), a national consortium of colleges and universities.
Nearly 1,400 faculty and administrators attended the conference here
late last month, and Thornton, a former Association of Community
College Trustees outstanding CEO recipient, kicked it off with a bang.
After approaching the stage to music from “Mission Impossible,” she
delivered a message that resounded again and again throughout the
According to Thornton and others at the conference, if community
colleges ever hope to reclassify what seems like a “mission impossible”
as a “mission possible” and flourish in an ever-changing world, they
must remain open to new ideas.
In Thornton’s case, her college changed with the times by forging
partnerships with up-and-coming entities in Cleveland – such as
Ameritech, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Convention and
Visitors Bureau. She displayed testaments to the partnerships’ success
on big screens at the conference.
Through a program called Corporate Bound, the college trained workers to advance into positions Ameritech was desperate to fill.
Through a program called Cleveland Cares, the college taught front
line tourism workers – such as taxi drivers, police officers and
airport employees – more about their city and how to treat tourists,
said David Nolan with the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Corporations are more than willing to fund programs if they will
result in a more skilled workforce,” said Thornton, who serves on the
Greater Cleveland Growth Association, The Urban League of Greater
Cleveland, and the Cleveland and New York Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
boards. “These partnerships bring our institutions out of isolation.”
Speaker after speaker echoed Thornton’s message of changing with the times.
Dr. Lydia Ledesma-Reese, president of Skagit Valley Community
College in Washington state, also encouraged faculty to remain open to
new teaching methods.
Ledesma-Reese is a former single mother who overcame financial
hardship to complete an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate
degrees. She also is a second-generation Mexican American who was a
first-generation college student. She joked that her parents sent her
to cosmetology school in case she lost her college presidency.
Speaking from experience, Ledesma-Reese stressed the differences in
how students learn – particularly those from minority cultures. She
pointed to figures that showed that most community college students are
minorities and she encouraged faculty to broaden their teaching methods
to meet the needs of “global” learners.
“We have a long way to go with the ethnocentric attitudes we have,”
Ledesma-Reese said. “Global learners come from so many different
backgrounds that we need to remind ourselves as teachers to vary our
More than 600 colleges and universities worldwide belong to NISOD,
which was founded in 1978 and is housed here at the University of Texas
at Austin. Nearly 85 percent of the members are from the United States
and a good number of those outside this country are from Canada,
For a $600 yearly fee, NISOD provides an avenue for members to
exchange information about improving teaching and leadership. The
organization produces a monthly newsletter called Linkages that shares
national and international perspectives on learning. NISOD also
circulates a weekly publication called Innovation Abstracts that
teachers, deans and administrators write to share their success
stories, Roueche said.
The NISOD conference has been held in Austin since the first 150
participants attended nineteen years ago, according to Dr. Suanne
Roueche, director of NISOD.
“Many of the participants have waited for years to attend the
conference,” Roueche said. “Some of them have to be invited or have to
be part of a competitive process. We work very hard to make sure this
is the best conference they will ever attend.”
COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com