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An Advocate for Others

After over a decade of leadership at the helm of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), Dr. Edward Leach is retiring as executive director.

An assistant professor of practice in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, Leach has spent more than 35 years in higher education, working with hundreds of community college professionals to learn and spread best practices across the globe.

Dr. Edward LeachDr. Edward LeachNISOD offers professional development for community and technical college staff, faculty, and leadership. When Leach looks back at his time as NISOD’s executive director, he is most proud of expanding and stabilizing the organization, increasing its staff of three to eight. When NISOD first began in 1978, 51 colleges were members. It is now an organization of over 500 members, who gather together each May in Austin for a conference.

Yearly conference participation has grown from 152 attendees to over 2,200. At these gatherings, members share ideas and build strategies to address barriers. The conference also gives out NISOD Excellence Awards to individuals nominated by the colleges in acknowledgement of their extraordinary accomplishments, and the NISOD Leadership Award, recognizing one person for their vision and strategy.

“We work on the conference all year long, and seeing it come together, the smiling faces and people enjoying their time at the conference, seeing folks being recognized as award recipients and receiving well-deserved praise from friends, family, and colleagues, it’s such a joyous occasion,” says Leach. “That’s what I’ll miss the most.”

Before NISOD, Leach worked as vice president at the League for Innovation in the Community College. He attended UT’s former Community College Leadership Program, where he met several colleagues he remains in contact with today. One of them was Dr. Mark David Milliron, who is president and CEO of National University in San Diego.

“Ed is real people. He absolutely cares about other folks,” says Milliron. “No matter what’s happening, he’ll follow up. When things are up, he’ll call and say congratulations. When it’s down, he’ll call and check in. He’s just a good human being.”

Milliron says Leach’s humanity has left an indelible mark on NISOD.

“The magic of Ed is that he cares about really good ideas being more broadly available, so people can make a difference with them. At the same time, he likes celebrating teachers and leaders making a difference with those ideas,” says Milliron. “Those two things together, it’s what he’s devoted his last 10 years to, the art of curating and connecting great ideas in the field, and celebrating the diverse teachers and leaders making it happen.”

Leach has also excelled at promoting diversity at community and technical colleges, says Milliron, making deliberate efforts to uplift those from different backgrounds.

“NISOD showcases a diverse set of people, young, old, military background, whatever it might be. Ed is so good at showing lots of people who have traveled the path,” says Milliron. “You won’t find a week where he’s not celebrating someone who’s rising.”

Leach says he is grateful that his career unfolded in the manner that it did. His first job was in sanitation, and through determination and connections, he ended up as a champion of educational innovation.

“I’ve been fortunate to have been able to meet and receive guidance and support from so many people over the years. I don’t know [if] I’d be where I am had I not met those folks, including my wife,” says Leach. “I have been fortunate to have people in my life who made a great contribution and great difference, including the folks I work with here at NISOD.”

Leach’s last day at UT and NISOD will be Aug. 15.

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