Community colleges serve the most diverse students in all of higher education. For Fall 2021, the College of the Desert’s (COD) student headcount included 8,213 Hispanic students, 1,657 white students, 395 Asian students, 252 Black students, 28 American Indian/Alaska Native students, and seven Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Island students. Also, in the fall of 2021, the employee headcount at COD included 440 white employees, 333 Hispanic employees, 34 Asian employees, 30 Black employees, six American Indian/Alaska Native employees, and three Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Island employees.
COD's leaders support staff development to ensure its faculty, administrators, and staff are up-to-date on issues and teaching and learning strategies. In May 2018, COD’s board of trustees approved a $1 million investment to support a diverse group of 23 faculty and administrators to participate in Kansas State University’s (KSU) doctoral Community College Leadership Program (CCLP), the first cohort known colloquially as the CCLP Roadrunner cohort. The KSU-CCLP is a unique program that prioritizes recruiting women and minorities as future leaders that reflect the demographics of community colleges. Some distinct program features include:
1. A fully designed doctoral curriculum in which all courses focus on the community college.
2. Community college leaders with extensive experience in and knowledge of the community college serve as one of the most diverse faculties in a national university leadership program.
3. The program is offered in a cohort model to encourage collaborative learning and networking.
4. The local community college hosting the cohort serves as a learning laboratory with real-life issues providing much of the content.
5. The dissertation in this program is a major applied research project that is the culmination of a rigorous program of study leading to the Ed. D. in community college leadership.
6. The professors come to the students for much of the face-to-face learning, thus making this program highly accessible to working adults.
The author of this article completed a study of the benefits of this unique program at College of the Desert and on the graduate students enrolled in the program. She excluded herself to avoid bias, so there were 22 students in the group studied. Using a mixed-method case study with transcribed interviews with all 22 participants, she used a pre-survey to guide the interview process to gather responses. She also identified four major themes reported as the benefits of the KSU-CCLP.The data indicated that members of the CCLP Roadrunner cohort learned to communicate more effectively across internal and institutional boundaries (e.g., between departments) and take the initiative in undertaking outreach activities that positively impacted the COD community. Increased faculty communication and outreach began with the fruitful communications participants had with other members of the CCLP Roadrunner cohort.
Participants were asked to rate how effectively the KSU-CCLP created a leadership culture centered on the following three values: involvement; embracing varying perspectives; and focusing on student success, equity, and learning. On a five-point Likert-like item, eight of the 22 participants rated the CCLP at a level of 5. The remaining 13 participants rated the CCLP at a level of 4.
The findings indicated that a perceived effect of the KSU-CCLP on the graduate students enrolled in the program was an increased capacity for community-building. As their responses indicated, participants associated their increased capacity for community-building, in part, with the rapport and trust built among cohort members. Other program effects that contributed to participants’ increased capacity for community-building included increased institutional knowledge (e.g., of the history and organization of COD) and a broadened perspective that facilitated communication. The study found that a perceived effect of the KSU-CCLP on the graduate students was an enhanced readiness to take on leadership responsibilities. Enhanced readiness emerged from participants’ increased confidence in their potential to lead, development of leadership competencies, and exposure to leadership models.
The study found that support for faculty, staff, and administrators in a single-cohort model benefit institutions and demonstrated that the KSU-CCLP benefited the individual graduate students enrolled in the program, including increasing their capacity-building skills in the community and preparing them for future leadership responsibilities. Thus, it can be concluded that the KSU-CCLP effectively supported institutional and graduate student growth by exposing them to leadership skills and competencies that prepare them for addressing dynamic community college leadership needs. Therefore, community college leaders and their boards should consider investing in their employees to participate in practical and cohort-based graduate CCLPs with real-world application of their leadership competencies for future challenging leadership roles.
Dr. Jessica Enders serves as director of education centers at College of the Desert (Calif.)
The Roueche Center Forum is co-edited by Drs. John E. Roueche and Margaretta B. Mathis of the John E. Roueche Center for Community College Leadership, Department of Educational Leadership, College of Education, Kansas State University.