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The Community College Presidency at the Millennium. – book reviews

If anyone doubts Dr. George B. Vaughan is the nation’s leading
expert on the community college presidency, the publication of this new
book should lay that to rest.

The Community College Presidency at the Millennium, co-authored by
Dr. Iris M. Weisman, is the latest contribution to research into the
important roles of chief executive officers of our nation’s two-year

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to become a community
college president. Its contents of wisdom and practical advice, drawn
from sitting presidents across the country, can give the aspiring
college chief executive officer a great deal of insight.

The book’s first chapter presents an effective overview of the
history of the community college presidency. The authors bring this
background into sharp focus in a brief presentation on the formation of
many new colleges during the boom years of the sixties and seventies.
This helps establish a basis for understanding the changing roles of
community college CEOs as these unique institutions of higher education
were coming into their own. They point out that during some years of
the 1970s, a community college opened each week.

But there are regrets.

“Unfortunately for those who would like to know more about
presidential life in the 1960s and early 1970s, much of the intimate
history of the boom years of community college development is lost, for
it was never recorded,” the authors write.

Perhaps the most useful chapters are those that contain
presidential “profiles.” The information comes from “the most recent
iteration of [Vaughan and Weisman’s] Career and Lifestyle Survey,” a
questionnaire in which “community college presidents were asked a
series of questions regarding their personal backgrounds, their
education and experience before becoming president, their personal and
professional lifestyles as president, and their future plans.”

The answers to these questions are illuminating and often
inspirational. However, the in-depth interviews with selected community
college presidents, presented in chapters four, five, and seven —
according to Dr. Donald E. Puyear’s forward — “are the heart of the
work; here one gets the sense of what is really important to today’s
community college presidents.”

One of this book’s strengths is chapter four, “Mission and Milieu:
Views from the Trenches.” This chapter is a report of telephone
interviews that were conducted with thirteen presidents who head some
of the best-known community colleges. Their answers are candid and
instructive. For instance, some cited a lack of resources as a problem.
And open access was described as a part of the community colleges’
mission that is sometimes difficult to explain.

Perhaps one of today’s most important new challenges is described
by Dr. Gunder Myran, the president or Michigan’s Washtenaw Community
College: the movement toward more activist boards of trustees.

I think the challenge for us as educators is to take charge of our
future and to reassure our governing boards that we are willing to be
held accountable. I would say that is the greatest threat: this loss of
confidence in educators in managing their affairs and shaping the best
future,” Myram says.

The value of Vaughan’s and Weisman’s study is that it shares
selected American community college presidents’ representative views
about the current climate and the future for two-year institutions.

The book explores another important change in leadership in chapter
five, “Women and Minorities in the Community College Presidency.” This
section is a view of the community college as it “embodies many of the
democratic ideals within American society.” Although there still is a
long way to go before the number of female and minority presidents is
equal to the same percentages of female and minority students at
community colleges, the goal of this sort of representation seems to be
built into the system.

The Community College Presidency at the Millennium is a book that
should be read by faculty, administrators, community college board
members, and people in the communities served by these unique
institutions. It sheds new light on an important group of highly
dedicated, hardworking people. Vaughan and Weisman have written an
important reference book for those who would know the true nature of
the community college presidency.

Dr. John Garmon is the vice president for educational programs at Seminole Community College in Sanford, Fla.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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