Lakin Institute Grooming Next Generation of Black Community College Presidents

Dozens of aspiring minority two-year college presidents are attending the Lakin Institute for Mentored Leadership this week, gaining tools to succeed at the CEO level. Hosted by Thomas Nelson Community College in the Virginia Peninsular, the 2007 Lakin Institute features three prominent tracks this year — understanding the legislative process; navigating the accreditation process and the vanishing African-American male in higher education.

Among the institute’s featured speakers addressing the politics of leadership are Virginia Delegates Mamye BaCote (D) and Jeoin Ward (D). Also, Norfolk State University President Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers will speak on the theme of turning leadership challenges into opportunities. Finally, Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, will speak on theme of accreditation and the presidency.

A major theme of discussion at this year’s Lakin Institute is the anticipated mass retirements of a generation of baby boomer community college CEOs. Dr. Charles A. Taylor, president of Thomas Nelson Community College and convener of the President’s Round Table of African-American two-year college CEOs, says the Lakin Institute is in a unique position to help train future leaders to fill the void. The Round Table sponsors the Lakin Institute.

“The President’s Round Table of African-American CEOs’ commitment is to make certain that we take the step of mentoring and securing a pipeline of future leaders. We didn’t want to sit back and say, ‘We’ve made it,’ but we wanted to reach back, and one of my commitments as a convener is to make certain that we don’t lose sight of our mission of making certain that we have others who can fill our shoes as we retire or move on to other ventures,” Taylor says.

Community colleges have always been at a disadvantage when competing with well-connected four-year institutions for limited government dollars. As public appropriations continue to dwindle for many community colleges, they have stepped up their private fund-raising campaigns, emulating many four-year college’s well-developed alumni fund-raising operations. To that end, Taylor says the Lakin Institute is featuring programming this year titled “The Entrepreneurial President,” giving aspiring college CEOs tools of the fund-raising trade.

Also, the Lakin Institute will be examining the persistent problem of the vanishing minority male in higher education. Earlier this year, Taylor led a contingent of Round Table presidents in a meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to forge a partnership dedicated to tackling the crisis among Black and Latino males. A leading CBC member spearheading the initiative on minority males is Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill.

Taylor says this crisis is “a continual challenge, because we’re looking at it at the community college level, but you have to look back in high school, middle school and elementary school, to work with the churches to work with community groups. So it’s a major undertaking, but it’s something that we at the President’s Round Table are committed to.”

Davis too, says problems with minority males’ academic achievement take root early. “There are many Black boys who never see an African-American male with a book in their lives. There are schools that are all Black. They may have 55 or 60 teachers at the school. You may have one Black male teacher,” Davis says.

Davis adds that many times, by the time Black males get to the third or fourth grade, “they have already decided that education is not for them. That education is a female thing. And it’s easy to see how that can happen — they’ve never seen a man at home with a book. As a matter a fact, they’ve never seen a man at home, period. So we need to figure out ways to get more African-American males in the education process in the early grades,” he adds.

The Lakin Institute for Mentored Leadership is named in honor of the late Dr. Thomas Lakin, a California native and career educator. The Lakin Institute is designed to prepare senior-level executives for positions as community college chief executive officers. Currently, more than 25 percent of African-American community college presidents are Lakin Institute graduates.

Founded in 1983, the Presidents’ Round Table of African-American CEOs is an affiliate organization of the National Council on Black American Affairs, an affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges. For more information, visit www.ccc.edu/roundtable.

–David Pluviose

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