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Community Colleges Often Lead the Way In Diversity Efforts

Community Colleges Often Lead the Way In Diversity Efforts

By Walter G. Bumphus and John E. Roueche

American community colleges now enroll well over half of the nation’s
undergraduate students. Perhaps more important than the sheer number of students attending these open-access institutions is the reality that community colleges represent the higher education point of entry for the majority of minority students.

They also represent the major point of entry for returning mothers, students learning English as a second language, first-generation students and many other students who need mentoring, advising and quality teaching.

Given the incredible diversity found on the average community college campus, it is not surprising that virtually every community college governing board states among their goals that their faculty, staff and administrators should reflect the diversity of the campus and the community. Many state universities have also embraced this diversity goal.

Our nation’s community colleges have been more than successful in attracting able and talented administrators of color into major leadership positions. For example, Black and Hispanic CEOs lead large urban community colleges in Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; Miami; Phoenix; and Tucson, Ariz. We can remember in our own careers when there were fewer than five Black or Hispanic CEOs. Our colleges have made impressive progress in recruiting and developing leaders  and administrators who represent the diversity of their student body and the local community.

Community colleges have been successful in this important leadership arena as a result of several very important community college leadership development initiatives. One is the priority given to diversity by doctoral programs like our own at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 1970, two-thirds of our graduates have been students of color and women. We believe we have graduated more Black and Hispanic community college leaders than any other graduate program in the country. We do need other major university programs to provide aggressive recruitment, financial assistance and job placement assistance, as we seek to increase minority leadership in the community college world.

Several states have also done an exemplary job supporting leadership development for college administrators. Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana come to mind as examples of states that have created strong initiatives to prepare the next generation of community college leaders.

States like Louisiana, that have had leadership development programs for a number of years, are seeing program participants move into senior level positions in their community and technical college system. The Louisiana system’s Leadership Development Institute has just completed its sixth year, with 126 people in all going through the program. The professional development program has three major components: 1) LDI for emerging leaders, 2) an orientation program for new chancellors, and 3) a workshop for newly appointed academic deans and department chairs. The LDI program is a year-long program that meets approximately four days per month during the academic year. Participants can receive university credit of up to six hours per year during the program. Three of the graduates have completed doctorates, and several others are enrolled in doctorate programs.

All three components have received extremely high ratings by participants, and in fact, approximately 43 percent of the graduates of the LDI programs have received at least one promotion within the system. These “growing our own” programs, coupled with aggressive recruitment for open positions, have resulted in a more diverse staff of senior leaders for the system. In 2001, the system had 10 chancellors, eight White males and two Black males. By fall 2006, the system had six White males, one Black male, one White female, and two Black female chancellors. This diversity of staff (30 percent minority and 30 percent female) more closely mirrors the diversity of staff and students in the system, and the board of supervisors attribute this diversity and increased competency to the LDI programs and the aggressive searches the system has employed over the past six years.

We know that diversity is a major goal in these states. The result of these priorities is the development of well-qualified and talented minority leaders for the administrative positions now being vacated by those retiring.

It is also important to recognize the strong initiatives provided by individual colleges in providing leadership development for their own faculty and staff. Greenville Technical College (S.C.), Guilford Technical Community College (N.C.), Daytona Beach Community College (Fla.) and others have provided the funds and the direction for leadership development within their own institutions, again resulting in the development of well-qualified candidates that embody the very diversity sought by the institutions in current and future hiring.

— Dr. Walter G. Bumphus is A.M. Aikin Regents Chair and Chair-Elect of the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. John E. Roueche is Sid W. Richardson Regents Chair and Director of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

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