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Hispanic Leadership Pipeline Proving Vital

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by Ted Martinez Jr. and Susan A. Herney


Long before predictions of the current avalanche of vacancies in the top administrative ranks of community colleges nationwide were made, the National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC) established its first Leadership Fellows Program for aspiring leaders. Today, there are more than 250 NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program alumni, most of whom serve in executive leadership capacities in community college administrations.

Dr. Antonio Perez, president of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, is leading an effort to underwrite the NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program.

NCCHC directors were certainly visionary, as evidenced by data released in 2016 by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). Hispanic-serving institutions represent 12.9 percent of all nonprofit higher education institutions and accounted for more than half of all Hispanic undergraduate enrollments in 2013. Programs that prepare Hispanic role models for executive leadership are of increasing importance, especially as Hispanic enrollment in community colleges, now at an all-time high, continues to grow.

Data reported by the American Council on Education (ACE) forecast the aging of college presidents nationwide, including the fact that “ … between 1986 and 2011 the majority of presidents have shifted from 50 or younger, to 61 and older.” That same report, based on a 2012 survey, noted that the share of “racial/ethnic presidents has decreased from 14 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2011.”

Just 4 percent of presidents were Hispanic, compared to an overall 13 percent for all minority presidents.

Data specific to community colleges are even more compelling.

According to a Community College Week research paper: “Hispanic students in U.S. higher education were disproportionately enrolled in 2-year institutions. In 2012, almost half of all Hispanics in higher education were enrolled in community colleges.”

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AACC data indicate that Hispanic students represent the single greatest enrollment by an ethnic minority, accounting for 22 percent of 12.3 million community college students nationwide. They now represent 57 percent of all undergraduates.

Yet, as we begin 2017, Hispanics account for less than 5 percent of community college CEOs. Coupled with AACC’s survey results reporting the anticipated retirement of large numbers of current community college administrators, the data continue to confirm the need for such leadership programming. An AACC-designated “hot topic” of national interest today is: “Leadership — Community colleges are facing an impending leadership crisis.

College presidents, senior administrators and faculty leaders have been retiring at an alarming rate. The average age of people in these positions continues to increase, and upcoming retirements in the positions are projected to be higher than normal.”

The NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program curriculum has evolved. Hosted since 2013 by the University of San Diego, the program recently added 22 more graduate fellows to the NCCHC Leadership Fellows pipeline as the organization continues to help generate well-prepared and demographically diverse new leaders for the nation’s community colleges.

Topics in the NCCHC Fellows Program curriculum are aligned with the AACC’s Competencies for Community College Leaders and provide the framework that guides participants through a structured experience focused on specific learning outcomes.

USD faculty members help select each cohort and provide the theoretical framework for the program. Participants also learn firsthand from presenters who are seasoned community college leaders in a wide range of professional capacities. In addition, individual mentors, many of whom are former fellows themselves, help guide participants throughout the process.

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An exciting development that validates the importance of the NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program is the formation of an NCCHC national coalition of 11 community college districts to provide funding to sustain the program at USD through 2019.

Spearheaded by Dr. Antonio Perez, president of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, the effort represents a commitment for each of the districts that enter into an agreement with USD to provide annual contributions to help underwrite program operations.

Coalition members include the Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College, Coast Community College District, Dallas Community College District, Los Angeles Community College District, Maricopa Community College District, North Orange Community College District, Pima Community College District, Rancho Santiago Community College District, Tarrant Community College District, and San Antonio College.

Dr. Ted Martinez Jr. is executive director of the NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program, hosted at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as adjunct professor.

Susan A. Herney, an author and communications consultant, is past president of the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR).

This article is the continuation of a series authored by principals involved in National American University’s Roueche Graduate Center and other national experts identified by the center in partnership with Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

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