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Building leaders: leadership development program important step for community college presidents

by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

As a community college administrator with an eye on the presidency, Dr. Walter Bumphus wanted to ensure he would be competitive when the time came to climb the career ladder.

“I had great professional experience and I wanted to complement that with the best education I could get,” he said. “I really wanted to make sure that when it was time for me to compete for a presidency, that my credentials were beyond reproach. I wanted to pick the best program and without exception this program has that reputation, but also has the reputation of not only accepting people of color, but also of graduating people like me.”

Bumphus chose to attend the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

“This is probably the most rigorous program anywhere,” said Bumphus, who graduated in 1984 and is currently president of Brookhaven College in Texas and chairman of the board of the American Association of Community Colleges. “But the expectation is that you are going to go through the program and do well, The professors don’t take pride in how many people they flunk out, they take pride in how many people they help to succeed.”

Since 1971, the program has been led by Dr. John E. Roueche, who can point to a long list of presidents, vice presidents, deans and other educators who have graduated from his program. For students and graduates of the program, his knack for tapping some of the most promising young administrators for advanced study is only one factor in the prominence of the program and their own success. Many have credited Roueche and a dedicated faculty with providing the support, encouragement and motivation to ensure their completion and advancement in their careers.

According to some graduates, that attitude and expectation of success made CCLP the obvious choice when they were searching for a program that would help them meet their career goals.

“It is a doctoral program that is not competitive. … You are competing against yourself,” said Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, president of Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, “Much of what you get done, you have to get done in cooperation with other people.”

Thornton, who graduated from the program in 1982, said her decision to take leave from her administrative post and move from Illinois to Texas hinged not only on the program’s curriculum, but also on the impact the alumni were making in the field.

“I had a set of criteria that I looked at those programs by to determine which one would be best for me given my goal to be a community college president,” Thornton said. “By far, as I rated them, the University of Texas really came out very high on my list.”

Diversifying Focus And Inspiring Leadership

That marketability unique focus on the development of minority talent drew Bumphus to the program.

In the early years, the program lacked that focus on diversity. Until 1971, only one woman and a handful of minority men had graduated from the program. In partnership with Dr. Terry O’Banion and the League for Innovation in the Community College, the program began concentrating on building the field of minority candidates.

“I had a couple of people tell me in the 1970s that I was going to ruin the program,” by bringing in women and minorities, John Roueche said. “But it was important for this college to be a leader and a pace-setter.”

Recruitment has been “aggressive and proactive,” Roueche says. In the last two decades more than 60 percent of the students have been women and minorities.

The goal for all students in the program, Roueche says, is to prepare them to lead, to take risks and to inspire those around them to make a difference.

“Leadership is not about counting votes,” he said. “Leadership, many times, is about making tough and difficult decisions that may go against other people’s wishes.”

That’s what Dr. Mary Retterer learned when she became the first full-time faculty member at her college to rise to the presidency after graduating from CCLP in 1992.

“It gave me the strength of my convictions to act on what I always thought was right,” said Retterer, president of Arrowhead Community Colleges in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

For Roueche, his role in developing some of the top leaders of the community college movement over the last 25 years was a new chapter in the history begun by his predecessor, C.C. Colvert. Colvert, who started the program in 1944 as a means of providing university support to the fledgling institutions, built a reputation for cultivating a cadre of professionals equipped to handle the pressing issues of the day and to steer the institutions into the future.

“It was C.C. Colvert’s philosophy to do everything he could — from placement through the end — to make sure you were successful,” said Dr. Robert H. McCabe. president emeritus of Miami-Dade Community College and a 1963 graduate of the program. “The program was flexible and aimed at helping you.”

Roueche set out to follow Colvert’s lead. With the help of faculty members Dr. Donald T. Rippey, the former chairman of graduate studies in the university’s Department of Educational Administration who has since retired, and Dr. George Baker, who spent 14 years with the program before becoming the Joseph D. Moore Endowed Chair in Community College Leadership at North Carolina State University nearly five years ago, Roueche also expanded it. He developed a reputation outside of Texas, built its financial resources, and set a precedent for enhancing the diversity of students and faculty.

“Colvert sold the university president on the idea that the proper role of the university was preparing leaders. He thought the university and this program should be the linchpin for what community colleges are doing,” Roueche said.

As a doctoral student at Florida State University in the 1960s. Roueche met with the competitive rigors of a challenging program in higher education administration. It was nearly seven years — during which time he was a high school teacher. a community college dean, and a university faculty member — before he found his niche.

The environment in which he would devote most of his professional life was the antithesis of his own graduate training ground. It was the supportive and collaborative climate of CCLP where he built his reputation as a national leader in the community college movement.

Even his wife, Dr. Suanne Roueche, a faculty member in the program and co-author of several books with her husband. cannot pinpoint the source of his passion.

“I don’t think anyone who has ever known John in all of his life would say he is not driven,” she said. “He puts all his energy into it. I don’t know where he gets it. He just gets up with marching music every morning. He is committed to the movement, to being the best role model he can be. He is committed to the mission and goals and objectives of the community college.”

Success No Accident

More than 450 students have graduated from the program and, according to CCLP’s Roueche. fewer than a dozen have dropped out along the way. Roueche — individually, with his wife, and with colleagues — has written twenty-nine books and more than 100 articles on community college issues. His own scholarship and the more than $10 million in research sponsored by CCLP has contributed significantly to the field.

“The best research for the last fifteen to twenty years for what’s happening with community colleges has come out of this program,” said Dr. Bob Paxton, a 1988 graduate who is currently president of Iowa Central Community College. “In the midst of all of us struggling with the issue of part-time faculty comes a nationwide study about part-time faculty and how best to respond to their needs. Every time you turn around, this program has led community colleges of the nation in terms of making strategic moves.”

The program’s National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), directed by Suanne Roueche, has provided outreach to hundreds of colleges around the world. Leadership development programs, in cooperation with the League for Innovation in the Community College, have provided growth opportunities for hundreds of CEOs around the country. And the program has attracted enough outside support — from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, alumni contributions and other private support — to build a permanent endowment of more than $1 million, provide financial support to more than 90 percent of its students, and establish endowed faculty positions.

“It is no accident that this program has grown and taken on the stature it now enjoys,” said Dr. Donald G. Phelps, chair of the university’s Department of Educational Administration and the former chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District. “It is because of John Roueche. Certainly Mr. C.C. Colvert set the groundwork, but there is no single individual in this country who enjoys more status or visibility than [Roueche]. He is one of those rare individuals who found his placed.”

The design of the program is as important to its effectiveness as is its leadership, students and alumni say. The program is highly selective, accepting only a dozen or so students each year. Each cohort progresses through a defined “block” of courses together. Throughout the yearlong block, or core program, the students develop a group strategic plan and work on collaborative projects that meet their individual and group needs.

Candid discussions with community college leaders, visits to institutions throughout the country and semester-long internships enhance the intensive study of the literature and the issues.

“National leaders come in to teach in the program. We have an opportunity on an almost daily basis to meet with some of the best people in the world on community college issues,” said Terry Calaway, a student in the program who is on leave from Cuyahoga Community College.

The block is under continuous reconstruction as feedback from graduates highlight emerging needs. This year when alumni in leadership roles on campus recommended a greater focus on legislative issues, Texas legislator Wilhelmina Delco was hired to join the faculty.

In addition to the mentoring and financial support provided by program alumni, there is a growing network of colleagues that has been instrumental in finding potential students and placing graduates in good jobs.

“In higher education, you can always find good programs. But there are few that have the consistent placement that this program has,” said Dr. William Moore, the A.M. Aikin Regents Chair who spent twenty-one years as a professor in educational administration at Ohio State University. “It’s primarily a practice-oriented program. … It augments their experience and really acts as a catalyst for their upward spiral.”

Such success has a price. Students are required to attend the program full-time. They are strongly urged to take leave from their job and work exclusively on their degree. The program provides scholarships, grants and paid internships, but attendance is almost always a sacrifice.

Paxton left his wife in Kansas and survived on the money she made baby-sitting during the year he spent in Texas. Calaway and his wife sold their home to move South for the year. Myrna Villanueva, a current student who took leave from her position at Cuyahoga Community College, was concerned about making ends meet during her year of study.

“It’s a choice, a commitment,” she said. “It was a leap of faith. I said to Dr. [John] Roueche that I was concerned about the financial challenges, that I would really like to eat once I get there. All he said was, `If you get here, we will take care of you,’ and I knew he meant it.”

Walter Bumphus said the support he received was crucial. “There was no way I could attend this university without some support,” he said.

For Suanne Roueche, who was inspired to take on a national research project and direct an internship program after graduating from CCLP in 1975, the program “gives you a lot of confidence in your ability. It not only prepares you and gives you a good foundation for which you believe you can do anything,” she said. “It generated in me the spirit that just about anything I pursue I could do well.”

Thornton agrees: “The program becomes a catalyst to have you stretch as much as you can and to see yourself in the arena with other leaders,” she said. “It helps you realize the potential that’s there in you, the leadership potential.”

COPYRIGHT 1996 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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