Academic journal article Community College Review

English-Major Community College Presidents: A Narrative Inquiry

Academic journal article Community College Review

English-Major Community College Presidents: A Narrative Inquiry

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to discover how six community college presidents who were undergraduate English majors construct the stories of their academic and professional journeys. Findings were synthesized using three themes--boundaries, connections, and transformations--as an interpretative framework. The selected presidents crossed boundaries, made connections to ideas and people, and transformed their thoughts and actions as found in the descriptions of their academic and professional experiences. Data analyses determined that the content and context the presidents' stories uncovered relationships between their experiences, their beliefs about higher education's purpose, and their understanding of the community college mission.

Keywords

college presidents, career paths, educational influences, English (academic major), community college mission

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Community college leaders' self-reflective explorations of their academic and professional journeys provide an additional lens for viewing the purposes of higher education, the comprehensive community college mission, and community college leadership. By engaging in such explorations, community college leaders may examine the roots of their educational philosophies and the impact these philosophies have had on their decision-making processes and leadership practices. Educational journeys and professional paths give individuals unique experiences and perspectives, which may be found in the stories they tell. Their stories represent what they remember and value about their educational and professional experiences, illuminating higher education's purpose from a personal rather than a public perspective and assisting leaders with a greater understanding of themselves and their values. This understanding can promote institutional clarification as well as personal growth.

This article reports the findings of a qualitative study that used narrative inquiry as the underlying methodology. The purpose of the study was to discover how presidents who had majored in English as undergraduates construct the stories of their academic and professional journeys. The study also sought to determine if the content and context of the presidents' stories uncover relationships between their experiences, their beliefs about higher education's purpose, and their understanding of the community college mission. Presidents from the same undergraduate academic discipline were chosen to allow for cross-case comparisons. In this article, I discuss my study in the following manner. First, I briefly review relevant literature on the community college mission and on leadership at the community college. Then, I explain the theoretical framework and research method. After that, I discuss data-collection and analysis procedures. Next, I present and interpret my cross-case findings to answer four research questions. Finally, I conclude with a summary and recommendations for practice and future research.

Literature Review

An examination of the literature on the mission and leadership of community colleges provides a rationale for this study. The selected literature moves from general perspectives about the comprehensive community college mission and its relationship to higher education's multifaceted purposes to more specific perspectives about the skill set and training needed by community college leaders.

The literature on the community college mission indicates that the mission is inherently flexible as community colleges continue to respond to their communities' competing needs within the context of providing access for developmental, transfer, and vocational students (Cohen & Brawer, 2003). From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, writings on the community college mission emphasized a tension between the transfer and vocational functions of the comprehensive mission. Some authors argued that the transfer function held the key for citizens' social mobility (Dougherty, 1992; Grubb, 1991; Pincus, 1980; Reitano, 1988), whereas others argued that restricting the mission to a vocational function would enhance the efficiency, quality, and competitiveness of community colleges (Clowes & Levin, 1989). …

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