Academic journal article Community College Review

Trustees' Perceptions of the Desired Qualifications for the Next Generation of Community College Presidents

Academic journal article Community College Review

Trustees' Perceptions of the Desired Qualifications for the Next Generation of Community College Presidents

Article excerpt


Although the authority for hiring a community college president resides with the board of trustees, few studies have directly explored trustees' perceptions of the desired qualifications for presidents. Using a Delphi process, this study identified the characteristics, competencies, and professional experiences that Illinois community college trustees value in presidential candidates.


trustees, presidents, Delphi technique, Illinois


Community colleges have become centers of educational opportunity, responding to the unique needs of the local areas they serve. Committed to accessibility and affordability, community colleges have open-admission policies and relatively low tuition costs, and they serve students of diverse ages, academic preparation levels, ethnic and cultural heritages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Although community colleges have become vital components in support of the health and economic well-being of the communities they serve, it is well known that community colleges are facing a sea change in presidential leadership (Schults, 2001 ; Weisman & Vaughan, 2007).

As a result, it is critical that trustees and those interested in becoming community college presidents approach this time of significant institutional transition thoughtfully, examining the criteria boards use to make presidential selections. As illustrated in Figure 1, a great deal of research has been conducted on the selection of community college presidents. The items in Figure 1 represent studies (drawn from a ProQuest search covering the years 1990 through 2006) of what key community college stakeholders perceive to be the requisite competencies and characteristics of successful presidents. However, rather than exploring trustees' perceptions directly, many of these studies examine the characteristics and professional experiences of current presidents or explore current presidents' perceptions about what factors led a board of trustees to select them as presidents. Although the results of these studies could potentially be used to extrapolate the criteria that board members have used when selecting a president, it would be more effective to directly explore board members' perceptions about hiring criteria. As one president responded in a study of presidents' perceptions of factors affecting the selection process, "Who cares what the president thinks. It's the board that counts; I want to know what they think" (Bumpas, 1998, p. 177). Furthermore, the roles of community college presidents are changing, and the expectations placed on them are growing more complex (Hockaday & Puyear, 2000). Therefore, it is possible that the characteristics of current presidents may not necessarily mirror the ideal characteristics that boards of trustees will identify for future presidential candidates.

It has been widely documented that community colleges are facing an "impending leadership crisis" (Schults, 2001, p. 1). Many current presidents began their careers in community colleges during the time of rapid growth in the 1960s and 1970s (Schults, 2001); therefore, large numbers of presidents are approaching retirement age. In fact, a 2006 study revealed that 84% of community college presidents anticipated retiring within 10 years (Weisman & Vaughan, 2007). These anticipated retirements are significant because "inestimable experience and history, as well as an intimate understanding of the community college mission, values, and culture, will disappear, leaving an enormous gap in the collective memory and the leadership of community colleges" (Schults, 2001, p. 2). To preserve their vitality, community colleges must be prepared to effectively select candidates to fill a large number of presidential openings. Accordingly, this study explores the characteristics, competencies, and professional experiences that trustees believe are critical for future community college presidents to possess. …

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