Magazine article University Business

Leading the Charge for Change: Community College Leaders Speak Out

Magazine article University Business

Leading the Charge for Change: Community College Leaders Speak Out

Article excerpt

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LEADERS FROM 16 COMMUNITY COLLEGES around the country gathered at the White House in September to participate in a roundtable discussion on the role community colleges play in America. The discussion was part of the Obama administration's Champions of Change program, a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. Education Gateways recently spoke to four of the Champions of Change honorees about the challenges and opportunities they face as presidents of their institutions. They are: Charlene Dukes, Prince George's Community College (Md.); Liang Chee Wee, Northeast Iowa Community College; Dick Shaink, Mott Community College (Mich.); and Robert Templin, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). An excerpt of that conversation follows.

What does it mean to you and your institution to be named a Champion of Change by the White House?

Dukes: I believe, not just for the 16 community colleges that were named, but for the 1,200 community colleges around the country, that it's another indication of the role that President Obama and his administration believe community colleges can play as we look at increasing the number of citizens with some sort of academic credential beyond high school.

Wee: Our selection as a Champion of Change is an honor for Northeast Iowa Community College, and it affirms that we are truly providing accessible, affordable, quality education to meet the needs of the communities we serve. We are dedicated to providing educational opportunities to people from all walks of life and supporting employers of all sizes by offering credit and noncredit programs in innovative ways that meet industry needs.

Shaink: It's great to have the White House and such a prestigious organization as the Aspen Group verify the fact that we are doing what we say we are doing for student success. The pride within the college and the community is incredible. Particularly for an area like Flint, Mich., it is very gratifying and very positive.

An alarming number of young people are graduating high school ill-prepared 3Cbr college studies. What programs do you have in place to help these students succeed?

Templin: The fastest growing part of our student population is recent high school grads, and more than half of them are entering NOVA not prepared to do college-level work. Over the past six years, NOVA has been working with the region's school divisions on a program called Pathway to the Baccalaureate. The college taps first-generation students who are likely not prepared while they are still sophomores or juniors to participate in a program designed to accelerate their readiness for college. This year, we will have more than 40 high schools and some 6,500 students involved in this program, and the results we've seen so far are pretty spectacular. They are entering NOVA usually with college credit because they begin their college experience when they are still high school students, and they are graduating at twice the rate of our other students.

Dukes: About 70 percent of the people who apply to attend for the first time have a need for developmental courses. Not every student has a need to take every subject. By far, the subject most students have to take is math. We offer two-week math review courses. If students sign up for those courses, they will often jump one or two levels in terms of their math background, so it reduces the time they have to spend in those classes, and they can move on to taking the courses that apply to the degrees they are pursuing.

But shouldn't these things be done earlier, that is, in high school?

Dukes: Clearly that should be done in high school, but I think we have to explain that. Most high school students are finished with their math requirements no later than their junior year. …

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