Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Optimizing Education

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Optimizing Education

Article excerpt


If you ask Juan Salgado - the newly minted chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago - about how having led a not-for-profit prepared him for his current role, he has no shortage of answers.

"The thing that not-for-profits have to rely on almost 100 percent to be excellent is mission focus," Salgado says.

"If you're not completely mission-focused and everyone in the ecosystem is not completely mission-focused, you're not going to be a highperforming not-for-profit" says Salgado, who was tapped by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier this year to become chancellor after having served 16 years as CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino, or Institute for Latino Progress, a community-based not-for-profit located in Chicago's wOwer West Side neighborhood.

In addition to mission focus, Salgado stresses the need to inspire the people who work in the organization through "servant leadership" and efficiency.

"You gotta operate at the absolute optimal performance so you can drive every dollar back to value to your student," Salgado says.

Salgado, a former community organizer, says an "additional layer" of skills stems from the fact that the not-for-profit he ran was based in the community. He first joined the institute as CEO back in 2001 because "it was at the crux of education and economic development."

"It's where investments in human beings in local communities, aligned to the local economy, can actually create more income, better family stability and upward mobility," Salgado says of the institute, where he oversaw two schools, including one that seeks to reach out-of-school youth and another that seeks to prepare students for college or jobs in health care.

"So Ive actually been quite engaged with City Colleges as a partner, someone who was feeding students on the front lines, right in the neighborhood," Salgado says. "So from my perspective this is a very natural progression at a very critical time."

Indeed, while Salgado's path to the chancellorship may be nontraditional, it is the kind that a recent report from the Aspen Institute - a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on "values-based leadership" - says there should be more of in order to diversify and expand the presidential talent pool. 'This is especially crucial at a time when an aging cadre of community college leaders are eyeing retirement,

"The traditional academic pathway to the presidency includes too few senior leaders who aspire to the college presidency and too few women and people of color" states the report, titled "Renewal and Progress: Strengthening Higher Education Leadership in a Time of Rapid Change."

"Filling the vacuum of impending retirements may necessitate expanding the pool of potential presidents beyond traditional academic candidates," continues the report, which notes that the average age of college and university presidents has risen from 52 to 61 over the past 20 years and that 80 percent of current community college CEOs expect to retire in the next decade.

Salgado says community colleges would benefit from having more unconventional leaders like him who hail from outside the system.

"It's not that we don't respect the process and the players, because I do. Tremendously," Salgado says. "But fresh eyes and a new lens is in many ways welcome "

Thus far, Salgado has earned high marks from faculty - a constituency that fomented the ouster of his predecessor, Cheryl Iiyman.

Julius Nadas, a secretary for the Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago and professor in the computer information systems department at Wilbur Wright College, says Salgado represents a welcome change. …

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