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Growing Latino leaders

Dr. Anna Solley, president of Phoenix College, on Hispanic leadership at community colleges

By Anna Solley

As the largest and fastest-growing segment of the United States population, Latinos are a tremendous influence in our nation’s culture and economy. With this influence comes the responsibility for Latino leaders to serve as an effective voice for the Hispanic community at all levels. This includes government, small business, faith-based and philanthropic organizations, and private and public institutions such as community colleges.

Over 4,600 students per semester pursue their educational goals at Phoenix College (PC), a premier institution of higher education and a Hispanic Serving Institution celebrating its 90th anniversary as the flagship of the Maricopa Community Colleges. Given changing demographics, PC recognizes its obligation to offer new programs and services that enhance student success and to employ highly qualified and diverse employees who serve as role models for minority students. PC also recognizes the need to support and develop Hispanic leaders in community colleges. To that end, the college serves as an active member of the National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC), established over 25 years ago as an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to prepare Hispanic leaders for America’s community and technical colleges.

NCCHC is the premier organization for Hispanic leadership development in America’s community colleges. Leadership development is a major issue in all sectors of our economy. This is especially true for community college faculty and staff, as the quickening pace of retirements precipitates a crisis in the form of CEO/executive-level vacancies. NCCHC is committed to delivering a quality leadership development experience that provides Hispanics in community colleges with an opportunity to continue their personal and professional growth.

With support from the Ford Foundation, NCCHC began offering the Leadership Fellows Program in 1990. The program is designed to prepare Latino professionals for the community college presidency. In 1990, less than one percent of community college presidents were Hispanic. Of the 72 fellows who participated in the leadership program between 1990 and 1995, 22 achieved executive level positions (chancellors, presidents, provosts, deans or vice chancellors). Given the growing need for Hispanic CEOs, the fellows program was reinstituted in 2003. Between 2003 and 2010, 53 of 84 fellows had at least one promotion or position change, and more than 20 fellows are now or have been community college presidents.

The NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program, offered in partnership with California State University Long Beach, entails participation in a yearlong professional development sequence, including a learning seminar, the development of a long-range career plan, and attendance at the annual NCCHC Leadership Symposium. Given that leadership skills for community college CEOs have widened due to greater student diversity, advances in technology, accountability demands and globalization, the fellows program incorporates AACC’s Competencies for Community College Leaders: organizational strategy, resource management, communication, collaboration, community college advocacy and professionalism.

Locally, fellows program success stories include Dr. Maria Harper Marinick, executive vice chancellor/provost at MCCCD; Maria Reyes, dean at Chandler-Gilbert Community College; Dr. Chris Bustamante, president of Rio Salado College; Dr. Rey Rivera, interim dean at Estrella Mountain Community College; Dr. Fernando Camou, dean at Glendale Community College, and many others. Each of these leaders is recognized for actualizing the AACC leadership competencies and for serving as a role model for our Latino students, employees and community members.

With leadership, not only come great responsibility and many challenges, but also the satisfaction of being in a position to actualize the thoughts, dreams and actions of those we lead into something much more. As Latino professionals, it is up to us to seek out and nurture the next generation of Latino leaders. Our voice — our leadership — is vital to building a world of leaders. ¡Adelante con ganas!

Dr. Anna Solley is president of Phoenix College and the National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC). She is also a board member for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Raul H. Castro Institute.

See this story in print here:

This Article appears on the March 2011 issue of LPM under My Perspective

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