Emblematic of the dynamic and unpredictable environment confronting California’s community college leaders, participants of the recently concluded inaugural CEO Leadership Academy experienced both unseasonably snowy conditions and a more typical mid-June day featuring clear blue skies and sunshine. The 26 California CEOs adapted to the erratic weather and enjoyed a highly productive and informative two and one-half days in the picturesque North Shore area of Lake Tahoe.

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As the only professional development program for California community college CEOs developed, organized, and run by experienced California CEOs, the 2017 CEO Leadership Academy included practical approaches and strategic insight concerning:

  • CEO-Board and CEO-Trustee relations
  • Fiscal management and financial leadership
  • Resource development and fundraising
  • Equity-minded leadership
  • Guided Pathways

The Academy offered essential information and promising practices for CEOs in the early years of their current positions, and fostered professional connections with colleagues possessing the capacity to provide confidential support, advice, and fresh perspectives on issues confronting campus leaders. The Academy took place June 11 – 13, 2017 at the Resort at Squaw Creek at the base of Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and was generously supported by IEPI.

Opening Keynote Speaker Estela Bensimon, Co-Director of USC’s Center for Urban Education, launched the program with an informative and engaging focus on Leadership as an Equity-Minded Practice. IMG_3603Dr. Bensimon’s presentation and discussion was followed by a combined panel of seasoned Trustees and CEOs discussing the CEO-Board and CEO-Trustee relationship.

On Monday, June 12th, the morning session featured CEOs with considerable experience on fiscal matters leading a highly interactive session on the art of balancing prudent budgeting with strategic risk-taking. This hard-working session was followed by an inspirational keynote presentation by Bill Bellows, Deputy Director of the W. Edwards Deming Institute discussing the importance of collaboration, interdependence, and holistic approaches to leadership. The last working session featured College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne Van Hook, Lake Tahoe Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco, and Executive Director of the Foundation for California Community Colleges, Keetha Mills, leading a session on the role of CEOs as fundraisers, relationship builders, and resource developers.

The third and final day began with a discussion of Guided Pathways led by San Diego Mesa President Pam Luster, and the final session of this year’s Academy featured State Senator Scott Wilk (R-Lancaster) offering an elected official’s guidance on the do’s and don’ts of advocating to policymakers at the state, federal and local levels.

The CEO Leadership Academy was designed based on several factors:

  • Leadership affects significantly the success or failure of organizations including institutions of higher education. One notable example of this being that in the first year of the Aspen Prize for community colleges, a common feature of the colleges earning recognition had CEOs with a decade or more in the position.
  • A generation of presidents and chancellors have been and will continue to retire in the coming years (Anticipating the Community College Leadership Void with an Internal Leadership Development Plan)
  • Median tenure for California community college CEOs is 3.5 years
  • The political economy of the early 21st century places new challenges and demands on institutions and their leaders
  • Governance issues have been cited by ACCJC as notable challenges in California, and CEOs reporting to a Board for the first time often have little to no preparation concerning how to effectively work with a Board of Trustees
  • CEOs may be hesitant to request continuing professional development out of concern with appearing weak or unprepared
  • Boards may have either unrealistic expectations of CEOs and/or concerns that supporting continuing professional development for the chancellor or president may be perceived by other campus groups as Board dissatisfaction with the CEO
  • California community colleges have some unique features – such as AB 1725 and a substantial body of regulations – making it especially challenging for district and campus leaders
  • Increasing diversity of the student body, external demands for completion, attacks on higher education and the public sector, and the constant pressure to do more with less, mean that college leadership in the early 21st century is an increasingly complex and challenging endeavor.

The Community College League of California is eager to continue supporting this indispensable continuous professional development for the leadership of our districts and colleges. IMG_3599The League’s work reflects the perspectives of the CEO and Trustee Boards, which recognize that fostering a culture where Boards of Trustees include in their contracts with CEOs the resources, time, and support for continuous professional development throughout their tenure.

The League would like to recognize and thank the members of the CEO Pathways Committee, the Academy Advisory Committee and Design Team for their contributions and support. For a complete list of the committee members, please visit our website.    

By Larry Galizio, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Community College League of California