Why A California Community Colleges Aspiring CEO Program?

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

Friday, April 2, 2021

No fewer than 14 CEOs—some of whom have been in California Community College (CCC) leadership roles for more than two decades—plan to retire in 2021, and we may experience more departures before year's end. While leadership change offers significant opportunities for districts and colleges to reenvision their strategic priorities and approach to their mission, this collective loss of institutional memory and experience will affect districts and arguably our entire sector for years to come.

Additionally, although CCC CEOs are the most diverse among California's public and independent sectors of higher education, and are a substantially more heterogeneous group of CEOs when compared to the rest of the nation (46 percent of CCC CEOs self-identify as being part of an underrepresented population group in 2019), both Latinx and Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) CEOs are underrepresented relative to their respective populations in the state. And while women CCC CEOs reached their apex in April 2020 with 59 CEOs, that number dropped to 53 total by August of the same year (CEO Tenure & Retention Study, 2020).

Enter the League and ACCCA's Aspiring CEO Program. ACCCA and League leadership, which includes CEOs, trustees, and administrators actively employed at our districts and colleges, recognized that our respective professional development offerings did not include an opportunity for aspiring CEOs to reflect upon and assess their capacity for the CEO role; nor did our programs allow participants and workshop leaders to share strategic approaches to researching CEO jobs including district/college climate, financial status, and board dynamics; nor did they delve into the CEO selection process including how to work with search consultants, their role in the process, and how to position oneself to become the selected applicant. Moreover, League and ACCCA's existing programs did not include promising practices for negotiating the CEO contract, and a variety of other issues important for consideration for the aspiring CEO.

Thus, it became clear to League and ACCCA leadership that to expand and broaden executive leadership capacity at California's Community Colleges an opportunity for emerging leaders to work with and learn from experienced and successful CEOs and others was desirable.

In addition to having the honor and privilege of conferring degrees and certificates, making essential decisions to advance the district and college mission, and having the ability to represent the institution with the multiple and diverse constituencies of the local, regional, state, and even national and international interests affecting the mission, the Aspiring CEO Program will explore the important distinctions between an administrative position and the CEO role.

The questions below represent a sampling of some of the essential issues aspiring CEOs will consider in this timely and needed collaborative effort by ACCCA and the League.

  • What does it mean to serve as the district or college's "living logo"?
  • The first person contacted by media when there's a crisis?
  • The subject of a no-confidence vote?
  • What knowledge, skills, and abilities would I bring to the role?
  • How might I assess my leadership and decision-making approach?
  • How might I improve my candidacy for the position?

Friday, April 9th is the deadline to apply, and space will be limited to create a cohort that can stay focused and benefit from more individualized attention. Click here to apply.

Whether you are uncertain if and when you may seek a CCC CEO position, if you're fairly certain yet unsure of your timeline, or if you're already applying for jobs (or have in the past), we invite you to apply.

 Larry Galizio is President & CEO of the Community College League of California and is a former community college CEO.