St. Louis Community College: SLCC Takes Inside Track to Leadership Development

Anisha Morrell-Charles
Member Spotlight

Last year, as a part of the American Graduation Initiative goal, President Barack Obama challenged the nation's 1,200 community colleges to produce an additional five million graduates by 2020.

In the wake of this challenge, and of the increasing number of senior administrators who will be retiring, community colleges have been faced with a growing leadership gap and inadequate succession pipeline. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, the pace of administrative and other key staff retirements exceeds the pace at which these positions are being restaffed (Schults, 2001). As enrollments increase and states reduce their funding, it is becoming more difficult for the nation's community colleges to train and develop their own talent for succession.

St. Louis Community College is among a number of institutions leading a national movement to design and conduct their own local leadership academies that will develop up-and-coming leaders from within.

In 2010, former Chancellor Zelema Harris developed a four-phase plan to address the college's leadership deficit. The plan included the Chancellor's Leadership Academy, a Dean's Academy, cross training, and a strategic plan for filling vacancies.

The original academies were conducted off site as a three-day intensive retreat that focused on leadership at all levels of the institution. Facilitated by Pamila J. Fisher, a national community college expert and chancellor emeritus of the Yosemite Community College district, participants interacted with local and national community college scholars and participants to gain a broader understanding of key topics and issues facing leaders in community colleges.

Today, the leadership academy continues the tradition of prioritizing succession planning. The academy consists of a five-day program that addresses transformational leadership styles, the value of community partners, leadership practices, and the legislative processes.

The week concludes with presentations developed by the participants. Upon completion of the academy, it is expected that graduates will implement their professional development plan and contribute to timely college initiatives and projects.

Additionally, the Chancellor's Leadership Academy continues to engage and grow its alumni through a speaker series. Each semester, the chancellor holds one event to foster thoughtful dialogue and discussion about the state of community colleges in the United States. Most recently the chancellor hosted Walter Bumphus, president of American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), who presented on "The Future of Community Colleges."

"Our board has prioritized leadership development as a direct response to community college retirements throughout the country," said Myrtle E.B. Dorsey, chancellor at St. Louis Community College. "So, it is fitting in my role as chancellor of the St. Louis Community College district that I lead a movement toward building leaders poised and ready to lead nimble and innovative institutions in the 21st century."

The cost of hosting an academy participant is $1,500 per person, and the academy now has 72 graduates. An additional 25 faculty and staff will participate in the third academy, scheduled for March 26-30.

"In a very real way, the academy afforded me the opportunity to realize and reflect on the confluence between my strengths and goals as a teacher and administrator and the strength and goals of our college," said Richard Peraud, chair of the English department at the college's Meramec campus. "Since attending the academy, I have reimagined my focus as department chair from one of simple management and maintenance to one of renewed energy and excellence."

For information about the Chancellor's Leadership Academy, contact Anisha Morrell-Charles, Special Assistant to the Chancellor.