The Best Kept Secret in Developing Latino(a) Community College Executive Leadership

This blog reminds me of the Akilah Institute  that I recently visited in Rwanda. Akilah is a remarkable two-year college for women who will be future Rwandan leaders.  This blog describes an initiative that also is playing a key role in creating a pipeline for future leaders, but in this case NCCHC is identifying and supporting Latino(a) leadership.

“Preparing strong leaders for the future is the primary purpose of the National Community College Hispanic Council’s Leadership Fellows Program,” said NCCHC President, and Chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges-Tempe, Arizona, Maria Harper Marinick. She further states “A demographic shift is occurring in the United States and we are preparing new leaders who can model the way for the growing Hispanic population our community colleges serve. Through this program, Fellows gain the necessary knowledge and skills they need to lead higher education into the future and positively impact the economic and civic success of their respective communities.”

Here we’d like to share with you a unique community college leadership development program targeting future Latino/a leaders and solicit your nominations for the next cohort!

A bit of historical background

NCCHC is an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges, a national organization that has provided leadership to the community college movement for the past half-century. The Council, which was established 30 years ago, works to promote the educational interests and success of the Hispanic community and emphasizes access, equity and excellence for students and staff in community colleges. One of the first ventures was to offer a leadership development program, with support from the Ford Foundation. Of the original 72 Fellows, more than 15 became community college presidents and many others have moved to positions of increased responsibility as executive level administrators. Since the program’s inception, more than 250 community college administrators have participated as Leadership Fellows.

Today, twelve of the 65 Latino community college CEOs nationwide are former NCCHC Fellows, and the program’s national impact on the leadership pipeline continues to grow. During a recent 16-month program, at least 42 former Fellows were promoted, including three vice chancellors; eight presidents; seven vice presidents; 12 deans and 12 directors. Additionally, two former Fellows now serve as vice chancellors at four-year institutions.

2017 NCCHC Latina Fellows at the NCCHC National Conference in Miami, FL along with NCCHC President, and Chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges-Tempe, Arizona, Maria Harper Marinick

From 2003-2009 NCCHC was housed at North Carolina State University under the supervision of Dr. Leila Gonzalez-Sullivan, retired President of Community College of Baltimore County-Essex Campus. Then, from 2010-2013 NCCHC moved to California State University, Long Beach under the leadership of Dr. Bill Vega, retired Chancellor of the Coast Community College District.   Since 2014, the NCCHC Fellows Program has been housed at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences under our direction: Ted Martinez, a retired Superintendent/President of Rio Hondo College is NCCHC’s Director, and Reyes Quezada, NCCHC’s Associate Director, is a USD Professor.

Annually the program Identifies 20-25 potential community college presidential aspirants and provides year-long learning opportunities. The 2018 cohort is comprised of 24 Fellows (11 males and 13 females) all have a master’s degree and ten hold doctorates. They include community college vice-presidents, executive directors, deans, and directors from nine different states: AZ (5), CA (4), FL (2), IL (1), NJ (1), CO, (1), TX (8), NY (1), and WA (1).

The Program

Fellows participate in two residential learning seminars that meet for four days in early June and another four days in early October. The October meeting links with the annual NCCHC conference and many of the Fellows present at the conference. NCCHC participants develop an individual plan of action since the program includes a one-year mentoring experience with a seasoned community college

Dr. Ted Martinez Leading a Session on Mentoring NCCHC Leadership Fellows (2016)

leader and helps Fellows build professional networks that advance their career aspirations. There are various online activities in between the two residential seminars.

The curriculum is learner-centered and based on the AACC Competencies for Community College Leaders. Various sessions are presented by community college Latina(o) chancellors, presidents and other high-level administrators or community college board members. Some of the topics include: organizational strategy, institutional effectiveness, communication, collaboration and the change process, crisis and conflict management, cultural proficiency and diversity, strategic planning, finances and facilities, as well as professionalism. Individual sessions and the overall program are evaluated annually and the results are presented to the NCCHC Board of Directors.

We all know that ’the proof is in the pudding.’ NCCHC participant testimonials include hundreds of statements and stories of how the program made a difference in their professional as well as their personal journeys. Participants express their excitement in becoming leaders who represent the Latino community for the betterment of all community college students.

Creating a Latino(a) Leadership Pipeline

 There is a great need to have strong leadership programs to prepare community college leaders for the 21st century since many current administrators will be retiring. According to some estimates, 50%-75% of community college presidents will retire by 2020. A 2015 AACC report indicates that out of the 961 community college presidents nationwide, the number of Hispanic CEOs was only 4%; 53% were White, 9% African-American, and 2% Asian. Thus, it is imperative that leadership development programs be created to increase the pipeline of Latina(o) leaders in higher education. So how do we do this?

First, we need to design and identify effective recruitment strategies. This can be done by:Developing strategies to increase the number of Hispanic executive administrators and presidents in community colleges.

  • Creating mechanisms to increase the visibility of Hispanic administrators and CEOs in order to attract greater number of Hispanic students to these institutions.
  • Creating mechanisms and programs (such as the NCCHC Fellows Program) to develop a cadre of Hispanic leaders that can serve as role models and decision-makers.

Why is it crucial to have such a pipeline program for Latino(a) Community College leaders?

First, demographics show that Latinos were the second largest racial/ethnic group in the U.S. in 2012; 17% of the total U.S. population compared to Whites at 63% (NCES, Digest of Education Status, 2013). By 2060, the Latino population is projected to increase to 31%, while Whites will represent 43% (U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division). In 2011, Hispanics represented 24% of K-12 education enrollment and are projected to represent 30% by 2030 (NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, 2011).

In Fall 2012, Hispanics were the second highest group enrolled in community colleges at 20%; Whites represented 54%, African-American 15%, Asians 6% (NCES Digest of Education Statistics, 2013), and in 2012, almost half (46%) of Latino students in higher education were enrolled in public institutions and 3% in private two-year institutions; compared to African-Americans (34%), Asians (32%), and Whites (31%) (NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, 2013).

Second, the Latino managerial and administrative staff in all colleges and universities are not proportional to the presence of this group in the general population. In 2018 a report by the Los Angeles-based Campaign for College Opportunity found that 44% of the students in California’s community colleges are Hispanic while the faculty is 15% Hispanic. California has 114 community college presidents and/or chancellors, only 17 are Hispanic.

A Call to Action! Help Us Recruit New Fellows


NCCHC Leadership Fellow Pins Awarded for Completion of Program

Each year, we mail information letters to all Community College Presidents informing them of the program so they can identify and sponsor an eligible Fellow. The eligibility criteria include currently holding an administrative position and aspiring to become a community college president; a Master’s degree is required and a doctorate preferred.

Please help us Identify potential community college leaders at your institutions. You can begin by establishing a mentoring program at your college. Mentor one potential leader whose goal is the presidency. Make a special effort to identify diverse candidates. Provide financial support for internships, travel, seminars, etc. Promote and collaborate with area leadership graduate programs and support the NCCHC Fellows Program and other similar programs.

Valuing diversity means understanding that everyone does not experience the world in the same way, and that the richness of these differing experiences will improve the quality of life for all… Valuing diversity means getting over the issue of race and gender, and focusing on the best interests of the institution and the community when selecting a college president. (The Community College Presidency at the Millennium, George Vaughn)


 meet Dr. Quezada

meet Dr. Martinez