The 2022 ACCT Leadership Congress kicked off Wednesday evening with a panel of higher education accreditors urging community college leaders to cut through a “cacophony of noise” to ensure “that community colleges are on the path to help America get to where it needs to be,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, Ph.D., president of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
“Starting the Congress with this panel is more than symbolic,” added Daisy Gonzales, Ph.D., interim chancellor of California Community Colleges and commissioner of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). “It’s about setting a new bar for where we are headed in higher education. It means that business as usual can no longer be the story.”
With the theme “Improving the Lives of Entire Families,” this year’s Congress has brought more than 1,800 community college leaders to New York City. “We have a lot to accomplish over the next few days on behalf of all our colleges and students,” said ACCT Chair James Cooksey, chair of Moberly Area Community College in Missouri.
“Our time is really now,” said State University of New York Vice Chancellor Johanna Duncan-Poitier. “Community colleges are being recognized as the leaders they have always been.”
Earlier Wednesday, more than 100 attendees discussed strategies to increase the enrollment, retention, and success of men of color in community colleges during a special pre-Congress symposium. Sponsored by the Kresge Foundation, the Improving Educational Outcomes for Men of Color Symposium featured a framework for college leaders to support men of color attending their institutions developed by Dr. Frank Harris III and Dr. J. Luke Wood, co-directors of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab at San Diego State University. ACCT also released a research brief detailing the framework which is available for download.
“I challenge each and every one of you as tough leaders and mentors to find solutions on how to support our young men along their educational journeys,” said U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), the first Dominican American to be elected to Congress. “It is upon each and every one of us to ensure they succeed.”
Three students shared their experiences at New York community colleges. Borough of Manhattan Community College Bilal Sani explained that the college’s motto—start here, go anywhere—spoke to him. “I wanted to go to a place where I knew I could receive a good education, but also where I could continue. I didn't want to have a ceiling over my head. I wanted to make sure that I could do what I've truly wanted to do with my future.”
Harris summed up the symposium succinctly: “The one takeaway is to listen to the students,” he said. “They provided some depth and context to things we know have always been important, but they helped us to understand the why.”
The 2022 ACCT Leadership Congress continues through Saturday with more than 100 sessions and workshops
The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond.