The 2023 ACCT Leadership Congress kicked off in Las Vegas Monday with calls to “build a legacy” for the students and communities that community colleges serve. “The legacy of community and technical colleges… is the legacy of the American Dream,” ACCT Chair Rose Benavidez, a trustee at South Texas College, said during Monday’s opening session. “Everyone in this room understands the importance of our institutions to bridging the ever-expanding gap between those of means and those who can barely make ends meet.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Ben Armstrong told the nearly 1,900 Congress attendees that changing economic conditions are providing the opportunity for community colleges to build an entirely new legacy: that of rebuilding the “middle of the country, the middle of the labor market, and people from all walks of life,” said Armstrong, executive director and research scientist of MIT’s Industrial Performance Center.
Changing demographics, steady growth in manufacturing jobs, and recent wage increases for bottom and middle-income jobs signal a break from the last four decades of growing income inequality, stagnant educational attainment, and limited opportunities for economic mobility, Armstrong said. Noting that many areas seeing growth in middle-income jobs and upward mobility also have strong community colleges and high proportions of workers with two-year degrees, Armstrong argued that community colleges can “provide workers with the voice to be advocates for economic and social progress that goes hand in hand with new technology.” Doing so, he says, will require institutions to “expand the aperture of skills they provide” and play an even greater role as conveners and anchors of workforce partnerships.
Earlier in the day, more than 100 community college leaders and advocates gathered for the Leveling Up: Realizing Black Learner Excellence at Community Colleges Symposium. Symposium speakers announced the launch of the Alliance for Black Learner Excellence at Community Colleges, a voluntary cohort of community colleges that will focus on building institutional capacity to better serve Black learners. Repeating the Level Up and Get REAL initiative’s call to reverse the loss of nearly 300,000 Black learners from the community college system over the past two decades, Dr. Keith Curry, president and CEO of Compton College, challenges community college leaders to “display unapologetic leadership,” saying “this is just the beginning.”
“We’re very intentional, and we’re very unapologetic, and we’re going to continue what we’re going to do,” said Curry, the initiative’s national chair. “But we have to do it together.”
“Community colleges have stood in the gap for multiple communities time and time again,” added Dr. DeRionne Pollard, president of Nevada State University and former leader of community colleges in three states. “You can’t stop now. This is essential work… [and] the community college space has to lead the movement.”
ACCT President & CEO Jee Hang Lee and Benavidez called on community college leaders to take this essential work back to their institutions. “I stand before you asking who’s in?” Benavidez said. “We are.” Learn more about the initiative here.
Also before the ACCT Leadership Congress officially kicked off at 5:00 p.m., college leaders spent the day in educational academies dedicated to effective board governance, the role of the board chair, and the trustee's role in effective advocacy.
ACCT Leadership Congress participants were welcomed by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who proclaimed October 9 Association of Community College Trustees Day, and by Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Carol Del Carlo, who also serves as ACCT Board Secretary-Treasurer, and College of Southern Nevada President Dr. Federico Zaragoza.
The 2023 ACCT Leadership Congress continues through Thursday with more than 150 concurrent sessions and a Tuesday keynote address by Dr. James L. Moore III, assistant director for the National Science Foundation Directorate for STEM Education, as well as presentation of regional ACCT Awards sponsored by Edamerica, a celebration of the membership, and election of Regional Directors of the ACCT Board and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee members. The full event program can be viewed here.