What else does a new community college trustee need to know?

New Trustees



By: David Conner
As a new community college board member, there are several key things you should know to effectively fulfill your responsibilities. While specific requirements may vary depending on the institution and jurisdiction, here are some considerations:
  1. Institutional Mission and Governance: Familiarize yourself with the mission, vision, and values of college you are serving. Understand the structure and governance processes, including the board's role, authority, and decision-making procedures.
  2. Legal and Regulatory Framework: Gain knowledge about the legal and regulatory framework that governs higher education in your jurisdiction. This includes understanding relevant laws, policies, and accreditation standards to ensure compliance.
  3. Strategic Planning: Be aware of the institution's strategic plan and its long-term goals. Understand how the board's role aligns with the strategic direction and how decisions should support the institution's mission and vision.
  4. Financial Oversight: Develop a good understanding of the institution's financial management, budgeting processes, and funding sources. Review financial statements and reports regularly to ensure fiscal responsibility and sustainability.
  5. Academic Programs and Quality: Gain familiarity with the institution's academic programs, its accreditation status, and the quality assurance processes in place. Stay informed about educational trends and best practices to help guide decision-making related to curriculum, faculty, and student outcomes.
  6. Student Success and Support: Recognize the importance of student success and the support services available to students. Understand initiatives related to retention, graduation rates, student engagement, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  7. Faculty and Staff Relations: Be mindful of the role of faculty and staff in the institution's success. Understand their concerns, engagement, and professional development needs. Foster positive relationships and support initiatives that enhance teaching, research, and overall employee satisfaction. Be mindful, too, that the college CEO (president/chancellor) is responsible for administering the college's programs, services and staff, and that board members should not engage in managing any of these. The board's sole employee is the college CEO, and all other employees of the college report to the CEO. Ideally, the college board and the college CEO operate harmoniously as a team in the best interest of the college, with the CEO attending to the daily needs of the college, and the college board guiding the direction of the institution through policy and reviewing outcomes. 
  8. Community Engagement: Recognize the institution's role as a community partner and its impact beyond the campus. Understand relationships with local communities, businesses, and government entities. Engage with stakeholders and represent the institution's interests when necessary.
  9. Ethical and Legal Responsibilities: Uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct, integrity, and transparency. Familiarize yourself with conflict of interest policies and disclosure requirements. Ensure the institution's actions and decisions adhere to legal and ethical norms.
  10. Continuous Learning: Commit to ongoing learning and professional development. Stay informed about current issues and trends in higher education. Attend conferences, workshops, and training sessions relevant to your board responsibilities. 

Remember, these are general areas to consider, and it is essential to familiarize yourself with the specific policies, procedures, and responsibilities of the higher-education institution you are serving.

Collaborating with fellow board members, institutional leaders, and seeking guidance from experienced individuals within the organization will help you navigate your role more effectively.

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