A Changing of the Guard Offers Opportunity for Growth

by Tom Hanlon  /   Aug 28, 2020

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Community college leadership across Illinois is in a period of change and the University of Illinois is stepping to the fore with a new program for aspiring and experienced leaders.

A changing of the guard is taking place in community college leadership in the state of Illinois and across the country. And the University of Illinois’ College of Education wants to ensure that change transpires smoothly and effectively.

“In Illinois, we have 48 community colleges, and people in key leadership roles in many of those institutions are winding down their careers,” says Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, professor in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership. “There currently isn’t much in the state in the way of leadership training that’s specific to community colleges.”

This fall, the College of Education will launch its first course in a 12-credit hour, fully online graduate Certificate of Specialization (COS) in Community College Leadership. The specialization can be pursued by non-degree seekers who want to pursue professional development, as well as online and on-campus students who are working toward degrees and want to concurrently pursue a minor area of concentration in Community College Leadership, says Zamani-Gallaher, who is also director of the Office for Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) and executive director of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges.

“There’s a broad audience for this certificate,” she says. “We have community college educators who have a master’s in a discipline but are not as familiar with the community college context beyond their own institution or are seeking to move into academic or student affairs in a two-year college setting. Others are community college administrators already but are looking for professional development or post-master’s enrichment. They can transfer those COS hours onto a degree program, should they decide to pursue additional credentials later. Therefore, this new COS can serve as a springboard or launching pad toward a master’s or doctorate.”

The initial class is capped at 50 students, and the College is nearing that capacity now, Zamani-Gallaher says.

The COS will help students gain a deeper understanding of the issues that community colleges face in and beyond the state, she says. Students will gain insight into an array of relevant topics that impact community colleges, including their origins, governance structure, funding models, institutional diversity, and the internationalization of the community college model.

“All of this will not just enhance individuals’ understanding of community colleges, but it can also directly impact how they think about curriculum, student support services, and local community and workforce issues that can be more transformative rather than just transactional relative to programming and policies,” Zamani-Gallaher says.

The University of Illinois, she adds, has a long history of providing leadership development and research training through professional preparation programs in the College of Education and graduate appointments with the OCCRL. “There is more we can do in contributing to the community college leadership pipeline in the state,” she says.

Offering this new COS, Zamani-Gallaher adds, underscores the College’s belief in taking seriously the land-grant mission of the University. “We are very much about not just public intellectualism, but about making sure that we are partnering with our communities and understanding their needs, in this case their growing need for the professional preparation and development of leaders for community colleges,” she says.

“This shows the responsiveness to the University of Illinois’ commitment to public engagement and supporting key initiatives related to the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI). More specifically, fostering workforce development and partnering with two-year institutions who are doing the work demonstrates continued advocacy of our state community colleges.”

Learn more about obtaining the Community College Certificate of Specialization online through the College of Education. The College offers 15 unique certificates of specializations that can be completed independently or within an online EdM or EdD program.