Did the holidays come and go without you finding the perfect gift for the new community college president on your list? Or the aspiring college president? Rest easy – I have two reading recommendations. Even though full-time administrators rarely curl up with a book, I am confident that these two volumes will be read, studies, and appreciated.
Judith Block McLaughlin is one of the nation’s preeminent scholars of higher education leadership. Director of Harvard’s Higher Education Program and Chair of its Seminar for New Presidents, Professor McLaughlin has extensive knowledge of college presidencies, presidents, and a leadership issues. In 1996 she edited a slim volume in the Jossey-Bass series New Directions for Higher Education called Leadership Transitions: The New College President.
Leadership Transitions does exactly what it title promises: it explains, from the perspective of college presidents, what the transition to a new presidency is like. Covering crises and day-to-day work, the book contains direct first-hand observations and experiences as well as research and scholarship. It is direct, clear, and very handy.
A substantially more ambitious tome, Minding the Dream: The Process and Practice of the American Community College is an encyclopedic and mission-driven overview of community college’s real and hoped for across the nation. Written by Gail O. Mellow, currently president of LaGuardia Community College in New York City and one of country’s best-known thinkers on community colleges, and Cynthia Heelan, former president of Colorado Mountain College and now an educational consultant, this book is extensive, thoroughly researched, and extremely informative.
Minding the Dream is organized into two sections: Process and Practice. Process covers higher level issues, such as finances, assessment, governance, pedagogy, global trends, and ultimately, the value and place of community colleges. Practice focuses on the key functions of community colleges: developmental education, transfer, workforce development, and ESL. Each chapter follows a similar format, opening with an overview and and idealized version of what the “dream” would entail. Explanations of the “unfulfilled dream” and the “real story” follow, painting a clear picture of the work that community colleges undertake and the work that remains to be done. Research and scholarship inform arguments. Collectively, the volume articulates the tremendous value of community colleges to students, communities, economic development, and the nation. It is a well written and thoughtfully organized overview, and it is extremely valuable.
Both works are welcome additions to any higher education library.