Unexpected challenges that define the decision-making process of community college presidents



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Texas Tech University


This study examines the decision-making process of community college presidents when encountering unexpected major challenges. During the day-to-day operation of a community college, the president typically relies upon his/her best judgment when making "routine" decisions. However, this decision-making process changes when the unexpected occurs and causes a threat to the potential further existence of the community college, or to the continued tenure of the community college president.

Prior to this study little had been researched regarding the actual decision making process, when encountering an unexpected major challenge. Rather prior studies dealt with the eventual outcome resulting from a major challenge and the impact upon the community college and/or the community college president.

This study is restricted to presidents of community colleges. University presidents, chancellors, and other leaders of community college systems were excluded from the study. Likewise, also excluded from the study were the presidents of private two-year institutions and the presidents of tribal community colleges.

During this study, fours areas of interest were developed that typically generate unexpected challenges for a community college president. These four areas involve financial issues, personal issues, political issues, and public relations issues. The financial issues derived from the reduction of state funding appropriations after the start of the academic year. The personnel issues derived from employees who were not performing their assigned duties in a responsibility manner. The political issues derived from situations in which the community college president was advised by state political officials that they had to expand their community college. One by absorption of an adjoining vocational/technical School and the other by creating a new campus in a neighboring community. The community college president who encountered a public relation issue did so because the community became highly divided over a dramatic stage production, scheduled to be produced and performed at the community college.

A key factor in resolving the major challenge was communication. The affected community college president communicated to all affected stakeholders the nature of the challenge and kept stakeholders apprised of the progress regarding the resolution of the major challenge. To resolve these major challenges the effective community college president drew on the collective wisdom of his/her administrative team for advice and consultation. The community college presidents in this study also called upon their personal integrity in that once the decision had been made to resolve the major challenge they adhered to the predetermined course of action despite criticism that would immerge from those who sought to undermine the resolution process..