ACCT Leadership Congress Kicks Off as Virtual Event

Over 1,000 Community College Leaders Share Success Stories and Lessons Learned in a Historic Year

October 6, 2020

The 2020 ACCT Leadership Congress kicked off its first-ever virtual experience Monday morning—as a response to the ongoing pandemic, but also as an opportunity to help community college leaders meet these challenges in new ways.

“One of the ACCT Board’s priority values is innovation. We’ve used this innovation to rethink the design of this Congress as a virtual event,” ACCT Board Chair Dawn Erlandson, trustee of Minnesota State Colleges of Universities, said during Monday’s opening general session. “Your loyalty and your commitment to your colleges and your students are commendable during these difficult times.”

The Congress opened at the time when the nation’s community colleges are weathering what ACCT President & CEO J. Noah Brown called a “trifecta” of challenges—a pandemic, an economic recession, and renewed calls for social and economic justice. Brown highlighted a range of actions ACCT has undertaken to help community colleges respond to these challenges, including publishing resources, briefings, and webinars, advocating for federal relief, and renewing its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and publishing a new guide to help boards to do the same on their campuses as they respond to what keynote speaker Marc H. Morial called “a year of great consequence in American history.”

“We’ve not had a year like this in modern times,” said Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “It is a year of tremendous consequence.”

Morial highlighted the challenges caused by the ongoing health, economic, and racial justice crises, stressing that the impacts of each are falling disproportionately on people of color and addressing issues ranging from healthcare and police reform to broadband connectivity and workforce training. He urged community college leaders to ensure that targeted programs and initiatives support Black men and other underserved populations at their institutions.

“Be very intentional about it,” he said. “It can be done. It needs to be done because the country needs every able-bodied person to be able to operate at the highest levels that their God-given talent allows.”

Morial also reminded community college leaders that they have a unique place in American politics. “There’s at least one community college in each of the 435 Congressional districts,” he said. “That creates an opportunity for community colleges to create a broad base of support.”

With more than 60 virtual sessions scheduled through Thursday, the virtual Congress focuses on providing community college leaders with the tools they need to ensure their institutions emerge from this year’s challenges stronger than before. 

“There’s a real opportunity within this pandemic to take a look at your college, your numbers, and why you’re doing what you’re doing, whether it’s programs or student services,” said Jo Alice Blondin, president of Clark State Community College in Ohio during a session earlier Monday.

Coronavirus crisis "silver linings," noncredit education, foundational and advance governance and board communications were among the 20 concurrent session topics presented. All participants will have access to the 60 educational sessions through the end of the year.

The ACCT Leadership Congress continues online with more than 60 virtual sessions through Thursday, Oct. 8. For more information, visit http://congress.acct.org. Search #ACCT2020 on Twitter for more from the event.