New Paper: Five Keys to a Successful Community College CEO Transition Year

July 29, 2020

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) today released a white paper detailing Five Keys to a Successful Transition Year for newly hired community college chief executive officers.

“With over 50 percent of community college CEOs expected to retire within the next few years, boards are seeking new ways to connect the hiring and onboarding processes to ensure the new CEO’s effectiveness and longevity,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “The first year often sets the stage for the CEO’s success.”

The CEO search process involves more than recruiting candidates and placement, said ACCT Vice President for Search Services Julie Golder. “A comprehensive CEO search doesn’t begin with placing employment ads and it doesn’t end with the appointment of a president,” Golder said. “Once the appointment is made, we recommend a five-step process to support and assist a successful transition.”

Five Keys to a Successful Transition Year was researched and written by ACCT Search Consultant and former Seattle Colleges Chancellor Dr. Jill Wakefield. “We are grateful for Dr. Wakefield’s insights from the field and her dynamic understanding of the college CEO transition process,” said Golder. ACCT Director for Retreat and Evaluation Services Colleen Allen and ACCT Search Services Associates Alexis Victor and Cathy Gray provided additional support for the paper.

Some of the recommended activities, such as conducting a retreat with the board and the current CEO, are not intuitive to all boards, Allen said. And yet, she said, “the board-CEO partnership is critical to the CEO’s success. A retreat held within the first two months provides an opportunity for board members and the CEO to get to know each other, discuss working relationships, review communication protocols, and clarify how they will approach major decisions.”

“We hope that this paper will serve as a practical guide for ACCT member colleges that use ACCT searches, but also for anyone who has a greater interest in understanding the community college executive search and onboarding process,” said Golder.

ACCT Searches has over 40 years of experience as the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing services exclusively to community college governing boards. The organization has successfully completed over 500 CEO searches, ranging from campus presidents to state-system presidents.