Partnerships and Progress as ACCT Leadership Congress Continues

Day 2

October 26, 2018

Philanthropic and business leaders urged community college leaders to focus on the “radically different” during the second day of the 2018 ACCT Community College Leadership Congress in New York City.

“We’re very supportive of innovation in the space, and we see a lot of innovation happening,” Alan Golston, president of the United States program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said during Thursday’s keynote luncheon. “It’s early days, but it’s important for community colleges to engage and say this is an opportunity for us to do something radically different.”

Partnerships are the theme of the 2018 ACCT Congress, and Golston and Deanna M. Mulligan, president and chief executive officer of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, both stressed the importance of partnering with business and philanthropic partners. Mulligan discussed how her company works with a third-party provider to help its workforce develop emerging skills in new fields. In similar fashion, many companies are working across their industries to create aligned credentials, as well as badging and vouching platforms, Golston said, saying these activities “have the potential to be pretty disruptive.”

“There’s no reason community colleges couldn’t be fulfilling that role, and for the good of their students, they should,” Mulligan said. And with unemployment at near historic lows at a time when employers are struggling to find skilled workers, there’s an “enormous opportunity for community colleges to position students to take advantage of that gap,” she said. 

The key, Golston said, is being “radically student focused.” To that end, he said, community colleges must forge partnerships with both businesses and K-12 systems to ensure that “every student who walks through the door, instead of an obstacle course, has a clear path…. It takes time, commitment, and resources, but it’s possible, and we’re inspired by what we see in the space.”

Yesterday, Guardian and ACCT released a new paper, Partnerships for a Future-Ready Workforce, that details community colleges’ and businesses’ shared interest in preparing a future-ready workforce. 

Also Wednesday, more than a dozen of the 46 students who received New Century Workforce Pathway Scholarships from the Phi Theta Kappa honor society were honored in person during Thursday’s keynote luncheon.

“Community colleges are known for affordability and accessibility,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, PTK President and CEO. “Today, we celebrate our quality.”

Congress attendees also received an update on legislative priorities, which hinge on the upcoming Congressional elections, as well as a status update on community college promise programs, which are now in place in 23 states and hundreds of communities nationwide. Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey’s secretary of higher education, urged Congress attendees to shift the thinking around promise programs beyond “free college.”

“We’ve got to stop talking about free college and start talking about universal access to higher education,” she said. “Nobody talks about free libraries or parks. It’s a public good we should be investing in.”

This afternoon, the 2018 ACCT Regional Awards, announced this summer, will be presented in person during a special awards luncheon. During the luncheon, Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society also will present a new award in recognition of outstanding community college trustees, followed by a keynote presentation by Kevin Mulcahy, a partner at Future Workplace.

All regional-level awardees are contenders for the 2018 ACCT Association Awards, to be announced at tonight's awards gala. 

More than 1,800 community college trustees, presidents, and advocates are in New York City for the 2018 Congress, which continues through Saturday. Participants will be tweeting throughout the conference using #ACCT2018