Dr. Garrett Hinshaw
President of Catawba Valley Community College
Distinguished 2003 NC State College of Education Alumnus
The big thing that the College of Education provided to me was a strong foundation in leadership theory and strategic planning. I felt prepared to lead when I completed my doctoral degree.
My education at NC State’s College of Education gave me a strong historical perspective to review the transition that the community college is currently undergoing. History repeats itself and so I am able to understand and act on current issues based on past lessons from history. My doctoral studies taught me to think critically about the changing socio-economic and workforce education trends so students get the training they need to get work or be prepared to succeed after transferring to one of our four year university partners.
One of the things that stuck out for me in the community college program at NC State was that there were high expectations for exemplary academic performance. I was taught to consider my weaknesses and turn them into strengths through preparation and hard work. I got a bad grade once on the first paper I turned in for my first class. I will never forget the professor’s review of my paper and never got another grade like that. It was the beginning of NC State’s preparation of me to never accept average as OK and to always strive for excellence. In community college education, we must be vigilant to meet the expectations of partners and to serve students well.
If a student who was preparing for leadership asked my advice about what to expect, I would tell them that the number one thing to remember is that they are not going to always have the right answers. A good leader brings together smart people who understand all the details of a given situation. In addition, new and different teaching methods and new technology will change what students need. You will need to stay in touch with students to know what they need as they enter the community college world.
Students considering a career as a community college leader should ask themselves, “Do I understand myself as a leader?” They should be able to honestly evaluate their weaknesses and strengths. It is especially important that they can articulate their passion with respect to the higher education world. Once they know these things, they can strategically plan their education and their career path to become a better leader. My experience at NC State allowed me to tailor my training to grow my leadership capacity. My passion is students. I learned to identify, “What is best for them?” when preparing each step forward in strategic plans.
Dr. Hinshaw was named President of the Year by the State Board of Community Colleges in 2015. When he joined Catawba in 2006 and implemented the college’s first five-year strategic plan in its 48-year history, he set a goal for the college of being the Best Community College in America. That journey is underway with the establishment of the first Office of Multicultural Affairs in the NC Community College System. The college was selected as one of three in the country to participate in the pilot phase of the Innovation Fund America through the Kauffman Foundation based on demonstrated leadership and innovation desire to sustain innovation in their service area.