Skip to main content
College of Education Home

College of Education News

Leadership for the 21st Century Community College


Future community college leaders will need the ability to adapt to the unexpected as well as a strong foundation in management, Harper College President Kenneth L. Ender said in a fall keynote address for the College of Education.

Ender, who delivered the Dallas Herring Lecture, has led Harper College to national prominence since taking the helm six years ago. The community college in Chicago’s northwest suburbs has built a reputation for student success by increasing graduation, transfer and certificate completion rates; aligning the college’s curriculum with high schools; training students for new economy jobs; and implementing new accountability and transparency standards.

“What does it take to lead in a 21st century community college? I believe it requires knowledge and skill sets that are much more comprehensive and complex than the current system demands,” Ender said.

In addition to strong management skills, community college administrators will need to be nimble, he said.

“These leaders will need an enhanced ability to deal effectively with ambiguity, because what they will face in the future, they will have never seen in the past.”

Interim Dean Mary Ann Danowitz said Elder’s Nov. 23 talk highlighted the need for strong higher education partnerships.

“This stellar event celebrates excellence in community college leadership and our College of Education’s past and future partnership with the North Carolina Community College System. President Ender’s provocative words have stimulated and challenged us to rethink the mission of community colleges and develop new seamless systems among our schools, community colleges and universities.”

To cap off the event, James Sprunt Community College President Lawrence Rouse received the I.E. Ready Distinguished Leader Award, established in memory of the first president of North Carolina’s community college system. The award recognizes innovation in the community college system and the impact a single motivated leader can exert regionally in advancing initiatives of NC State’s Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development.

Dallas Herring Lecture

Rouse, the fifth person to lead the community college in Kenansville, earned a Doctor of Education degree in adult and community education from NC State.

“As I look back 22 years ago to where I am now, without NC State I would not be here,” Rouse said. “I would like to say thank you, and this is certainly an honor for me today to receive this award.”