Founder of University of Texas Community College Leadership Program transitions to for-profit

AUSTIN — John E. Roueche, the founder of the most established graduate program for aspiring community college leaders, located here at the University of Texas at Austin, is moving in July to National American University, a nonprofit institution lucrative, where he will attempt to create a similar operation.

“We’re going to work with them to design and build a doctoral program,” said Roueche, who led UT’s community college leadership program for 41 years.

The news of her leaving for a for-profit organization will be a bombshell for many community college administrators, and it got people buzzing here at the National Institute for People and Organizational Development’s annual conference. (NISOD), which is affiliated with the Roueche program. . Big changes could be on the horizon for NISOD, a leading community college support organization, many observers have said.

The work of the Center for Community College Student Engagement, a research and service group that reports to the program, may also be evolving. Kay McClenney, an influential national expert on community colleges and student success, is the center’s director.

“Our programs are strong, well-supported and growing,” McClenney said, adding that “the center’s current intent is to continue doing our work.”

Roueche, who is 73, had previously announced his retirement, with a departure in August which has been brought forward. UT has yet to announce its successor, and the Community College Leadership Program is being merged with the university’s training program for other higher education sectors, under the new name Higher Education Leadership Program, as Community college week reported this week.

The magazine also reported that only four students were admitted to the Community College Leaders Track for the incoming class, compared to 12 to 15 students in previous years. The smaller program has fueled concerns that UT is ceding ground it has long held as a dominant player in the field.

Roueche said he wasn’t sure his program’s work, or the jobs of his 50 employees, would remain safe at the university. But he said it was clear UT was following other top research universities in backing out of training community college presidents, despite a wave of retirements among industry leaders, which faces new importance and profound challenges.

“It makes no sense,” he said.

Norma Cantú, professor and chair of UT’s Department of Educational Administration, said the university remains committed to its leadership work in community colleges, as well as research on the two-year sector. . Cantú praised Roueche and his legacy, but said the remaining faculty members would be up to the task of keeping the program strong.

“It’s the university that has helped Dr. Roueche become the major force that he is,” she said, adding that over the past few years Roueche has done a good job “in ensuring that the program was more than his job”. The university plans to hire a new faculty member in the merged program, she said.

Regarding small class sizes, Cantú said professors have struggled in the past with classes of up to around 18 students. “We were stretched to follow the larger classes,” she said, and “we had to be more selective.”

To open the door?

Roueche has played a Texas-sized role in the education and placement of community college leaders, including those leading Cuyahoga Community College, Austin Community College, and Sinclair Community College, to name a few- one. Walter G. Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, was a professor in Roueche’s studio, while his predecessor, George Boggs, graduated.

“Roueche and the program have nurtured an enormous number of leaders,” including some of the most successful community college presidents, said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Excellence Program at Aspen Institute College, which studies college readiness. next batch of two years. college leaders.

Even so, UT has inspired grumbling from outsiders, who complain the program is too clubbish. And others say the overall quality of leadership development at community colleges is lagging. But the university has been by far the most successful, and Roueche has been widely praised for his research, writing, fundraising prowess, and mentorship of students and alumni.

He has, however, clashed with UT administrators in the past, usually over funding. The university reassigned a staffed faculty position and levied a substantial annual fee on the program. The Texas Association of Community Colleges filed a complaint with the state attorney general, claiming the university improperly misappropriated the funds.

Roueche hopes to continue his success at National American, a regionally accredited for-profit organization based in South Dakota. The university has multiple campuses, including three locations around Austin, and a strong online focus. It offers associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in health care and business-related disciplines.

National American University Holdings, Inc. announced Monday the creation of the Roueche Graduate Center, which will house the Harold D. Buckingham Graduate School at a new site in Austin. The university is pursuing “potential doctoral programs,” according to a press release.

Roueche, however, said he plans to launch a doctoral program for community college leaders, which would be based at the graduate center. Cohorts of students would also be grouped at other sites across the country, he said, perhaps 20 to 25 per group, in cities like Chicago.

“We will bring in national leaders to speak with these students,” Roueche said.

The changing landscape of community college leadership programs could open the door to other emerging players. The University of Maryland University College is stepping up its offering, led by Charlene Nunley, the former president of Montgomery College.

Wyner calls this moment a “huge opportunity.” Many existing programs were created decades ago with start-up funds from the WK Kellogg Foundation and have faded over time, Wyner and other observers said. Going forward, community college leadership training may look different, which Wyner says could be good for the sector.

“The next generation will have to tackle pushing the student success agenda forward,” he said.

(NOTE: This article has been updated to correct a reference to Roueche’s age, which is 73.)

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