When Dr. Ron Newcomb became president of Chattahoochee Technical College in February 2011, he knew he was taking on a sizeable undertaking. CTC is the largest technical college in Georgia. The college provides classes in more than 70 degree, diploma and certificate areas at its eight campuses and online. Serving six counties and with eight campus locations, the college also provides many other students with learning opportunities in adult education, continuing education, and workforce development training. More than 18,000 students enrolled during the past academic year.
It was helpful that Dr. Newcomb was already serving as provost and executive vice president at CTC while he was obtaining his degree from the IHE. “I assumed that if I were to ever have a shot at being a president of one of the technical colleges, I needed to have a doctorate.”
Like corporations, colleges and universities are taking a financial hit. While there is nothing new about the constant need to streamline budgets and operations, Dr. Newcomb stresses there is a second major challenge in this economic puzzle.
“… do leaders at the national, state and college level need to more actively scrutinize what we’re putting our resources into producing? At my own college, for example, in the face of known skills gaps in the workforce, should Chattahoochee offer programs where enrollment supply is robust but the effect upon the competitiveness of the workforce is average, or should CTC choose to incentivize enrollment into programs where enrollment demand is thin but the affect is to strengthen the workforce in critical areas? If you do the latter, how do you incentivize enrollment and yet also cover the usually higher costs of such programs? Yes, the technical colleges have always factored job demand into their decisions on program offerings, and yes, the history of colleges in the United States includes a robust debate about what curriculum to emphasize and why; yet new realities of global competitiveness have again put this discussion onto center stage at a time when the economic consequences are high.”
Regardless of the many challenges a college president faces on a daily basis, Newcomb receives a great deal of satisfaction out of watching students complete their education. “When I see how their personal resolve leads to graduation — and the joy it brings to them and to their families — then I am most rewarded by what we as a college have collectively accomplished.”
Looking back on his time at IHE, Dr. Newcomb is extremely positive about his experience. “To anyone currently in or aspiring to be in college leadership, what’s not to love about the IHE? The high academic and intellectual quality of its faculty, the genuine student support offered by both faculty and staff, the national reputation earned by the IHE, and the cogency and relevancy of its courses to actual college leadership. It isn’t possible for many IHE students, but I strongly recommend to students that they be part of a cohort — even if by their own design — because I found it to be a very important part of my own success.”
And real-world success is the name of the game at nontraditional institutions such as Chattahoochee Technical College.
By Betz Kerley