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IHE Leads the Way

Betz Kerley
What do these leaders have in common? The Institute of Higher Education

Graduates of the IHE, being among the brightest and the best, continue to realize successful careers in higher education leadership. We are proud to include in our long list of outstanding alumni, eight of whom currently serve as presidents or chancellors of universities, community and technical colleges. Here are their thoughts on the role of leadership in today’s academic world

Michael Scales (EdD 1988), President of Nyack College & Alliance Theological Seminary. Scales is at the helm of one of the most diverse colleges in the country. The student population is 13% Asian, 35% black/African-American, 25% Hispanic and 25% white. Students are from 40 states and 62 countries. Almost 30 languages are spoken. They represent 82 church denominations. “With such diversity, education does not begin or end at the door of the classroom,” states Scales. “Learning is continuous wherever one is on the campus – wherever there is engagement.” Scales adds, “Leadership and service were expected outcomes of the IHE. As a proud graduate, I succeed only if those qualities are consistently portrayed.”

Charles Ambrose (EdD 1989) is in his 16th year as a college president, first at Pfeiffer University and now at the University of Central Missouri. “Pfeiffer University and the University of Central Missouri share many commonalities and values and have also taught me that leadership can be applied in similar ways regardless of institutional size and mission,” comments Ambrose. “The Institute provided me a foundation for leadership that I rely on today as much as I did when I first received my degree.”

Todd Holcomb (EdD 1992), President of Western Nebraska Community College. “Presidents must tackle their responsibilities with excitement and enthusiasm. You must be able to juggle multiple priorities while envisioning the future of the organization“. Holcomb adds, “The best example I set for the college is being a servant leader. People need to check their egos at the door, roll-up their sleeves and work as a team at our college. With this approach, we have been able to accomplish a great deal at WNCC over the last three years."

Randall Peters (EdD 2005), President of Southern Crescent Technical College. “While I already had plenty of leadership experience with over 22 years of active-duty service as an officer in the United States Army under my belt, I realized that I still needed the baseline knowledge that could only come from completing my doctorate at the University of Georgia. I made the right choice – I soon found myself asking a different kind of question of my senior staff – more on the order of “why do we do things this way” as opposed to “how do we do this”.

Matthew Thompson (PhD 2008), President of Kansas Wesleyan University. “As the recently named 19th president of Kansas Wesleyan University, my primary task has been to set the vision for the future of the university and develop constituent support,” states Thompson. “Leading Kansas Wesleyan is invigorating, challenging, and an important calling. I draw upon the lessons learned during my time at the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. My faculty, classmates, and the IHE curriculum inform how I lead each day.”

Sue Henderson (PhD 2008), President of New Jersey City University. The university’s first female president states, “A president needs a vast number of skills to manage and lead an organization.” Henderson adds, “The strength of the (IHE) program is in the courses that span the breadth of areas a president needs to know, taught by faculty who have theoretical understandings of the field and with fellow students who are themselves leaders in their own institutions.”

Ronald Newcomb (EdD 2011), President of Chattahoochee Technical College. CTC is the largest technical college in Georgia. Newcomb reflects on his leadership role, “Now, as budgets have declined and enrollments have tapered off, it requires an even more focused leadership on the part of myself and the other leaders throughout the college to juggle the competing pressures. We – yes, the leadership team – need to keep in front of everyone the vision of where we’re going, while dealing with the vicissitudes of morale, program alternatives, staffing priorities, student needs, operating budget shortfalls, and facility and equipment needs.”

Rodney Ellis (EdD 2011), Chancellor of Central Louisiana Technical Community College. When tapped to become chancellor of LCTCS, Ellis was the executive vice president of Atlanta Technical College. “I had to make the transition from a technical college to a comprehensive community college; from an urban setting to a rural setting,” comments Ellis. “This particular college really allowed me to have the opportunity to shape it from the ground floor. Although stressful at times, it’s really exciting because I know what the final outcome will be.” Ellis shared advice for future college leaders, “For the IHE student who aspires to be a president, the learning doesn’t stop once you leave the classroom, it is a constant learning process.”

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