MCC introduces the three finalists to possibly serve as the next President (Photo by Monica Spencer)

Candidates to be MCC’s new president introduced at forum

The three candidates applying for the position of Mesa Community College President spoke last week about their visions for MCC’s future. Dr. Kim Armstrong, Ph.D., who is also applying for President at Phoenix Community College, Dr. J Nathaniel “Nate” Southerland, Ph.D., and Dr. Tammy Robinson, Ed.D introduced themselves and shared their unique viewpoints on what would make them a strong fit for the position.

Dr. Armstrong currently serves as Vice Chancellor for Student Equity and Community Affairs at Arkansas State University Three Rivers. She expressed her motivation as the responsibility of the shoulders she stood on as part of a lineage of free, educated, land-owning, African American predecessors.  She said, “to whom much is given much is required.”

Armstrong expressed being drawn to MCC because of its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. She commended both the state for having the conversation, and MCC for deciding that “equity, diversity and inclusion are paramount to who you are.” 

Dr. Southerland is currently the Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Coconino College in Flagstaff, AZ. His background ranges from high school teacher to academic advisor before becoming provost. 

Southerland spoke about culturally responsive pedagogy, stressed community connection, partnership between city and college, and understanding what it means as a Hispanic Serving Institution to make MCC a home to Hispanic students.

Dr. Robinson currently serves as the Vice President of Instruction at Cañada College in Redwood City, California.  She described herself as someone who has been at most levels of administration and academics, but continues to evolve.

She valued “making college available to those who don’t think it’s for them.”  She closed with tears in her eyes, expressing, “I do this because there is no greater job in the world.”

The overarching theme of the selection committee, candidates, and finalists was one of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  All three candidates referenced ideas on how to move MCC forward with its commitment to diversity practices.

The selection committee was formed of students, faculty, staff, and community members with the charge of reviewing all potential candidates.  “It reflects the diversity-inclusive educational system,” said Maricopa County Community College District Communications Liaison, Matt Hasson.

The selection timeline has lasted over the better part of a year.  

The process started in October, with a community survey and virtual town hall to get input from MCC students and the neighborhoods surrounding MCC.  

A November committee meeting solidified the tri-chairs who have headed the selection committee.  The committee began their training in January and February to begin the process of actively reviewing candidates.  

Three chairs head the committee: Dr. Liz Czikar, Faculty Senate President of MCC, Dr. Nora Amavisca Reyes, Senior Associate Vice President of MCC, and Dr. Pale Dale, President of Paradise Valley Community College.  The selection committee consists of approximately 20 members.

The goal of the committee has been to aid in selecting a candidate that most closely aligns with MCC’s vision of the future.  

The new president must be, “a leader who will build upon the college’s academic program, aligning it with the current needs of higher education’s changing landscape, and further advance the college’s dedication to student success while growing student enrollment, continuing the college’s commitment to diversity efforts, and enhancing community engagement,” according to the MCC website page devoted to the presidential candidate search.

The presidential criteria as listed on the MCC website, denoted as “leadership agenda”, includes clarifying direction and enhancing academic excellence, increasing student enrollment and retention, boosting faculty and staff morale, nurturing a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion, improving community engagement on and off campus, and advancing district priorities.

“Of course, we want our applicants and our president to reflect that.” Hasson continued, “it’s a heavy responsibility. Mesa’s our largest college, and we need someone that can work collaboratively and lift up the system.” 

MCC’s new president  will be announced in May 2022, passing the baton from Lori Berquam, who has been serving as the interim president.To stay apprised of the presidential selection process, visit: https://www.maricopa.edu/executive-searches/mesa-community-college-president