UACCM selected award finalist

The Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges and the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton have been named a 2014 Bellwether Award finalist.

The Community College Futures Assembly issued a call for Bellwether Award nominations in the fall, and 30 finalist colleges in three categories were competitively chosen from the applicants. The field of Bellwether nominations was very competitive this year with more than 400 applications.

Ten finalists were selected in each category: Instructional Programs and Services; Planning, Governance and Finance; and Workforce Development.  

The organizations were selected as a finalist for their work with the AATYC Leadership Institute in the Planning, Governance and Finance category. Nominations in that category include programs or activities that have been designed and successfully implemented to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the community college.

The AATYC Leadership Institute began in 2008 after Dr. Linda Birkner, vice chancellor of administration at UACCM, identified a need. Birkner’s research pointed out that Arkansas would soon face a leadership crisis within the two-year colleges.  

“The creation of the Leadership Institute put Arkansas out front! At that time, only a handful of states had even recognized that a leadership crisis might occur,” said Birkner.

The Leadership Institute, first known as the Higher Education Leadership Institute, was established after Birkner presented her research to the presidents and chancellors of the 22 two-year colleges in Arkansas. Dr. Linda Beene, senior vice president at Martin-Wilbourn Partners, was in attendance that day and realized that the impending retirements of leaders in Arkansas’s community colleges would cause major problems if something wasn’t done to prepare.  

Birkner added, “Dr. Beene’s past experience as the director of the department of higher education positioned her to create a leadership program that Arkansans could be proud of.”

With the support of AATYC, Beene created the Leadership Institute in 2008. The AATYC Leadership Institute has since been a statewide initiative that provides community college employees with exposure to leaders in higher education throughout the state. Participants study college finances, legislative issues, and student service functions.

The networking opportunities are another valuable component of the program. Students develop a core network of professionals that might take years to develop without the institute. The networks act as a support system for those who choose to move into new leadership roles.  

Birkner said, “The program empowers current employees and prepares them to assume new leadership roles. It has become a shining example of how to strengthen the pool of future leaders.”

Every year, the colleges that make up AATYC each send one or two employees to participate in the year-long program. The selection process among employees at many institutions is rigorous for this elite leadership program. When it began, the institute enrolled 18 students. Five years later, the class size has grown to 30 participants. Now in its sixth year, 128 leaders from throughout the state have completed the program. Many of the participants have taken new leadership positions within the community colleges.

Being nominated for a Bellwether Award is a prestigious honor and only community colleges are able to participate. Since UACCM and Birkner have had direct ties to the AATYC Leadership Institute since its origin, Birkner was selected to represent Arkansas’s two-year colleges by presenting the program at the Futures Assembly.

“The Bellwether Award is one of distinction among community college programs,” said Birkner.  “Only the very best reach this level. I am proud to represent all of those associated with the Leadership Institute, and I look forward to telling their story.”

All finalists will present at the assembly Monday, Jan. 27, in Orlando, Fla., and one winner will then be selected from each category by a panel of national experts. The winners will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the CCFA annual meeting in Orlando.