SIC's Rice, JALC's O'Keefe Selected as Speakers at National Conference

December 19, 2013

Southeastern Illinois College President, Dr. Jonah Rice and John A. Logan College Director of College Relations, Dr. Steve O’Keefe, have been selected as presenters at the upcoming Higher Learning Commission National Conference.  The two collaborated on a project titled, Anticipating the Community College Leadership Void with an Internal Development Plan.   The project is based on 1) an internal leadership program that Rice helped develop at SIC and 2) O’Keefe’s doctoral research on the effect that recent massive retirements are having on community college leadership.

According to Rice, community colleges in particular will be faced with incredible leadership shortages in the near future.

“Take the CEO position for instance, more than 75 percent of community college presidents plan to retire in the next decade, and more than 40 percent will retire in the next five years,” said Rice.

O’Keefe believes that it is an issue that community colleges cannot afford to overlook or push down the road.

“I surveyed community college administrators throughout the state and what I found was alarming.  According to my data, over 80 percent of the administrators in the state have no desire to become a community college president, and a nearly identical amount indicated that they do not believe that there is anyone on their campus prepared to lead if there was a presidential vacancy,” said O’Keefe.

According to Rice, there were more than 450 proposals submitted to the HLC, while only 150 were selected for presentation at the prestigious conference.  He believes that he and O’Keefe were picked because colleges throughout the nation know the value of leadership training programs, but few know where to start to begin developing such a program.

“Leadership training is a valuable tool for two reasons.  First, it prepares a new generation of leaders to fill the void left by retiring administrators, and second, it helps provide valuable professional development for current and future leaders,” said Rice.

O’Keefe agrees that both current and future leaders need to join together to address the issue.

“Most community colleges started in the late 1960s and grew tremendously in the 80s and 90s.  Now many of those leaders that helped build these colleges to what they are today are retiring and taking with them valuable knowledge. So if we want our colleges to continue to be successful, then we need to address the problem now and begin preparing future leaders before this becomes a crisis,” said O’Keefe.

The 2014 Annual Conference of the Higher Learning Commission will take place April 10-14 in Chicago.