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Podcast Chat in Chattanooga: Leadership for Education

by National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
August 4th 2021

Welcome back to Tennessee! Listen to a powerful new episode with our host, Dr. Rebecca Corbin, Pierpont Community & Technic... More

have you joined our online community nace e meets. We're excited to have a platform dedicated to our members to network, connect, exchange ideas and support your entrepreneurial initiatives, joined the community at Macy meats dot Macy dot com And the point of welcome to making our way forward a podcast where we share compelling life stories and learn from the experience of everyday entrepreneurs at Macy. We celebrate diversity and invite you to join the conversation as we talked to entrepreneurs and leaders from all walks of life. We hope that by telling their stories, we bring you inspiration, empower you to take action and ignite entrepreneurship in your community. Welcome to Making our way forward podcast. We're coming to you from Chattanooga Tennessee where we're here with our partner organization, Old friends and new friends here to talk about entrepreneurship.

So I am happy to introduce my guests and they're going to begin talking a little bit about their background. I'm here with dr jean Coulson and dr Anthony Hancock and I think I want to start with you, jean. We were talking about this last night uh you were the first person to call me when I took on the job at Macy uh 6.5 years ago and we've been collaborators ever since. So thank you for joining us this morning. Let's begin. Tell us a little bit about your background for people that are tuning in around the country and around the world. Tell us about jean Coulson. Where did it all begin? Well, I've been in education since 1978. I was teaching entrepreneurship and marketing education in Virginia, finished my master's degree at Virginia Tech, moved to the state Department of Education In West Virginia and I was there for 28 years and during that entire time I had different job duties. But entrepreneurship was always on my business card.

It's something I've done all the way through. So I retired from the Department of Education in 2013. And toward the end of that year, Entre Ed came calling and said, we need an executive director and we know you're retired and you have a background in entrepreneurship, you just seem to have all the qualifications and we've got this little part time management thing for you part time, part time. And I had never managed an association before. So I didn't know that there is no such thing as part time. So in 2000 January of 14 I accepted the position of executive director of entre ed and always wondered why there was not at the time, a very strong relationship with the community Ecologist. And just by chance I read that Macy had had a change in leadership and you had been been tapped.

And so as you said, I picked up the phone right away and said, uh, we, I need to talk, that's great and we're going to dig into that because there's a story inside the story, the little Russian nesting dolls, if you will. But to your left is uh the interim president, Anthony hancock that I met this morning and he has a really interesting background from one of the community colleges that you speak about in west Virginia. So dr Hancock welcome. Would you share a little bit about your background and what brought you um today to join us in Chattanooga and taking on a leadership role in one of west Virginia's finest community colleges. Well, thank you for having me. I truly appreciate it. My story too, Chattanooga Tennessee is a little different. I grew up in western pennsylvania. Um, my dad was a steelworker. I graduated from high school, I went to work in the steel mills and I realized that um, you know, getting laid off, going back to work wasn't for me made a conscious choice to move to texas.

Um, in the early 80s did odds and in jobs, they're actually had a high school diploma, didn't even think about college or at least attempted college a couple of times, but it wasn't in my blood. So, um, became a truck driver, did that whole truck driving thing, Um, had a life altering. You've been in 1992 and was told that you need to go find your new career, you know, wife and two kids and realized that I needed to continue to be the breadwinner of my household. So I walked down to the local community college and I was looking at some brochures and looked at this thing called public administration. And then I went through the program in san Antonio college and got my associates when I got my bachelor's degree and got my master's degree in SAN Antonio And then um you know, I started working at the community college after my, my bachelor's degree, I'm at a local community college and I've been in this business for 24 years now um came this March and so my path has always been in workforce education and career and technical education.

And then I went through the ranks and Alamo colleges in SAn Antonio and Houston community college and apply for a position in west Virginia, became their vice chancellor for um community technical colleges and spent some time in that particular job and I was asked to be the um interim president repair part community technical college. So my entire career has been a workforce education entrepreneurship throughout my career. I absolutely love that and what jean will know in his organization and they see we're always looking for interconnections and interestingly enough, I grew up in Akron Ohio, so I too went through a public administration program at the University of Akron and was fascinated by steel mills and and the way that they shut down and the impact it has on communities. So you and I are going to have to have a whole other conversation about that, but I love the passion by which you come to this because you can really relate um to our community college students that are, you know, on average age 28 or older.

Um so, and I know jean um and we're going to get into this a little bit later um really has a connection to the little ones and um you know, Children in elementary middle school and high school and we see kind of the pipeline of where that goes. One of the things I love to talk to people about is really a person in your life that made a difference. Because I know with the three of us, although Gene and I are long term friends, you and I are new friends, um it's that desire to give back right in order to move forward, you you always have to be giving back to people. So I'm gonna start with Jeanne and would love for you to share with our audience a person or it could be a couple of people that really have made a difference, not only in your professional life but in your personal life, who have made you the person that you are frequently. The question about, who has been your mentor sounds like it's a lifetime question, who is the person in your life that's always had an effect on you. I don't find that I have that person, but I found that at different points in my life, when there were where I really needed that helping hand in that advice.

There was somebody there um when I took over his Entre Ed executive director, I've never been an association had before and I have a friend that I had served on his board for a number of years and he had been an exact for 30 years and he's the one that reached out to me and asked me to take the job at Entre Ed. And ever since then when I've had a question or something to want to wonder about um if there was something I wasn't sure which direction to go or how to handle, I always knew that that Doctor Jim Gleeson was on the other end of the phone and I had a conversation here with him as I was driving down here to Chattanooga about an issue. Um and it just seems that it points in my life, I've had a number of mentors that gave me what I needed at that particular moment. That's great, That's wonderful and Anthony dr Hancock, let's turn to you. How about people or a person in your life that was instrumental, you had such a great story of, of a career journey.

So what if I can resonate with what it is saying, because there are people in my career have been in my career and still are that I can pick up the phone and I can call when I need someone to be very objective and very, very straightforward with me, but there's one particular person who has really um walk me through My event that happened in 92 and has been there for me consistently throughout my entire career, who pushed me and pushed me and wouldn't let me settle for um when we want to settle when things get hard. And that's why community colleges is such a passion for me because this particular individual MS silvia de leon, it was my very first instructor in my introduction to public administration. And um, one of the things that she presented to us, um as college students and non traditional students for that matter, um was accountability. Right. And so when I look at this community college movement and how we have moved through the space of higher education from my time as a student to knowledge the mm President, what I find is that accountability will almost always have institution rise to their local communities and the things that they need to do in order to transfer in order to really engage in our community and how we operate as an institution partnering with our universities.

So Miss de Leon um is the person and I've always shared with her publicly. She gets embarrassing that she hears this. Her position is, it's not about me, it's about all of us as her students and we are thriving out in this community. Um, and so, uh she was a person and is the person and she just called me two weeks ago and let me know that she's finally retiring. She's always been a program coordinator, never wanted to be anything else at the community college because it kept her into the classroom, engaging with students who come through the institution. So she had the most effective me throughout mike personal life in my career as a beautiful story and I'm sure Miss De Leon is very proud of you. I can't even imagine what that feels like for her. Um one of the things you touched on is accountability and we talk a lot about culture and trust and a word that keeps coming back and I'd love for both of you to maybe give us um your definition or an example of what this is, because I think whether you're um holding an office as you are, um integrity, it is such a key part of that.

And you know, in in days like today, sometimes, um people don't always lean into that because sometimes it's hard and I would love it. Gene, maybe you could start and talk about integrity as a leader. What does that mean to you? How do you make sure that you really hang on to that and in the work that you do well, I think integral to integrity is trust. And I feel like if I treat people in an open and trusting manner and they feel like they can trust me and we developed that relationship that that I can trust what they say and that they will do what they say, they'll do, and I don't have to worry about things going on that shouldn't be going on. Um I think the, the organization builds that integrity just from the trust of each other all the time, and that's what I tried to build in my 28 years at the Department of Education.

And I think it takes it takes a few um failures at that to really see how important it is to make it work with everybody else. Yeah, I mean, when I was at the department, there are a few times where that trust didn't got broken a little bit with, with different individuals. Um, and so it just reinforced with me that building integrity and building trust with, with people you work with and allowing them to trust and trust in your integrity, uh, makes decisions become easier, particularly when you're not there to help make that decision, that you have faith, that the right decisions will be made. Thank you. So, for months, it's, it's, it goes back to um uh my earlier days in college and and I go back to this accountability. And so throughout my career, you know, we, in the community college movement, there is one thing that we will always report, um if you talk to people who've been in this business for a while that the community college level and that we, we are student centric institutions, right?

We're students century. And so that then begs the question what the student centric mean. And so when I look at integrity and I look at accountability um for me, integrity entails making the hard decisions based on your values and higher education and how you deliver, you know what you need to deliver to the students that you serve in, the people that you serve in that community. You know, jean is correct, when we talk about trust because if you violate that integrity, you're violating trust and people will, you know, not follow you. I had a mentor once told me that you can be the smartest person in the room, you can have all the answers, right? But at the end of the day, when you get up and walk out and you expect people to follow you, right and you turn around and they're still sitting there, you got a problem, right? And so that that entails one, the integrity that we talk about, people need to believe and follow. They need to believe in your vision, right?

So I don't set goals at my institution, people say where she goes, dr Hancock, I have no goals, I have a vision for the institution and that vision is aligned with my personal integrity, my accountability to my constituents in the community and the people that I served. So if I'm talking about being student centric, everything that I do within that institution, in that construct is built around being students century and therefore people know that when I say something I believe it and I act on it because I'm results driven at the end of the day, I hold myself accountable. Therefore I'm holding you, the expectation is you will be held accountable. Then the other part of this integrity goes in line with institutional stewardship. We have to be good stewards of our institutions and what does that actually mean? So we have to have those intentional conversations about the stewardship of the institution as relates to financial stability, Accountability to our constituents in our community, not just our students, but our business leaders, our K- 12 sister institutions, our community organizations who are doing good work in the nonprofit sector.

How do we have those intentional conversations about where our community needs to go based on the issues and challenges we're facing as a nation and as a community, even in the post pandemic environment. So its integrity and accountability for me is non negotiable because at the end of the day, if you're going to lead people, they have to trust you right. It's not about loyalty and it's not about that, it's about at the end of the day, is my integrity based on my values and how I was raised that I um um push out there into the general population. So people know when I walk on campus every single day, they know what they're going to get, they know who the person is walking on campus and what his value system is and Becky. I'm just something dr Hancock said just resonated with me that he has a vision but not a whole lot of goals and in this last year and a half of a pandemic, if you've got a whole lot of goals, I think that pandemic is just going to chuck them right in the garbage, but it's your vision that will allow you to pivot and still do the important work maybe in a different way with different goals.

I love that idea and it's really what we're going to get into later today about entrepreneurial mindset and the leader that really embraces that so you're not shying away from challenge, you know that when you're embracing and living in integrity and trust, they're going to be people that push up against that so you have to be ready and you have to surround yourself with networks of people who can really help you to be your, your best self. I talk about this and then a C Office sometimes are aspirational culture because we all have times where we're working on a project and things feel slightly out of alignment and you don't know what that is and if you've built up trust with people and they feel that they can be honest with you and tell you, you know, listen this is off, this is not, you know, we're not doing our best work, it's you can even deepen the trust even more so there's so much there and I appreciate that I'm gonna have to go back and listen to this after we broadcast it. Um one final thing is that we try to really emphasize here on the making our way forward podcast is really the concept of hope because I think what you've talked about dr Hancock in terms of walking your campus and and really focusing on students and jeans, same work, whether he was working in a state in the state or whatnot, what would you say?

Your most hopeful about? And we'll start this time with you Dr Hancock. What gives you hope? We're not quite out of the woods with the pandemic as we record this, but things are maybe looking a little brighter. What gives me hope is because at our institution um we are moving forward, that's our motto. Um and what does moving forward look like there is a new found freedom on our institution um where we're coming back full steam, you know, open campus in the fall, my executive team and I, we've had these intentional conversations with our department health and human services in the state of west Virginia about, you know, we follow, we look at C. D. C. We look at all the experts per se in terms of social distancing the pandemic, What does look like the delta about all these things are out there, but we have to focus in on Um what are students need and the conversations that we're having. You know, I was speaking with my vice president student services um last week and we're down 8.5%.

Right? And so she had to look look on her face because we know Roman drives revenue. Right? That's not my concern. That's not what I'm thinking about in terms of the institutional um one of the institutional goals, it is about how do we have potential conversations with the students that were serving when they come back on campus? How do we make them feel safe in that environment for me? What's hopeful is that I have, we have an excellent team of caring individuals on our campus. The pandemic has sent us all into a tailspin, right? We've been locked up for over a year and a half and now we found this newfound freedom, but there is this fear behind this. So if we trust in the process, we trust ourselves to make the right decisions for the right reasons. What we'll find is that we can have those conversations per se with nay Sarah's about either wearing a mask or not wearing a vast or vaccine or not vaccine for me, that's not even a conversation started with me. It's about being hopeful about having a safe environment for learning at our institution and my executive team and I will sit there and have those intentional conversations with the people in our community and the health care providers in the state about what actually does not look like.

And so I'm hopeful with the challenges that we still have that we will be intentional on how we operate. We will be empathetic about those who have a different view than we have and have those intentional conversations when we need to have them. And we will make sure that we put in um guidelines for our institution that we all will follow. And it's not so much let it take care of itself, but we will be monitoring how we operate on campus every single day. We want people to be comfortable and feel safe because I shared this last week and I share today Because we're down in our enrollment of 8.5%. And the question was um these are returning students. So if you've gone through a life trauma right? Childcare, trying to find a job etcetera, etcetera, going to college is not on your radar as a priority, right? And so we have to give people time to heal. We have to give people time to accept what they've gone through because they may have lost a loved one during this pandemic.

We don't know these things. So we just have to be much more empathetic and realistic about our institution in our nation's future. It's beautiful and meet people where they are right and embrace the whole person. So gene why don't you close a salad on this episode of the podcast. I've spent a lot of time in my life looking at a term that both popular and may be overused now is the entrepreneurial ecosystem. When I go back in the history of Entre ed, my predecessor dr Cafe Ashmore in the beginning was about advocating for entrepreneurship education at every level, At community colleges and universities, at incubator levels, at community colleges at K- 12 everywhere. Um now I take her place fast forward about 33 or four years. Um When I took over we sat back and tried to look at the landscape a little bit and said, what should our role, should it still be the same or should it change?

Well in that 30 some years nee see had been created, you saucy had been created I. M. B. A. Have been created many of the groups she worked with now have their own entrepreneurial association and perhaps we didn't need to have as much of a connection to those groups because they were all serving themselves pretty well. But we looked and said there's still nobody advocating for K- 12. So we decided to take that as our mission. And since then this whole issue of entrepreneurship ecosystem building with state governments and federal agencies and all of them being involved. What I'm hopeful about is I look back 30 years when there was nobody talking about that and today we're all sort of beneficiaries of riding the wave because entrepreneurship, the importance of it in our economy, the importance of it coming back from a pandemic.

Um and the role that entrepreneurship education can play have are not hard cells anymore. Sometimes people don't know how to do it and they're looking for ways to do it, but is it important? And should we do it is hardly even a question anymore and that needs to be pretty helpful about it. I think that's a good thought to end on. Well, I want to thank you both for sharing your stories for the work that you do. I feel honored that you're part of the ecosystem and part of my life. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. We hope they're listening to this podcast will help you to explore the many ways we might define entrepreneurship, join us every other Wednesday for more episodes as we celebrate opportunity, learn from one another and grow together. Subscribe to this podcast, connect with us on social media, learn more about today's speakers at Macy dot com forward slash podcast. We look forward to making our way forward together with you, have you heard about our latest book impact ed, how community college entrepreneurship creates equity and prosperity?

This is our roadmap for building back better in 50 states and globally in each chapter. We share the inspiring stories of everyday entrepreneurs and explain how community colleges play a crucial role in their success, visit us at Macy dot com slash impact add to order your copy now and join us in this work.

Podcast Chat in Chattanooga: Leadership for Education
Podcast Chat in Chattanooga: Leadership for Education
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