Community College Philosophy

Donald L. Steward Ed. D.

I am a product of the Florida Community College system. I can trace success in my life directly back to my experience at Miami-Dade Junior College. As an unmotivated high school student, Miami-Dade Junior College gave me a second chance to demonstrate my intellectual abilities by earning an associate’s degree with honors. Success at Miami-Dade encouraged me to continue on to eventually earn a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from The George Washington University, in Washington, DC.

My experience has led me to firmly believe in the dual role of community colleges as nurturers of the aspirations of individuals and as a key resource for their host communities. Community colleges, as open door institutions, welcome the enthusiasm of youth and the wisdom of age in their diverse student populations. They convey knowledge to students which is born from the study and practice of dedicated faculty. In an atmosphere of acceptance and trust, students benefit from the presence of administrators who provide caring oversight for meaningful educational programs. Each of these constituencies – students, teachers, administrators, and community -- together, form a powerful learning community. To me, community colleges are not, nor should they be, pretentious places. They are instead working institutions geared toward training graduates for meaningful employment, for transfer to four year institutions, and for life-long learning for personal enrichment.

I believe that the dual community college function of provider of remedial education and workforce education strengthens the community immeasurably by lending a helping hand to those struggling to enter the job market for the first time as well as to those who need retraining to re-enter the job market in the face of job losses in a difficult economy. Community colleges are more efficient than their university counterparts in providing a relevant education for the world of work. It is, therefore, essential to understand all the reasons student may chose a community college and to welcome those students by furnishing meaningful academic programs. I am convinced that our job as administrators does not end with a student’s graduation, but with successful employment or articulation into a four-year degree program.

I strongly believe in the concept of a student-centered environment. In my interactions with persons at all levels -- from the highest levels of university administration to the newest campus janitor -- the one question I always ask before making a decision or recommending a course of action is “What is best for our students?” The answer to this question should be the predominant factor governing every one of our decision-making processes.

I enjoy direct interaction with students and the opportunity to influence student’s life choices through attentive listening. Careful counseling is a higher education manager’s greatest gift to his/her institution. As a campus executive, my job is to remove distractions from the learning environment to allow students to do their job: to learn, to graduate, and to be employed.

At Indiana University Northwest, I created and maintained a diverse workplace within the Office of Information Technology. Over the years my staff at IUN, at GW, and at SUNY included representatives of many ethnic groups including persons from San Salvador, Haiti, Viet Nam, Peru, India, Ukraine, Macedonia, and the Philippines. I appreciate the different world view that people of other races and nationalities bring to the workplace. My entire staff similarly gains understanding and tolerance of others through an opportunity to work in a diverse environment. I travel internationally, when possible, because I want to personally know and experience different cultures. Cultivating a diverse world view is critical to help students plan for an inclusive future in a global economy.