MHCC President Begins Term as Chair of American Association of Community Colleges Board
Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) is pleased to announce that its president, John J. “Ski” Sygielski, will begin his term as chair of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) board of directors on July 1. As chair, Sygielski will oversee the activities of the prestigious 32-member board, provide leadership and vision to the board and its committees and represent the association in the national and international media.
Founded in 1920, AACC is the primary advocacy organization for community colleges in the United States as well as a number of international members. The association represents nearly 1,200 two-year, associate degree-granting institutions and close to 12 million students. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the association collaborates with other higher education entities to influence federal policy and works on behalf of community colleges with state offices.
AACC board members are elected by community college presidents across the country, and the board chair position is an elected one as well. Dr. George Boggs, president and CEO of AACC, says, “Dr. Sygielski is a nationally respected community college leader.” Sygielski’s election as chair by AACC board members is proof of that respect. Boggs continues, “I have always found ‘Ski’ to be thoughtful and positive. He respects people and listens to their concerns and opinions before deciding on a course of action.”
Sygielski, a Cleveland, Ohio, native, is the first and only member of his family to attend and graduate from college, which he feels allows him to bring a unique perspective to the board. “I came up through the workforce development arena,” he explains, “and understand that everything is about jobs, jobs, jobs and how important education and training really are to the success of individuals and the communities we serve.I grew up in a working class family, [and] I understand the value of a college education.”
Sygielski’s term begins during a dynamic time for both the AACC and community colleges. “This is a critical year for the association as the board selects my successor, orients the new leader and sets goals for the future,” Boggs says. Student enrollment has increased at community colleges across the country, and there is a national drive to increase completion rates. According to Boggs, the AACC is launching an initiative to improve college completion rates by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
During his term as chair, Sygielski will focus on the development of the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA), a system that will create a means for community colleges to measure and compare student progress and graduation rates. The VFA is in response to a growing sentiment that, according to the AACC website, “As a nation we have focused on increasing access to higher education but have neglected completion and success rates.” Finally, the VFA would help community colleges create and disseminate data that demonstrate their effectiveness.
Sygielski explains, “With the Obama administration focused on increasing college graduation rates, the AACC has a great opportunity to support this vision of a college-educated workforce. By providing a method to capture and measure graduation rates, the VFA will help our colleges receive the proposed federal funding and continue to support our students.”
The AACC is also working towards reauthorization of the federal Workforce Investment Act, which reformed the country’s job training system in an effort to improve the quality of the American workforce. “Sygielski understands the importance of these initiatives and is intimately knowledgeable of the association and its mission and operations. He is an excellent choice to lead the board during this year of transition,” Boggs says.
Fellow AACC board member, Noelia Vela, chancellor at San Bernardino Community College District in California, agrees. “Dr. Ski’s dedication and enthusiasm about community colleges, students and the leaders that lead them will impel him to build a strong and solid board team as we transition from one AACC CEO to another. He fully realizes that this is the ‘national moment’ for community colleges and will do everything he can to strengthen and revitalize the board’s advocacy role.”
Regarding Sygielski’s leadership, Ken Burke, AACC board member and a trustee of St. Petersburg College in Florida, says, “Dr. Ski brings energy to the AACC Board. His inclusive leadership style brings out the best in people. He realizes that the strength of the board is the collective wisdom created by different schools of thought and experience, and he harnesses this wisdom into positive action.”
Boggs and fellow board members say they are looking forward to working with Sygielski. Vela explains, “Dr. Ski has an ability to be detail oriented and focused while displaying a sense of humor and fun. He is very energetic and genuinely cares about people – and it shows.” Carolane Williams, president of Baltimore City Community College in Maryland and AACC board member, adds, “[Sygielski] is knowledgeable and serious about the work to be done and the challenges facing community colleges…. I'm looking forward to working with him under his strong leadership.”
Sygielski has served as president of MHCC since July 2008 and is a past president of Lord Fairfax Community College in Virginia. Sygielski currently serves on the AACC board of directors’ Executive Committee and the Committee on Audit and Finance and has served on the AACC’s Global Education Commission and Workforce Development Commission. Sygielski is also active in numerous local, regional, national and civic organizations. Currently, Sygielski is president-elect of the Gresham Rotary and a board member and president-elect for East Metro Economic Alliance, Fairview, Ore. He is a board member of the Center for Advanced Learning (Scholars), Gresham, Ore.; Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce; Oregon Health Career Center and Worksystems, Inc., a Workforce Investment Act provider. In addition, he is a member of the statewide ACT Career Readiness Certificate Commission, the City of Portland and Multnomah County Leaders Roundtable and the City of Portland and Multnomah County Education Cabinet.
For more information, contact Cassie S. McVeety at 503-491-7213 or Cassie.McVeety@mhcc.edu.