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Jessica Howard shows peers at national conference how she leads by example
Photos and Story by Chabre Vickers
Portland Community College was in the national spotlight this month when Southeast Campus President Jessica Howard led a presentation on transformational leadership within community colleges at the 96th Annual American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Convention in Chicago, Ill. The annual meeting is among the largest gatherings in the nation and attracts thousands of educational leaders, international educators, business and industry representatives and federal agencies.
Howard presented on what it takes to be a successful community college leader with former interim Sylvania Campus President Suzanne Johnson, now the vice president for Academic Affairs at Suffolk County Community College. The two covered how leaders navigate the increasingly complex world of competing priorities, changing practices and expanded political discourse related to the work.
“I believe that understanding this landscape requires a critical perspective and a leadership style that is transformative: collaborative, culturally resonant and empowering for the institution,” Howard said. “Community college leaders today must address the ‘Completion Agenda,’ declining funding, and rapid changes in demographics and technology, while preserving institutional mission, character, and instruction critical to support a democracy of informed citizens.
“In this session, we discussed transformational leadership by considering gender-informed leadership style, and provided approaches to shape operations and discourses in ways that will inform decision-making processes and the development of institutional priorities,” she said.
In addition to being a national leader, Howard, who has a doctorate from New York University and a master’s degree from Rice University, is a shining star here in Oregon. She has been appointed by the governor to serve on the Oregon Workforce Investment Board. She also serves in leadership roles around Portland including the Latino Network board, Board Chair of Campus Compact of Oregon, Board of the Rotary Club of Portland, Board of Wind & Oar, Steering committee of the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project, and the Oregon Community College Student Success Oversight Committee.
Just last November Howard was tapped to be the keynote speaker for statewide conference of the American Association for Women in Community Colleges. And at PCC, she helps to further the health professions development at the college and is leading the effort to grow career and technical programs at Southeast Campus, among her many responsibilities.
Reflecting on her participation in this month’s AACC conference, Howard hoped that participants were able to learn how female-informed leadership style may be considered a transformational leadership approach, and its appropriateness for current and emerging leaders in a very challenging space.
“Historically many of the characteristics associated with transformational leadership have not been seen as ‘strong’ leadership skills, yet in today’s landscape we see these very traits helping leaders approach issues at a core level rather than a transactional approach,” Howard said.