To you, the Dallas County Community College family, thank you and welcome to the kickoff for the 2015 academic year! Welcome to this event where we are celebrating 50 years of community leadership in Dallas County: 50 years of preparing and supporting our communities’ success; 50 years of helping business prosper and growing our economy; 50 years of inspiring individuals to achieve; 50 years of improving the quality of life for every person in North Texas.
During the past 50 years, we have enrolled over 3 million students – 3 million lives. We have touched almost every family, every business, and every organization in Dallas County. From our programs and services, we have helped create new businesses and saved businesses. We have brought families together and inspired generations to raise their sights and their dreams. Through our intervention, we have given hope where none existed, and through our programs we have been directly and indirectly responsible for saving lives.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the DCCCD Way!
1965: Most of you would say that was a very long time ago. It was a different time….It was a time of great upheaval in our nation and our community.
We were created in the shadow of a great American tragedy, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The so-called secret war in Laos and the not-so-secret war in Vietnam were dividing our nation. It was this month 50 years ago when a Texan, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act guaranteed that every American has a voice.
It is no surprise, that at that same time, a group of individuals set out to change Dallas County and all of North Texas by creating the Dallas County Community College District. Almost immediately, everyone in the nation was paying attention – not because they were creating another community college district, but because of the reasons why they were creating the district.
Perhaps it was because of all of the changes in society – the wars that were dividing our nation, the focus on civil rights, the changes in our economy, or maybe for all of these reasons, the founders of the Dallas County Community College District thought differently and acted differently than any in history.
At the time the district was being created, Dallas schools were still segregated. The Founders knew that they had to create a new institution that was to be defined not by whom they excluded, but rather by whom they included.
With clarity of purpose usually reserved for entrepreneurs, the passion of evangelists, and the savvy of politicians, they set out to create a new college district that truly provided opportunities for everyone.
What was also different was the size of their vision. Even by Texas standards, this was a big vision. From the outset, they knew that they were attempting to design one of the largest higher education systems in history. The founders were visionaries and they never let obstacles get in the way. Their vision was to forever change North Texas.
This is what it means to think like a founder.
Thinking like a founder didn’t stop with the community leaders and the founding board. They handpicked a founding chancellor who also thought big, was uncompromising, and maintained a laser focus on developing colleges that solved the problems of individuals, employers and our communities. More importantly, our founding chancellor, Dr. Bill J. Priest, was innovative, a calculated risk taker, and committed to eliminating the barriers to higher education.
From the very beginning, this district was committed to both transfer programs and career and technical education. The Dallas County Community College District almost single-handedly invented the idea that continuing education was part of the mission.
Perhaps most importantly, we were among the first to say that age didn’t matter. That previous decisions didn’t matter. That no matter who you were, the Dallas County Community Colleges had a door wide enough for you to enter.
Dr. Bill J. Priest knew that the vision of this new District couldn’t be achieved without bringing on board some of the best leaders, administrators, faculty and staff in the nation. It was because of his vision, the boldness of the challenge, and the uncompromising focus on excellence that he began searching for and hiring the best people ever assembled to change a community.
These individuals began thinking like founders themselves. They were solving problems, innovating, and creating solutions on the fly. They worked long hours to build the facilities, create the needed systems, develop a high quality approach to service, and design the programs and curricula needed.
Teams formed and dissolved and then reformed to ensure that every student had an opportunity to succeed. Ultimately, it was the employees of the District, the leaders, the administrators, the faculty, and the professional support staff that made us unique and the best.
There was no question that it was our people that set us apart. It was our people that found a way to reach the 3 million people that we have served since 1965.
There are over 100 of our retirees here today from those early years. Please stand so we can recognize your contributions to the Dallas County Community College District.
As I stand here today, reflecting on 50 years of history, I am humbled and inspired. Much has changed over the past 50 years.
We no longer have segregated schools. Because of the Voting Rights Act, almost every elected body in Dallas County has representation from diverse backgrounds. The enrollment of the Dallas County Community College District almost perfectly reflects the diversity of our community.
Yet in some ways, nothing has changed in that we face many of the same challenges that we faced 50 years ago. We still see racial tensions in America. We still see poverty threatening families and communities throughout Dallas County. And we still see the need for better public schools.
We also face some new challenges. Whereas in 1965, no more than 22 to 25% of jobs required some type of postsecondary education, today, almost 70% of jobs requires some education beyond high school. More than any time in our history, employers say that they can’t find the people with the knowledge, skills, or abilities to meet their workforce needs.
It is unthinkable that at the same time we are witnessing unparalleled prosperity, poverty in Dallas is growing at a far faster pace than it was 50 years ago. In fact, we now have the 3rd highest poverty rate in the nation and poverty is increasing by almost 20% per year.
Fifty years ago, almost everyone would acknowledge that “college is not for everyone.” In fact, in 1965, this would be an accurate statement. Today, however, there are almost no job opportunities for people without some education or training. While not everyone needs a 4-year degree, in 2015 it is crucial that everyone receive some education beyond high school. The role of the Dallas County Community College District in 1965 was important. In 2015, it’s essential.
To all of you who are leaders within our colleges, to our committed faculty and staff, it is time, once again, for us to think like founders.
It is time for us to build off of our rich and powerful heritage but also to realize that we will need to become a different institution as we embark on the next 50 years. Just like 50 years ago, it will be our people that determine how we will meet the needs of changing communities, a new economy, and inspire a new generation of students. It is time for our Board of Trustees, our College Presidents, our System Leadership team, our faculty and staff to think like founders.
How do we think like founders?
Like our founders, we must never think small; in fact, we must continually raise the bar. Like our founders, we must seek out strong talent and develop our talent into new leaders at all levels – from the system office to the classroom – it is our people that will make the difference.
Our founding leaders earned the trust of our community and employees through integrity, honesty, open communication, and, perhaps most importantly, self-criticism. Like our founding faculty and staff, every employee needs to be looking for innovative approaches to meeting needs while simplifying processes. As was the case with our founders, all of us need to seek diverse views, diverse opinions, and diverse resources to meet the needs of a diverse community. Like our founders, we must encourage every employee to take calculated risks in the name of providing quality programs and service and delivering speedy results.
As I reflect on the past fifty years and the next 50 years, I am highly motivated to act like a founder.
Our founding chancellor demonstrated a unique ability to lead others into the unknown. I am willing to do the same as we venture ahead.
Our founding chancellor took ownership of our local communities’ destinies, and he demonstrated a long-term focus on meeting those needs. I am willing to guide us as we leverage our learning, discovery, financial, talent, and physical resources to meet the long-term needs of Dallas County.
As Chancellor, I understand that we were designed to find creative solutions to the problems faced by individuals, employers, and the communities we serve. I am committing to you that I will do the same.
Today, we are poised to meet our communities’ needs for the next 50 years. What will we look like 50 years from now?
Our Board of Trustees and District Leadership team have already started designing the plans for how we will go forward. Beginning July a year ago, the Board of Trustees began developing the strategic priorities to guide the District into the future.
These priorities were refined last fall and have now been adopted by not only our Board of Trustees, but also by our Foundation Board, and they serve as the drivers for the planning at all colleges. Also, last fall, our leadership team set aside a day to develop a vision of what the Dallas County Community College District would look like in the future.
Only last week, this same group of leaders spent a day and half reviewing this document and identifying how to make this future vision a reality.
We stated that we wanted community members, employers, employees, and students to describe us as agile and responsive. We indicated that we would be known as the “go-to” place for our community to have problems solved. That we wanted to provide high-quality services that were both personalized and at scale. We said that we would be known as colleges that prepare students who are ready for the workplace and for successful transfer and completion. Perhaps, most importantly, we said that we wanted to be colleges about which students will say: “You found me when I needed you most.”
This means that we need to break free of some of the thinking that existed 50 years ago when only a fraction of our population needed education beyond high school. We need to all affirm that college is indeed for everyone!
Given the tremendous changes in Dallas County over the past 50 years, it goes without saying that we are not the only organization that is re-thinking how to better meet the needs of Dallas County and the region. Perhaps the greatest parallels and the best examples that can provide us insight into how to adapt to these changes comes from the health care sector.
Fifty years ago, almost all hospitals in the region were stand-alone hospitals that were competing with other hospitals for business. While all were created to serve the public good, they were highly competitive with each other.
Fast forward to 2015, you see that while hospitals are still separately accredited and operate from their own campuses, they are now organized completely differently. Almost all of today’s hospitals, clinics, outpatient facilities and imaging centers are part of a health care network. The development of networks has fundamentally changed health care in North Texas.
One of the great success stories of creating such a network is that of Texas Health Resources. Realizing that the needs of individuals and the community were not being well served by the existing hospital structure, Doug Hawthorne, CEO of Presbyterian Hospital, set out to create a hospital network that would better meet the needs of North Texas. The network would create and leverage the relationships between hospitals, clinics, non-profits, and other health care-related organizations.
Today, that network is composed of 25 hospitals, 68 outpatient clinics, and more than 250 community access points working together to ensure that services are delivered to individuals regardless of where they live and work. While there are certain services available at every hospital, such as routine surgery, there are a limited number of locations that provide specialty surgeries such as heart or liver transplants.
The goal of this network is to ensure that patient needs are met, regardless of where they live or work. They realized that because of the explosive growth in need, it didn’t make sense to offer every possible service at every location. In fact, when they tried, they discovered that they couldn’t find the doctors needed in every specialty area for every hospital.
The answer was to develop a network strategy which ensured that people get the right services at the right time. It was a remarkably simple idea, instead of being hospital-centric, the new network would be patient-centric. Thus, Texas Health Resources was born.
After the success of Texas Health Resources and others, almost all of the hospitals in the area are now part of a health care network.
In many ways, the Dallas County Community College District faces some of the same challenges as have faced the health care industry.
While during the past 11 years we have added community campuses, the majority of our programs and services are delivered at locations designed decades ago. Fifty years ago, only a fraction of the Dallas population needed education beyond high school. Today, everyone needs education beyond high school. In addition, it is increasingly challenging to find the faculty and/or staff expertise to meet the specialized needs of many educational programs.
In our recent planning session, each of our 7 college presidents and the system leadership team came to the conclusion that it is time for us to rethink our operational model. The model that we believe best fits our needs is a higher education network. Not one modeled after health care, but one designed to build off our strengths while meeting the ever-changing needs of the communities we serve.
Therefore, within the next few weeks, I will be proposing to our Board of Trustees that we develop and implement the nation’s first higher education network.
As proposed, this network will connect our 7 colleges, 5 community campuses, and each of our locations in new ways. It will be designed to prevent individuals from falling through the cracks and to ensure that everyone will have access to the educational programs that are needed to align with their personal goals.
Perhaps more importantly, however, this network brings together other resources that are available in our community from a variety of service providers, including community-based organizations, school districts, universities and businesses. This network will allow us to provide more personalized services to meet the needs of individuals or employers; to leverage resources to uncover innovative solutions to the challenges faced by those that we serve; to scale up our ability to serve greater numbers of people, thus having an even more significant impact on our communities; to identify the programs and services that are unique and thus will have a district-wide scope, as well as those that will be provided at every location. Utilizing the connections of a network, DCCCD will identify and deliver solutions to real-life challenges faced by individuals, employers and the community.
With this approach, we will return to the thinking of our founders.
This is the DCCCD Way . . .
I am proposing that the Dallas County Community College District undertake the leadership role in establishing a network of learning, discovery and talent resources that will fully address the problems faced by individuals, by employers and by our communities.
To all of you here today, we are privileged to have the opportunity to build on 50 years of success. As was the case 50 years ago, we have the opportunity to venture into the unknown and build the higher education network needed for the future.
To make this vision a reality, we will all need to once again think like founders. If we can think like founders and act like founders, the next 50 years will exceed our wildest expectations.
I look forward to being part of this future, and I look forward to working with each of you as we lead Dallas County into a new era.