The role of community college presidents in vision building for rural community development
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Over the past twenty years, leaders of national organizations have explored the capacity of community college presidents to serve as community development agents. By responding to development needs and building social capital, community college presidents serve a crucial role in rural areas. In addition to identifying and addressing critical community concerns, rural community college presidents must work proactively with community leaders to explore the relationship between education and community well being. Through vision building, community college presidents bring community members together to produce a vivid account of what rural residents want their community to become. To examine this phenomenon, Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA) was utilized to produce a grounded theory in rural community visioning. Through focus groups with community college leaders and community developers, and interviews with seventeen rural community college presidents, data were collected to determine the factors that comprise community visioning and how these factors are related. A systems representation of community visioning was developed through the creation and analysis of conceptual mind maps. The resulting model indicates community college presidents create hope in rural communities through leadership, enhancing capacity and agency, and implementing a comprehensive vision. The research demonstrates that in rural areas, community colleges’ mission is broader than responsiveness and service to the community; rural community college presidents’ role is to create hope.