Mental models and community college leadership

Cone, Cynthia Jane, 1951-
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Four major transformations, over the past thirty years, have brought challenges and changes to community colleges; a transformation from teaching to learning, a shift from management to leadership, a movement away from substantial state funding to entrepreneurism, and a societal revolution from an Industrial Age to an Information Age. These transformations have resulted in opportunities and challenges for community college leaders who are confronted by demands for rapid, intense, and complex planning and decision-making. The purpose of this study was to discover the elements presidents identify in the mental models of their community college. Added to that purpose, the researcher identified the differences between the mental models of traditional community college presidents and learning college presidents. The researcher utilized a mixed methodological framework for this study. The preliminary focus of this research involved an interactive qualitative analysis of five traditional community college presidents to establish a foundation for traditional academic perceptions. The primary focus examined selected learning college presidents in a case study setting. The results identified very different themes among the different academic perceptions. Traditional community college presidents identified the following six themes: Funding Costs, Funding Revenue, Process, Students, Outcomes, and External influences. Learning college presidents identified the following ten themes: Interconnections, Innovation, Change, Students, Vision/Mission/Values, Decisions, Outcomes, Learning, Internal Stakeholders, and External Stakeholders. The findings from this study indicated that there is value in employing mental models to develop effective plans and decisions that impact a broad array of college stakeholders. In conjunction with that, there is value in recognizing the community college institution as an interdependent complex organization in which each unique facet greatly influences all the other interconnected facets. Finally, it is essential to recognize Students as a primary stakeholder and driver of the community college.