“Community college is not just a professional obligation for me. It is my avocation and my vocation,” Dr. David Pelham said to Coastal Bend College faculty and staff. He came to South Texas from the United Arab Emirates to visit CBC at the invitation of the Coastal Bend College Board of Trustees. Pelham is one of five candidates for college president selected to interview for the position.
Pelham, Director of Higher Colleges of Technology – Fujairah in Fujairah, UAE, said it was his own experiences as a community college student that launched his career in higher education as an instructor and, later, an administrator.
He said, “I know the role that community college played for me. Had it not been for a conversation that I had with one of my teachers during my second semester at community college, I wouldn’t be here today.”
That conversation, Dr. Pelham explained, was the impetus for him joining the debate team in college and then accepting a debate scholarship that took him to university. Years later, when Pelham was a speech instructor, he was invited by the same faculty member, who was, at that time, president of Lake City Community College in Florida, to take an administrative position. Over time, he rose to be the college vice president.
Dr. Pelham served as president at College of the Siskiyous in Weeds, Calif. and then Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, Calif. for a total of eight years before accepting a position in Fujairah. In his capacity as director, Pelham’s faculty and staff represented 30 nationalities with a student population predominately of the Emirates. “That’s been an incredible learning opportunity – being out of my culture.”
He said the decision to go to UAE was based on the uniqueness of the opportunity and the desire to experience life outside of the United States. After a couple of years, Pelham is ready to return.
“I am representing my wife, Kaye, when I say that our priority is to find some place to put down roots and contribute to the community,” he said. He went on to talk about foundations and endowments, budgets and communication. Dr. Pelham said, if selected, he sees himself travelling regularly to the college’s four campuses and setting up office hours on each campus. “Part of what a president needs to do is to be a cheerleader for what is going on on each campus,” he said.
He talked at length about his experiences with dual credit. He spoke about his active involvement with dual credit as vice president of student services and how he was able to double the college’s population of dual credit students and build partnerships with local schools. He said high school students, even those who did not take dual credit courses, benefited from the community outreach.
On multiple campuses and sites, Dr. Pelham said he would take a look at Coastal Bend College’s resources and make decisions based on the number of students on each campus. He also spoke about expanding the college foundation to include community-specific auxiliary entities that raise resources specific to their campuses or student populations.
Pelham talked about his experiences with donors and said, “If you can show potential donors a clear plan that is really powerful, it’s amazing what can happen.” He related a story about his previous college not only raising funds to build a facility to house a health science program, but also how he was able to secure an endowment to take care of that building for years to come.
Dr. Pelham holds an Ed.D. in Education Leadership and Community College Administration from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, a Masters in Communications from Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., a Bachelors in Individual Directions (Speech, Psychology, and Political Science) from Carson Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. and an Associate of Arts in General Education from Brevard Community College in Palm Bay, Fla.
“The Open Public Forums are a very important part of the process,” Paul Jaure, CBC Board of Trustees Chair, said prior to the visit by Dr. Pelham. Four other candidates visited the college during the week. CBC faculty, staff, students and community members attended the forums and were invited to give feedback about each candidate, highlighting each one’s strengths and weaknesses. That feedback form, also available online, goes directly to the board to add to its decision-making process.
The goal is to find a president for the college by June and have him or her settled into the position before the start of the next full semester.
The other four candidates for the job are:
Dr. Karen Bleeker, who visited on Tuesday, served as the President of the Community College of Denver in Denver, Colo. Previously, Dr. Bleeker was Vice President of Educational Services at Temple College in Temple, Texas. Dr. Bleeker holds an Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Community College Leadership from The University of Texas at Austin, a Masters in Counseling from the University of Texas at San Antonio, a Masters in Adult Education from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, and a Bachelors in Sociology from Trinity University in San Antonio.
Dr. Thomas Rasco, who visited on Monday, served as President of Texarkana College in Texarkana. Previously, Dr. Rasco served as President of South Arkansas Community College in Eldorado, Ark. Dr. Rasco holds an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Baylor University, Waco, a Masters in Speech Communication and Management and a Bachelors in Behavioral Science from the University of Houston, an Associate of Arts and Sciences in Nursing and an Associate of Arts and Sciences in Respiratory Therapy from Odessa College in Odessa, Texas. Rasco’s interview was on Monday.
Dr. Beatriz Espinoza serves as Vice Chancellor for Educational Planning and Services at Yuba Community College District in Marysville, Calif. Previously, Dr. Espinoza was Vice President for Workforce Learning Services at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz. Dr. Espinoza holds a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Psychology and Educational Psychology and a Masters in Rehabilitation Psychology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. Espinoza’s interview was on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Dr. James Cargill, President of Dawson Community College in Dawson, Mont., visited the college. Previously, Dr. Cargill served as Chief Academic Officer at Ashland Community and Technical College in Ashland, Ky. Dr. Cargill holds an Ed.D. in Music Education from the University of Houston, a Masters in Musicology and a Bachelors in Music Education from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.
To watch coverage of each visit, go to http://www.coastalbend.edu/presidentialsearch/.
Coastal Bend College does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability.