New Black City Colleges Presidents Steer Toward Chancellor’s Vision
New Black presidents are at the helm of three City Colleges of Chicago colleges this year as part of a plan to steer Illinois’ largest community colleges system to a more student-centered culture.
The interim president appointments of Felicia Davis at Olive-Harvey College in Pullman and Dr. Shawn Jackson at Truman College in Uptown were announced by new City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado on his first day in May. Craig E. Lynch was later named interim president of Kennedy-King College in Englewood.
“I couldn’t be more excited about starting the academic year, which will be my first as Chancellor, and supporting our students in reaching their academic and career goals,” said City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado.
When outlining his vision, Chancellor Salgado announced plans to focus on enhancing the student experience, bolstering student enrollment, and addressing the funding crisis that has stalled the construction of Olive-Harvey’s Transportation, Distribution, Logistics Center. The new presidents come to their respective roles with experience directly related to their colleges’ academic pillars and personal connections to their missions.
“I am working diligently with our presidents, faculty and staff to give all of our students an exceptional experience and a quality, affordable education that prepares them to either transfer to a four-year university or head directly into a fast-growing career field with leading Chicago employers,” Salgado said.
With City Colleges’ Fall 2017 semester underway, we sat down to talk with each new Black president about their plans, what challenges they are addressing, and what their appointments mean to them and for their colleges.
Olive-Harvey President Davis Primed to Build
When Felicia Davis walked into her new office for the first time as Olive-Harvey College’s interim president, she stared out of her office window overlooking the school’s unfinished Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Center construction project and thought about two things: her mother, whose attendance at Olive-Harvey allowed her to give her family a better life, and finishing the stalled project.
“I was thinking that we deserve better and this project needs to be completed,” Davis said. “And, I was thinking about my mom and all the ways in which I can pay it forward because this institution gave my family so much.”
It was a full-circle moment for the lifelong South Sider who lived in Altgeld Gardens and in Roseland (neighboring Pullman), who attended Julian High School, and who remembers coming to Olive-Harvey as a kid.
“Like many people in the community, I have a personal connection to Olive-Harvey,” Davis said. “My mother went to Olive-Harvey when I was a kid, and this is where she received her GED. We used to come here with her for classes and other things she needed to do at the school, so it’s left a lasting memory on me.”
Now, under her guidance, Davis plans to ensure that Olive-Harvey continues to serve the needs of students in the community who need the college’s resources for various educational paths.
“I know first-hand because of my mother’s own educational experience here the impact the college has on the families of the people who attend here,” Davis said. “For us, it really changed our lives. I think it allowed my mother to be upwardly mobile and get a better job, and that really had an impact on me, my brother, and my two sisters.”
Davis began her career as a Chicago police officer before returning to school as a working adult and earning a bachelor’s degree from Kendall College, and then a master’s degree in Public Policy from Illinois Institute of Technology.
Davis spent ten years in administration at her alma mater Kendall College, rising to vice president of operations and student administration, after having directed student affairs, alumni relations, and career services. She’s held several essential City of Chicago roles including buildings commissioner, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement and first deputy chief of staff.
Davis most recently served as the executive director of the Public Buildings Commission, where she was responsible for the management of area public construction projects, and says she’s looking forward to working with the Capital Development Board to finish Olive-Harvey’s capital project.
“I want to finish this training center so that we can train and prepare our students and local residents for all of the transportation and supply chain jobs that are growing every day,” Davis said.
In addition to completing the capital project, Davis’ goal is to grow Olive-Harvey’s enrollment and to foster deeper relationships within the community.
“I know there is something for everyone here, so my primary focus is to grow our enrollment to see this campus thriving with students morning, noon, night and on the weekend,” Davis said. “And to really have it be this bustling hub because that’s what the neighborhood and the community deserve.”
As Davis’ first fall semester as president begins on Aug. 28, she is ready to continue to use her experience and connection to the community that means so much to her to build on the college’s past.
“This is really a pivotal moment in my life to be able to bring all of my experiences to help this college grow and find out the best outcomes for our students,” Davis said. “When I look at our students, I feel like I’m looking at myself because they come from exactly where I come from. This whole area is ingrained in me.”
Truman College President Jackson Preparing Future Educators
Dr. Shawn Jackson had one thing on his mind when he stepped into his office at Truman College as its new interim president: humility.
“I had a great sense of humility,” Jackson said. “I’d been with Chicago Public Schools for 15 years — a teacher, a school-level administrator and a district office administrator — and you can get comfortable. When I stepped in here, it was completely different.”
Jackson says he was happy to be a servant again, bringing a fresh set of eyes to the work at Truman College, which specializes in training educators to work with infants to high school students.
“When I first stepped in, it’s balancing what you know and what you don’t know,” Jackson said. “I’m coming into it with great humility, being a learner again and an observer again.”
Jackson’s experience in K-12 education is extensive. He was most recently the chief officer of leadership and learning at Chicago Public Schools, where he has developed learning initiatives for students and parents including virtual learning platform CPS Connects and the citywide Parent University model.
After starting his career as a CPS elementary science teacher, Jackson was principal of Spencer Technology Academy for seven years where he helped to turn around the struggling West Side elementary school.
Jackson holds a doctorate of philosophy, administration and supervision from Loyola University (Chicago), a master’s of arts in curriculum and instruction from St. Xavier University, and a bachelor of arts in elementary education from Northeastern Illinois University.
Jackson’s new role has given him the opportunity to expand on his K-12 experience.
“I think that in tandem with the expertise of faculty and staff here, it gives us the opportunity to collaborate and create an environment that’s conducive for that student,” Jackson said. “Because I have been in that space for quite some time, I understand the need; I understand their fears and their apprehensions. To be able to create opportunities for support and nurturing at this level is a great opportunity.”
As he works with faculty and staff on long-term goals and strategies, increasing enrollment is an immediate focus.
“Looking specifically at Truman, we have also lost enrollment,” Jackson said. “I would like to bridge that gap. I think there are some phenomenal things going on here that many people don’t know about. Expanding our reach across the city, having a direct relationship with Chicago Public Schools, not only their students but their educators and community, really trying to create an experience between higher ed and K-12.”
In addition to relationship-building, Jackson plans to further integrate Truman into the community through awareness.
“Also, bringing our community colleges back to the community, having the opportunity to be a servant to the Uptown area, specifically where we are,” Jackson said. “So bringing awareness of the resources to the community, allowing our neighborhood to take advantage of the wonderful things here at Truman.”
Jackson says the real game changer, however, is to develop more programming that specifically addresses students’ individual needs.
“Long-term, it’s about developing programming to continue their educational journey,” Jackson said. “As we look to get more students, we want to make sure that we’re meeting their individual needs. You never know what that lightbulb moment will be for a student and so creating some robust programs that are comprehensive to our needs is the long term goal.”
For Jackson, this opportunity to impact the lives of others is a huge and honored responsibility.
“I’ve always preached, to whomever would listen, the importance of higher education,” Jackson said. “It has benefitted me, and now I have the opportunity to sit at this institution and make that a tangible reality for folks across the city. I’m excited about that.”
Kennedy King College’s Lynch Continues Legacy
Craig E. Lynch is no stranger to Chicago Community Colleges (CCC) or public education as he steps into his role as head of Kennedy-King College (KKC). He has held leadership roles in public education for the past 20 years.
At KKC, Lynch oversees 6,500 students and 600 faculty and staff.
“Kennedy King College is an anchor of the Englewood community,” said Kennedy-King College Interim President Lynch. “Thousands have come through these doors and achieved great success in life and I am proud to have the opportunity to lead this campus as we continue to support students in their career and educational journeys.”
Prior to his appointment at KKC, Lynch was the chief of staff for Chicago Community Colleges (CCC). Under his leadership, he drove strategic initiatives to achieve key student and operational outcomes. He rose to that position after serving as CCC’s Information Officer, where he led a team of more than 120 technology professionals and managed a $20 million budget. He led the team to update and leverage technology in the classroom to improve student results.
Prior to joining CCC, he was the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Chicago Public Schools. While there he provided overall technology leadership, information management and instructional services.
Craig received his MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Bachelors of Arts from Illinois Wesleyan University. He was also a recipient of the CIO magazine “Ones to Watch” award in 2009 and is currently a member of the Black Creativity advisory committee, which is part of the Museum of Science & Industry.