COE-planned conference focuses on community college issues

The 58th annual Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC) conference was held March 31 through April 2 in Plano. The conference was organized by Beverly Bower, a COE Counseling and Higher Education professor, executive director of CSCC and director of the Bill J. Priest Center for Community College Education at UNT, where CSCC's national office is housed. Sue Young, an administrative coordinator in Counseling and Higher Education, also helped organize the conference.

The CSCC is a subgroup of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), but this was the second year the CSCC conference was hosted separately from AACC's annual convention. Bower and Young work year-round to plan the CSCC conference logistics, such as where the conference will be held and what food will be served.

"I love the logistics - planning the conference from the beginning, coming up with food ideas and trying to meet the needs of everybody year after year," Young said. "It's a lot of fun. I think it's a very well-organized conference and that people are really pleased by it."

According to Bower, nearly 200 people from around the country attended the CSCC 2016 Conference. Bower said that conference attendees normally include professionals who teach in higher education with a specialization in community colleges, students who work in community colleges part-time while working on their doctorate, full-time doctoral students, community colleges' institutional research departments and professionals interested in research who work full-time at community colleges.

The theme of the 58th CSCC Conference was Community College Impact on Individuals and Society: Reimagining, Reconceptualizing and Redefining Research and Scholarship. The sessions showcased community college research organized around six research strands: students; organization, administration and leadership; faculty, curriculum and teaching; contexts, methods and foundations; policy, finance and economics; and international.

Multiple speakers gave presentations at the conference, including Christopher Mullin, executive vice chancellor of the Division of Florida Colleges, and Arthur M. Cohen, well-known author of The American Community College.

This year, large topics of discussion included campus carry, which community colleges plan to implement a year after universities; financing of community colleges, because free community college is a big topic for the current presidential candidates; and emerging leadership in community colleges, because many current community college presidents are at retirement age.

The conference also offered collaboration possibilities for attendees, and one session specifically focused on listening to attendees' ideas and discussing how individuals could help one another in their research.

Many publishers that have community college journals support CSCC's conference, so another session at the conference concentrated on what research publishers are looking for and what ideas they would like to see in publication. Bower said that after the conference, these journals often publish special issues including research based on this sessions' topics of conversation.

Bower hopes that those who attended the 2016 conference learned more about where community colleges and research for community colleges are going, as well as the issues community colleges have that need to be researched. She believes that if researchers know more about these issues, they will get a sense of what research will be useful at community colleges in the future and what topics they should be studying to help inform community colleges' decision making.

"This [conference] is an opportunity to really talk about the current understanding of community colleges, the current research and the emerging issues and topics for community colleges," Bower said. "It's a chance for attendees to network and share ideas, which is a lot of the opportunity, and to look at things in different ways."

The next CSCC Annual Conference will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Fort Worth April 6-8, 2017. For more information, visit http://www.cscconline.org/.