The Allure of Community Colleges

A­fter spending nearly 20 years working in corporate America for companies like General Electric and Digital Equipment Corporation (Hewlett Packard), Winston Maddox wanted to make a difference—so he turned his attention to teaching.

“I was a late bloomer and many traditional educators thought I was not college worthy,” says Maddox, who is currently the dean of the Business and Technology Division at Mercer County Community College (MCCC), located in central New Jersey. “Community college provided opportunities for a student like me. So I found this environment to be an excellent place to help others in similar situations.”

At one time—not too long ago—community colleges were thought to be the place where faculty who couldn’t get a four-year teaching job landed. But that perception has rapidly changed, particularly for minorities with terminal degrees who are consciously making the choice to choose to work at a community college instead of a four-year college or university.


That growing interest aligns with the nation’s changing demographics. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, more students are enrolled in one of the nation’s 1,132 community colleges than other institutions. Maddox, who taught computer information systems and programming for 11 years and has served as dean for the last six years at MCCC, was hired as an assistant professor and eventually earned the rank of associate and full professor. A former department chair, he was appointed interim dean for two years a­fter the previous person resigned.

Now, Maddox—who oversees one of the largest divisions on campus—is interested in developing a pipeline to encourage other minorities to consider teaching and working in administration at community colleges across the country such as Mercer.

“I think we need to look for individuals who represent the populations we serve,” says Maddox. “The job of a community college administrator is a nontraditional one. You are educator, manager, the support for faculty, curriculum developer, student advocate, and tight-rope walker. One has to balance the requirements of the administration as well as the needs of the faculty.”

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.