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GatorCast Ep. 20: Why We're Here - Impact of Community Colleges on the Future (Part 2)

By College Relations and the Office of the President, September 30, 2020

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Episode Transcript: 

President Johnson: Welcome to "GatorCast," the official podcast of Green River College, where we share conversations with the community about topics that are relevant to you. I'm Suzanne Johnson, president of the college. My guest today is Matthew Reed, Vice President for Learning at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey and the author of "Confessions of a Community College Dean" that appears in "Inside Higher Education". This is part two of my conversation with Matthew exploring the importance of community colleges and the role that they play in our states and nation. If you haven't had a chance to listen to part one, think about jumping off and listening to that. If not, jump in and enjoy our conversation with Matt Reed.

President Johnson: When we talk about equity, I think it's a word that is misunderstood to a great extent in the context of fairness and actually, one of the other guests this season on "GatorCast" is Kathy Obear and we have a conversation around what does it mean when we say equity? And I think for the listeners here, one of the goals and Matt correct me if it's different for Brookdale across our country, but I suspect it's not. Our hope and expectation, our investment in each student who comes here is that they do reach the same outcome, which is success for why they came. Whether that means they've completed successfully a certificate that gets them a promotion or a different job skill set that allows them for different income where they already work, or gives them an entrance into a career path that they didn't have, or a degree in a particular field like welding or automotive maintenance, or IT, cybersecurity, what have you that can deliver them right into employment option, or we're giving them the opportunity and we want all students to achieve the same outcome in terms of whatever two-year degree they wanna achieve, that then allows them to transfer on to a college or university to study and major in anything. Right? And so when I think about equity, I think about the fact that we want the same or equal outcome for all students who come to us. But not all students come to us equally prepared.

Matt Reed: Right.

President Johnson: And that's where the concept of equity emerges, which is what do we have to provide that is different for one student to the next,

Matt Reed: Absolutely.

President Johnson: For them to achieve that equal outcome. And for some students, that might mean very few additional supports or pre-work in terms of developmental preparation, in terms of math or English. But for other students, because of the economic and educational histories they come from, it requires much more support for them to achieve that same outcome that another student could achieve with relative ease. And I think one of the beauties of our community colleges is that we take all students. So when I think about the American dream, I see it lived to great extent within a community college environment. Every student who comes here has the same hopes and dreams. They may not articulate them in the same ways, but they all want the same thing. They all want a life where they can pay their bills, have a family if they choose to seek the daunting career path of being a parent. They wanna be able to be productive citizens. I've never met a student that has not wanted a positive and future life for themselves and their family. The challenge I think we face each day is recognizing that students come differentially prepared. So I find this to be from my vantage point, a very apolitical stance, but one that smacks of and supports the American dream, which is how do we, as an institution bring every individual to the success they wish for themselves.

Matt Reed: Yeah, the most exciting conversations we have here, when we discover or come up with, "Hey, what if we tried this?" And you can see everyone around the room kind of perk up when that happens. There's a college in Ohio, Marion Technical College that adopted an idea I actually wrote about. I couldn't sell it here, but they bought it. It's the second year scholarship. And so the idea is if a student completes 30 credits towards a degree with a GPA of, at least, I wanna say they did 2.5 or something like that, then the remaining 30 credits are free. And-

President Johnson: Wow.

Matt Reed: What I had in mind in proposing that in the American political culture, and again, I'd probably say backgrounds, I think this way. In American political culture-

President Johnson: Right. We, we understand. It's okay.

Matt Reed: We tend to divide recipients of aid into deserving and undeserving. And over time, those categorized as undeserving tend to get their funding cut. If you cast the aide in terms of an earned benefit, something they worked for and earned, then it's politically sort of bulletproof. And the paradigmatic example of that would be, you know, quote unquote welfare, as opposed to social security that Americans, just buy as welfare, but they see social security as having been earned. So if we want to, you know, free community college attracts a lot of, I'll say incoming fire. If we want to make it politically sustainable when the winds shift, I thought if you could cast it as an earned benefit rather than a handout, it could survive any political regime rally, because it would be consistent with the larger culture.

President Johnson: Sure. And I see in a lot of proposals and we're talking about similar concepts at Green River. I'm seeing a lot of proposals of putting free earned quotations, right? Community college connected exactly to that in the sense that what are the students bringing to the table, right? So there's certain expectations of academic performance or certain expectations built into that financial investment and in terms of following through with carrying a certain number of credits and completing at a certain pace and so on. I think you're right. Building in programs that financially support any and all students who enter into our schools, but show that the individual students have expectation in terms of the contribution and participation and success certainly is one that can weather, you know, diverse political viewpoints and positionality.

Matt Reed: I hope so. That's certainly what we're trying to do. Just on our best days, if I were king of community colleges for a day, I like to think of these as sort of labs that we can try various things here to improve students' lives. Sometimes we don't do that. Sometimes we get caught in rules and regs or tradition or whatever. But to me what's really appealing about the community college world is the clear purpose. When I was at Rutgers, I was struck by how many different purposes it served. You have the teaching piece, you have the research piece, you have the big time sports piece, all kind of competing with each other at some level. Here, it's teaching, period, full stop. And there's something really appealing about that that allows you to specialize.

President Johnson: Sure there's a purity to the mission.

Matt Reed: Yeah, we know why we're here, yeah. Given how bad Rutgers football team is, one could argue, but even, even if the team were good, I'd still have the same critique. No, we have the opportunity here to experiment with things like, it's not surprising to me that the accelerated learning program, the co-requisite model for remedial English came out of a community college. Of course.

President Johnson: Sure, and we've got work like that underway in Green River.

Matt Reed: Yeah, we have it. We run it here, but it originated at Baltimore County. It's not surprising to me that that's where it started. These are the folks who spend all of their time on intro level and remedial. At universities, that's just not true. And so, we have a specific niche that we fill and at our best, we can actually experiment and try to find ways to be that better. Sometimes we have to get out of our own way, a little bit to do that. What is it? That's what keeps me going.

President Johnson: Yeah, it's good work. You never doubt the significance and the impact that you play each day you come to a community college. Given how our conversation has evolved, what message would you have for faculty and staff who work at community colleges right now? And I don't know whether you have separate messages. If you'd like to talk about the message you'd have for faculty and then for staff, or if it's something that you would say to both, because you know like Green River, I'm sure Brookdale, you know, we have faculty and staff and they all play vital roles to the functionality of the institution. What messages do you have for all those who dare to work in community colleges these days?

Matt Reed: I'll steal it from my daughter. My daughter is 15, she's a sophomore in high school. And a couple of weeks ago, I was driving her home from a music lesson. And you know sometimes, especially with teenage kids, the only time you have a real conversation is when you're in the car because they're trapped. So, she couldn't get away. So she figured might as well talk. And she was saying that she was excited about, I guess it was a few months ago. She was excited about her sophomore year of high school. She thought it would be the best one. And I said, why is that? And she said, well, as a freshmen, you're making the adjustment to high school. You're trying to find your way. And as a junior, you're looking at colleges. And so you're kind of preoccupied and you're trying to make your application look good. And as a senior, you sorta kind of have one foot out the door. But as a sophomore, you can just do high school. And I thought there was kind of a wisdom to that. And I think part of the privilege of working in a community college, whether it's faculty, staff, administration, whatever, we get to just do college all the time. We get to be that sophomore forever. And there's something really cool about that. We're in a business if you wanna call it that where the product we're selling is improving people's lives. Most people don't get to do that for a living, you know. We do. And that's really extraordinary and sort of wonderful. And you know, when you get caught up and you know, "I can't believe I have to fill out this form again." And you know, Oh, I missed that deadline, blah, blah, blah, It can be easy to lose sight of that. But to me, that's what justifies a lot of the silliness and it's always silliness. I have worked in jobs where I did not believe in what I was doing. Here I do, and that's the luxury. We get that. Whether it's somebody who's teaching, whether it's someone in financial aid is helping a student figure out how to be here, whether it's a counselor, whether it's someone who maintains the buildings, you're making it possible for people to improve their lives. That's pretty cool.

President Johnson: Very, very cool. And what would you say to the students who attend Brookdale, students who are attending Green River college? And I'm gonna ask you after that, the message that you might have for the communities that we serve, what would you say to our students, to yours and my students?

Matt Reed: Jump in with both feet. College is what you make of it. If you just go to class and go home and do nothing else, you can do that, that option exists. And there are times in people's lives when that's the best option. But if you have the option of jumping in with both feet, do it. Talk to your faculty, talk to folks who work there, make connections, start a club. I mean the level of freedom. If assuming that you have the time, assuming you're not working 40 hours a week for pay, the level of freedom you have here is extraordinary. If you don't have the time, if you are working 40 hours a week for pay, hang in there, we got your back. We want you to succeed. This is not whether it's Green River, whether it's Brookdale, whether it's any place I've worked, I've never worked in a place where it was look to your right, look to your left, one of you will be gone in the fall. That's not what we do.

President Johnson: Right?

Matt Reed: People here want students to succeed. They're not looking for excuses to failure. They're looking for excuses to help you. So, take advantage.

President Johnson: That's really an important message. And for all of our student listeners, which I know we have numerous ones. If you are listening to this episode today, and you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and thinking about not continuing your education, there are many individuals and offices that are here to assist you. Go into the advising office, go to benefits hub, reach out to one of your instructors. If you see me on the campus, stop me and ask me, "What do I do?" We are here to help every day. We care if you don't come back tomorrow and we all know the resources that we have available, and they're probably resources that you don't know we have, that you could benefit from. And I'm sure that Matt has the same message to his students as well who might listen to this when they find out you happen to be a guest on "GatorCast"?

Matt Reed: Absolutely.

President Johnson: And what about the communities that we serve? What would you say to them?

Matt Reed: Partnership is huge. Community colleges make terrific partners and community colleges need terrific partners. A lot of employers need good employees. I was at the employer advisory board for our hospitality management program a couple of weeks ago. We have 70 students currently majoring in hospitality management. We have about 700 requests for employers, for employees. They are knocking down the door. The poor faculty member who's running the program complained that she can't keep track of all of the employer requests. That's a good problem to have.

President Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. We have a similar problem in certain employment areas as well.

Matt Reed: We're awfully wide ranging. We do everything from off. Non-credit sort of quick brush-ups, you know, of course in QuickBooks or something like that, all the way up to transfer degrees. So maybe you're an employer and you have three employees in your little shop and you want someone to be the bookkeeper. We can help train them for that. Maybe you have a really good hostess at the restaurant who you think could manage the place, we can help upskill the employee. We're a resource, we're here for the community. I don't know if people always think of it that way. I know when we were house hunting in this area, when we moved here, one of the first questions that people would ask was, well, where are you gonna work? You know, why are you moving here? And when I said Brookdale, I always got the same response. They'd always kind of light up and go, "Oh, great school." My sister, cousin, wife, brother went there.

President Johnson: Yes, same. I don't know a single person in the service area where I am, where I don't have the same experience. Everybody and either they or somebody they know, or somebody in their family

Matt Reed: Absolutely.

President Johnson: Has gone to Green River.

Matt Reed: But I don't know if they always know the full range of what we do. You know, if they came here and got a degree when they were 21, that's great. But they might not know that we do a lot of non-credit adult stuff, or they might not know that we do a lot of incumbent worker training, or they might not know about some of the cultural stuff that we do. We're a resource for the community and a uniquely American resource for the community. The community college model was invented in the U.S. and we're still kind of the leaders in it. It's a unique thing.

President Johnson: Yes.

Matt Reed: And part of what scares me about the whole political situation is if they become unsustainable or if they fall victim to cuts for whatever reason. And I have opinions on that, but that's a separate podcast.

President Johnson: Oh, yes.

Matt Reed: I don't know if people would quite know what they were losing until it was gone. My grandfather dropped out of the ninth grade and he was an electrical lineman for Detroit Edison for many, many years. So whenever there was a thunderstorm, he was the guy climbing the pole. On that-

President Johnson: Wow

Matt Reed: With that job, he was able to own a home. And he was able to send both of his kids to college, as a ninth grade dropout. That's not true anymore. And in fact, now here, we have a program with JCP&L, which is the local electric utility, where we train their electrical linemen, but due to the advances in technology, they have to have an associate degree now to do that job. The job that my grandfather could get as ninth grade dropout now requires an associate degree. If you lost your community college, you're gonna have a hell of a time finding electrical linemen and nurses and mechanics and a lot of people.

President Johnson: Right? I think this is such an important message to our communities in terms of the imperative and the vital role that we play for the health and longevity of all of our communities, that we are all residents residing in. And my grandmother also did not go to high school or complete high school. She dropped out when she was 16. My family is from Missouri, rural Missouri. And on my father's side, they were lead miners and farmers. And she was 16 when she dropped out of high school and eloped. And her husband, my grandfather, whom I never met, he died at a very young age, having worked in lead mines and smoked filterless cigarettes through his young adult life, found herself with my dad at 19 and his little brother, my uncle, who was 12 years younger, widowed without a high school degree. And they moved to the big city of St. Louis. And what did she do? She got her GED and she pursued-

Matt Reed: There you go.

President Johnson: A licensed, practical nurse degree, which is one of the degrees Green River College offers. And through that, she was able to help support her younger son. My dad left community college. He was attending what they called junior college at the time, dating my parents' generation and went to work as a machinist, a repair guy for a printing company, big printing machines. But he was able to forge a life himself without a college degree and went on within business through his career until he passed away in the early 90s, but was able to send his kids to college, me being one of those, the youngest one, but watching his mother and the opportunity she had to receive her LPN was a key element for my family's survival long before I came into the picture and recognizing as you're pointing out so many degrees, so many employment opportunities now require college degrees. I find that that many people who are first-generation attending college, they'll say, you know, my, my parents or my family, they don't understand why I'm doing this. Our attitude has always been, you know, our family doesn't go to college, we don't need college. And the reality is you do.

Matt Reed: In a lot of ways, in a lot of places, yeah.

President Johnson: So let's circle back to the blog.

Matt Reed: Okay.

President Johnson: So back in 2004, you started the "Confessions of a Community College Dean" under the pseudonym "Dean Dad". What inspired you to start this column.

Matt Reed: A couple of things. The first was just culture shock. Having gone from DeVry, which was, you know, the for-profit corporation to the tenured and unionized public community college. The job was so different. And the daily reality was so different that it really kind of brought me up short and blogs had just become a thing in the early 2000s. I had read a few, thought it was sort of an interesting venue. And I read some of the... At the time there were some academic blogs that were out there, mostly written by adjuncts, mostly speculating about the evil, nefarious administrators who were conspiring to deprive them of gainful employment. And, you know, having been in the room where resource allocation decisions were made, I knew that that wasn't how it worked. But they seemed awfully sure. And as I kind of scanned the internet, I realized, well, the reason, one reason that people believe these stories is that there's nobody from the inside saying, no, this is how it works. So I felt like I had a contribution to make. So I started writing it as a way to kind of make sense of the world in which I found myself and to try to convey what I was seeing to other people who were also in higher ed, who seems to be believing stuff that I thought just wasn't true. I used the pseudonym in part, because back then blogs were still considered kind of seedy and disreputable and people lost jobs when they were outed as bloggers. Oh yeah. That was a thing. Look at D-O-O-C-E

President Johnson: Wow, I did not know that.

Matt Reed: She was a big blogger in the early 2000s and got fired and she became a verb "to get dooced" was to get fired for blogging.

President Johnson: And this was a person who was in academia?

Matt Reed: No, no, I forget what she did for a living. Something corporate. But anyway, they, they were considered, you know, CDM suspect and kind of disreputable. So part of it was that. And part of it was just, if I was gonna say candid things about my own school, I didn't want my name on it for fear that people would read it for evidence to be used against me on something. And I never wrote about individual people, but I could imagine people doing that. And then the "Dean Dad" specifically, the name was kind of my tip of the cap to a lot of the women's studies courses I had taken. There were a lot of bloggers out there with names like Professor Mom, Doctor Mom, whatever. And they had talked about life balance and the ways that academic work can sometimes be sort of hostile to family life. But I had never seen a man write about that. And I thought I had two young kids at the time. My son was three and my daughter was a newborn. And so I was living it. So I went with "Dean Dad" because those were the two roles that took up pretty much all of my working hours. And I wanted to make a point of including the family piece in part, because there's lot to write about it, but in part, because I think it's important if we're gonna move forward sort of socially, that we can't define the work life balance or parent hostile workplaces as women's issues. As long as we continue to kind of leave that to women, we're kind of limiting what can be achieved there. Men have to own it too. So I wrote as a dad and still do, actually, I don't know if people get that. I don't know how much of the subtext gets through, but that was the motivation.

President Johnson: I think in some blogs more than others but-

Matt Reed: It's there, you know, some people misread it and whatever, but that was the motivation. So I started writing it on in 2004. And then in 2005, I started doing it five days a week, just to challenge myself, to see if I can do it. Yeah.

President Johnson: That's a lot of writing.

Matt Reed: Yes, yes it is.

President Johnson: Especially writing that other people are going to be able to do.

Matt Reed: In 2007, Scott Jasick reached out to me from "Inside Higher Ed". He's one of the editors there and said, I love what you're doing, can we run it? And I thought, yeah. So it's been at "Inside Higher Ed" since 2007. In 2012, just before my book came out, I decided, well, two things happened. One was, I wanted to get credit for the book. And the other was, it had become obvious to me by that point that nearly everybody on campus knew who "Dean Dad" was anyway. Yeah, yeah. So the pseudonym seemed

President Johnson: They knew it was Matt Reed.

Matt Reed: To have outlived its usefulness. Plus by that point I felt fairly confident that there was nothing scandalous or nefarious in it. So I dropped the pseudonym and I've been using my own name since. It was funny that dropping the pseudonym definitely increased the readership, which I didn't anticipate. Yeah. And I think what it was

President Johnson: Interesting.

Matt Reed: When it was a pseudonym, people could assume the whole thing was a fake, like who is this guy really, you know? But when there was a name attached and it's like, no, this is an actual person and you can look them up. And so that gave it more credibility, which in retrospect, I probably should have done it sooner, but the book was kind of the short term catalyst. So it's been that.

President Johnson: So how has been writing the blog sort of added to, or illuminated aspects of your professional life or your focus in your daily work?

Matt Reed: A bunch of different ways? The most obvious I think is that it gives me time to process. I'm one of those people who sometimes I don't always know what I think about something until I write about it. As I'm writing, I kind of realize, oh, that's what I think. Which is why writing a book was hard, 'cause I never used outlines and writing a book without an outline as a challenge. It's more sort of free form than that. But also, it's helped with networking. Part of the reason that Josh Weiner knew who I was, was from the blog that's going out to Aspen and that's-

President Johnson: Okay and for our listeners, yeah. For our listeners who might not know who Josh Weiner is, he is connected to the Aspen Institute and oversees the college excellence programs at Aspen Institute. And Matt and I actually both met while we were both fellows through presidential fellowship back in... Wow.

Matt Reed: 2016 or 17 yeah.

President Johnson: When was that, Matt? 2016, 17 through the Aspen Institute. And that's how I came to actually meet Matt Reed, who was the writer of, "Hey, don't you write the Confessions of a Community College Dean?"

Matt Reed: Yeah.

President Johnson: So that's how Josh knew who you were.

Matt Reed: Yeah, when I'm out and about that's in the community college world, that's sort of my claim to fame.

President Johnson: Yeah, I'm hoping that a number of our listeners have quietly been reading "Inside Higher Ed". And so when they see who the guest is on, on this podcast episode, they'll say, "Hey, there's that blogger? How does President Johnson know Matt Reed?" So out of all the topics you've written about, I mean, five days a week, that's a massive lift. Have there been particular blogs that you've written that have gotten a very high level of response from readers out there?

Matt Reed: Yeah.

President Johnson: Anything stand out to you?

Matt Reed: There was one I wrote, it must have been 10 years ago now. It was when gosh, it might have been more, 12 years ago? The title was, "I need this class to stay on my parents' health insurance." And it was quoting a student who had said that to me, to my face, at in-person registration.

President Johnson: Wow.

Matt Reed: When I was at Morris, we still had in-person registration and this was before Obamacare was a thing. So back then, if you were under whatever the age was, if you wanted to stay on your parents' health insurance, you had to be a full-time student and full-time was defined as 12 credits. And so students would come up to me at towards the end of in-person registration, desperate for any class they could get to get to that 12 credits so they could stay on the health insurance. And I remember thinking as public policy, that's completely insane. There's something fundamentally messed up about that. And so I wrote about it and it was really well received. Folks seemed to sort of get it that, you know, to put community colleges in this position, I guess the closest analog would be, I need to pass this class so I don't lose my draft deferment, Back in the '60s, yeah.

President Johnson: Right, back in the '60s.

Matt Reed: So to put community colleges in the position of being sort of backdoor healthcare providers and then judging them on their attrition rates really struck me as perverse. So I wrote about that and that set off a really thoughtful conversation. And like a few years later, Scott Jasick mentioned to me that that's the single piece he was the proudest to publish of anything I've given him. Yeah.

President Johnson: Oh, interesting. And is there any particular blog that you wrote that stands out in terms of controversy or displeasure from the readership?

Matt Reed: I've learned over the years there are a few topics not to touch and a few terms not to use. So there are certain things I just don't do anymore. They're not.

President Johnson: Okay.

Matt Reed: People have made up their minds and their minds are made up, thank you very much. So I've decided I'm not super interested in taking a side in a settled question just to take a side. You have to just kind of decide as a writer, you know, what is your true voice and what are you best at? And over the years, I've kind of, through trial and error and hit and miss, and there are some early pieces I would gladly take back if I had the chance. But I learned early on, I'm not a great polemicist. I'm not a great, I don't like the burnt scorched earth form of attack. I don't do a lot of directly political stuff despite my background. Where I feel most comfortable is sort of unpacking the complexities of something that looks simple on the surface. That's where I feel like I make my contribution. There are other people who are awfully good at polemics and that's great. I read some of them, I enjoy some of them.

President Johnson: Right, right.

Matt Reed: But you kind of have to find your voice and go with it. And I decided I'm not Sara Goldrick-Rab, you know, she's a great polemicist. She will go from zero to 60 really quick. And you know exactly what side she's on at all times. That's not my preferred style.

President Johnson: Sure.

Matt Reed: Just for myself. And I like Sara, but that fits her, it doesn't fit me. What fits me is more, you know, here's this topic that I've been thinking about and if you hold it at this angle, it looks kind of funny. For instance, with Guided Pathways, one of the things we've been struggling with, which goes almost totally unmentioned in the literature on Guided Pathways. Guided pathways assume that you have a clear destination point. And any target-rich environment like wherein in terms of four year schools, students don't all transfer to the same place. They transfer to a lot of different places. And each of those different places has different requirements for the courses it wants you to take. So some of them have a foreign language requirement, some don't. Some of them want U.S. history, some of the want world history, you know. And that makes it really hard to come up with the default guided pathway for any given program that has a transfer focus, because transferring to Rutgers is different from transferring to Monmouth, which is different from transferring to Georgian Court. I never seen that in the literature, but we live it every single day. So every so often, I'll read about something like that. Was it a conference where Maria Harper Marinette, I think from Mericopa was talking about Guided Pathways and the success they've had at Mericopa. And she put this slide up on the screen and it was a beautiful slide and it was all of these sort of pathways they had to degrees. And somebody asked her in the Q&A, "Oh, where do your students transfer to?" And she said over 90% of them transfer to Arizona State, at which point I realized, oh, that's why it's so easy for you. They'll go to the same place. You only have to reverse engineer from one place. We can't do that. Ours go to lots of different places and each one has different expectations. So, that to me explains a lot of why Guided Pathways has been much more successful in the South and the West than in the Northeast.

President Johnson: Sure. And you know, that's one of the things that I've appreciated being a reader of your blog, even preceding you in terms of meeting you, is sort of that unpacking of issues and seeing the different angles and more of an objective analytical descriptor of the nuances like you're describing with Guided Pathways as compared to a political polarized position, you know, yay or nay, or however you wanna categorize discrete positionality. And it's something I've really appreciated. And I know that we've got listeners that have probably read your blog off and on, or we might have serial readers that have read you for many, many years. And I've always appreciated sort of the unpacking of things because on paper, all kinds of concepts can seem very, very simple, but in the implementation of, and the nuances of something like a Guided Pathways, it's not as simple as it might seem. And it's also, you know, topically, that's something that's very contextualized, right? Like you're describing in terms of Arizona versus New Jersey. And of course, it means something different for us in the state of Washington as well. Well, to wrap up our conversation, I have two questions. One is very much professional in the context of our work and the rest of our careers. And what would your hopes and dreams be for community colleges and the communities we serve in the next 10, 15 years?

Matt Reed: I would love to see us get so good at equity that everybody notices and values it. And that's difficult. It's really hard. There are already places that do exclusive higher ed. There are already places that do aspirational higher ed. You know Becky from "Full House" got in trouble for that. We do a different thing and we don't get a lot of respect for it as a sector. I don't know if you had Steve Robinson on the show from Owens Community College? He's the "EndCCStigma" guy.

President Johnson: Not yet, but there's always a possibility.

Matt Reed: He's right, you know. There is a stigma out there that I think is pernicious and does a lot of damage. I would love for us to get past that. I would love for our graduates to get the respect they deserve and for our students to get the respect they deserve. And I would love to be able to say with a straight face, it doesn't matter where you come from, you have the same shot here as anybody else. We're not there yet, but it's the right way to go.

President Johnson: Love it, wonderful. And then my other question, which is a purely personal one, and I don't know whether retirement is in your life plan. I've discovered some people absolutely strive for that retirement moment. And they've got all kinds of notions about what that's going to be like. And then others are not planning on retirement. But when and if you do retire, what will be the measure for you of a successful career in community colleges? What will you look at as your gauge for your success?

Matt Reed: That's a tough one. I don't know whether retirement will be an option or whether it will be a mandate at some point. And I say that too, my dad got very sick towards the end of his life and was sort of forced into it. So it really wasn't an option. I have switched jobs a few times. And so I've had the experience of looking back on jobs that I've left. I loved when I left Morris for Holyoke, when I left Holyoke for Brookdale and I've had the chance to kind of reflect on those. So I don't know, you know, 20 years from now, I don't know how it's gonna work, but when I look back now and places I've been, the things that I'm proudest of are leaving the place better than I found it and having treated people fairly. I'm proud of the breakthroughs, proud of the moments that someone who was skeptical suddenly saw, hey, wait, this could work. I'm proud of the folks I've hired. I've hired well. And I made a point of, well, I don't know if this fits, but I wanna tell it anyway, darn it. A couple of years ago, the director of the teaching learning center at Princeton

President Johnson: Your answer, answer.

Matt Reed: Gave me a call and asked me to talk to some of her grad students 'cause some of them were looking at community college careers. And it's only about 45 minutes from here. So I went and I mentioned in passing that at my last job, when we had a Dean's meeting, I was the only man in the room. It was all women. And here I'm one of two men in the room and it's all women. And one of the women in the class I was speaking to said, well, that will be refreshing. I guess at Princeton it's not like that. In the community college world, there is more, I'm not gonna say there's equity, but there's more equity in terms of how employees are treated by demographics than in other parts of higher ed. I have seen more diversity in the ranks of deans, more diversity in the ranks of vice presidents, more diversity in the ranks of presidents than at any other level of higher ed. And to the extent that I've been able to give people chances and they've been able to thrive with those chances, I'm proud of that.

President Johnson: I think that's a great place to end our conversation today. You've been listening to conversation with Matt Reed, author of "Confessions of Community College Dean", which you can find in "Inside Higher Ed" and also our vice president for learning at Brookdale community college in New Jersey. Matt, I can't thank you enough for your time, your thoughts and the conversation. And for all of you listeners out there, remember you can listen to this and find it. Subscribe at You can find all prior episodes and all the other episodes of season one and our episodes of season two on that location and feel free to subscribe. And for now, we're gonna sign off until next time. Thank you.

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