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Please note: This piece originally appear on perspectives.acct.org.

A new book from the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship examines new models for leadership.

By Rebecca Corbin, Ed.D., president and CEO, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE)

“A recurrent theme, and now an imperative, is the reality that if we are to meet the challenges of the second century of the community college movement, we must begin to think and behave very differently. We should start with what we think we know now, remember what we’ve forgotten, and be comfortable with what we don’t know about the future. In short, to navigate successfully to meet the needs of students and communities, we must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset— letting our passion dictate our direction while exercising moral courage and risk-taking to shift the curve of decision making by rejecting the status quo.”

The preceding quote is from the afterword of NACCE’s recently published book, Community Colleges as Incubators of Change: Unleashing Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Communities and Students(Stylus, 2019). J. Noah Brown, Ph.D., president and CEO of ACCT and a former member of NACCE’s board of directors, wrote the afterword, and in it, he affirms the imperative that for college leaders to meet and conquer challenges they must embrace the entrepreneurial principles expounded by Saras Sarasvathy, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. Sarasvathy has studied the behaviors and traits of entrepreneurs, and how these habits can be directly applied to how community college leaders can rise to meet future challenges.  

Community college leaders have a long history of innovation and the ability to seek opportunities and meet challenges to better serve their colleges and communities. Applying entrepreneurial principles enables leaders to approach decision-making with much more intentionality and purpose, shifting the culture toward informed risk-taking that uses real data to break down the status quo. Leaders must master new cultural and experiential competencies and become co-creators, leading by example, just as entrepreneurs do. 

Brown summarizes his view of the role of entrepreneurship as follows:

“There are no simple algorithms to master entrepreneurship — the science of entrepreneurship can be described and disseminated. The art of entrepreneurship is in the doing — the relentless passion. Now is the time for doing. It is time to become habitual entrepreneurial community college leaders.”

Entrepreneurship as Part of a National Conversation

As NACCE continues to stoke growing interest among community colleges about the importance of entrepreneurship to their institutions and the communities they serve, we see time and again how potent a catalyst an entrepreneurial ‘can-do’ mindset can be. It is the cornerstone for NACCE as a national membership organization and continues to guide its operational mode and spirit today. In its new book, NACCE has gathered best practices and models of entrepreneurial ecosystems inspired by entrepreneurship educators and thought leaders from around the country. These examples can be replicated by faculty, community leaders and trustees seeking to enhance economic vitality through entrepreneurial opportunities. To learn more, read NACCE’s new book, Community Colleges as Incubators of Innovation. To order, click here.


Rebecca Corbin has served in leadership roles in the community college system for more than a decade, aspresident and CEO of NACCE, and as vice president of institutional advancement and executive director of the Foundation for Rowan College at Burlington County in New Jersey.

Connect with Rebecca on Twitter @RebeccaCorbin7