Re-creation of article in

Mercer Business Magazine, January 2007 Issue

By Maggi S. Hill

On December 21, Dr. Patricia Donohue was officially appointed the new president of Mercer County Community College (MCCC), and will assume the duties of the presidency on February 1, 2007.  Donohue comes to MCCC from her post as president of Luzerne County Community College in Pennsylvania, and has served in the past as vice chancellor for education at St. Louis Community College and acting president of St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley.  Dr. Donohue holds an A.B. in Mathematics from Duke University, an M.A. in Mathematics Education and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with emphasis on education Administration, both from University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In addition to her many academic and civic awards, Dr. Donohue has been recognized by Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who in American Women, among other prestigious organizations.  She has authored numeroud educational presentations and lectures all over the country.  Dr. Donohue is MCCC’s first woman president.

Mercer Business caught her in-between appointments, and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions.

Cover Photo. Dr. Donohue is pictured with members of MCCC’s award-winning 2005-06 women’s tennis team, from left, Jane Senor, Sherry Lin and Monica Nichols.

MB/  You have a wide breadth of knowledge on diverse topics, as evidenced by the various papers and lectures you have given over the years.  From technology in career education, to women’s leadership and integrating occupational and academic education, how do you choose the subjects and how do you prepare for your presentations?

PD/  In many cases, the general topic is driven by the focus of the organization or the invitation to speak.  For example, Columbus Technical Community College invited me to make a presentation on shared governance because they had learned about a project I led at St. Louis Community College to redesign and invigorate the shared governance of the institution.  Columbus was exploring similar issues and preparing to redesign the shared governance system at their institution.  I had several phone conferences with the governance planning team and the President to identify what they wanted to learn and accomplish.  I organized my thoughts in sections -- philosophy and principles, key elements, guidelines or tips we learned, and steps in the process.  I then researched my files to find materials I had used in presentations and discussions on my campus, and also located a variety of hand-outs to share.  For this presentation, it was a matter of going back through my experience, selecting relevant information, and synthesizing the information to match their needs and interest.  They needed “how to proceed” learning along with enough understanding to create and share their own version.

My keynote presentation for the League for Innovation was comparable.  That speech was presented to a very large group with similar interests, but they were not trying to engage a particular project.  I was invited to share information garnered as a result of my long-term expertise in the field, including having been President of the National Council for Workforce Education (then Occupational Education).  The conference planners requested that I provide an historical view and lead into the future of programs in workforce and technical education.  I reviewed the trends and benchmarks in workforce education from the early days in America and connected that to the history of the government and business influences driving the form and delivery.  That was the platform to connect what is happening today and what is likely to happen in the foreseeable future.  It is actually fun to take the time to step back and think about some of the bigger questions and consider the future impact, then shape them to inspire learning and thinking in the audience.

MB/  What are the key elements for developing women’s leadership in your view?  Is there parity in women in leading in educational institutions?  If not, why do you feel this is the case?

PD/  Women’s leadership must first include key criteria of leadership and competence in the individual’s field or industry.  What many of us focus on for women as leaders includes identifying and trusting their basic strengths and applying them wisely in their leadership.

This includes understanding different styles in learning and listening and the effect on expectations in the workplace as well as different use of language.  There was a time when women were taught that they had to think and act like men to be successful in the workplace.  Research and business trends have shown that the androgyny effect (blending the relationship-based, nurturing orientation generally attributed to women with the task/goal orientation generally attributed to men) has made the workplace more productive as well as more comfortable.  Over time, men and women have developed blended strengths.  Yet it is important to continue to help women understand how these factors can affect their work and opportunities for success in their organization.  Women need to empower themselves and use their strengths in order to become empowering leaders.

It would be a mistake to think women are in parity with men in higher education leadership.  Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, there was great progress toward equity among those leading our colleges and universities, but that seems to have started leveling off several years ago.  By the early 1980’s, we had clearly articulated that the lack of progress toward parity was directly related to the available pool of qualified, prepared women at the previous job level -- not enough women vice presidents among applicants for president, not enough women deans among applicants for vice president, etc.  Community colleges created a wonderful program to help women learn the institution-wide skills they would need to empower themselves and to analyze and focus their goals. For more than 25 years, this program and the mentoring among the thousands who participated, have helped to change the distribution among applicants at many levels.

MB/  What do you see as MCCC’s strengths and also what areas do you see that need improvement?

PD/  First and foremost, MCCC is known for providing an excellent education to students.  We are good at our core business.

The College has committed faculty, staff, students, and Trustees who know and support the mission of community colleges and student success in learning.  They have started sharing their ideas to enhance program opportunities and student learning.  I will assess these and try to support those who are ready to work on issues important to the College.

A community college is in and of the community -- not only serving the community.  All the art and cultural initiatives and business and workforce training connections are a wonderful reflection of broad connection to the community.  These are always open for improvement if we are collectively listening and looking for opportunities.

Mercer County reflects diversity in many aspects and the students we serve mirror that community.  We must assure that all students have the opportunity to learn and grow in a supportive culture.

MB/  Do you anticipate any major initiatives for the first year of your appointment?  Long-term personal and professional goals?


PD/  First, I need to learn more about the College and the community -- the people, the goals and the values.

I will work on building relationships with all constituents -- students, faculty, staff, Trustees, alumni, and community members.  Along with meeting and sharing ideas with business and civic leaders, I will learn what we are currently doing together and how partnerships can further enhance learning for our students and provide a better prepared workforce.

The College has completed substantial work on a strategic plan.  I look forward to seeing the details and hearing how the plan will address the issues and opportunities of the College.

The planning work and learning about the College will let me assess how the roles and functions in College operations align with the strategic goals and mission of the College.

Long-term goals

I’ve worked in high schools and middle schools, at a university and at community colleges.  I love the mission of the community college and my professional goal is to continue creating the future through educating our students, building the workforce, and enhancing the quality of life in our community.

My personal goals include sharing family activities, learning new things, and being the best me I can be every day.

MB/  How important is the partnership of MCCC with the business community, and do you have plans for mentoring/internships, etc.?

PD/  MCCC partners with the business community in several ways and they are all important.  Employers are our primary source about what skill sets and career preparation is needed to make their workforce productive now and in the future.  They influence curriculum by working on advisory committees, share expertise as adjunct faculty, and provide opportunities for internships, clinicals and independent-study experiences.  Listening to faculty and business leaders as well as students will identify what the College is doing now and what alternatives may lead to even better results.

MB/  Tell us a bit about your personal life, e.g. family, hobbies/Interests?

PD/  My son, Jay Stevens, works for EMC near Boston and my daughter, Carol Stevens, works for Boeing in St. Louis.  My granddaughter, Jennifer, is quite the soccer player among nine-year olds.  I love spending time with them and we are committed to our regular family vacations.  Closer to home, I have two German Shepherds who think I need lots of walks.

I play tennis regularly and enjoy international travel to learn about the people, culture and history of other regions.  In July, I spent a week in Bosnia with the Marshall Legacy Institute, learning the extent of the land mine issues, services for victims, and delivering or graduating dogs prepared to enter service for land mine detection.  I also enjoy Bridge, needle work, cooking, and my bicycle when time allows.