Jessica Pickel, Dean of Liberal Arts at Richland Community College, was recently chosen to participate in the 2021 class of the AACC John E. Roueche Future Leaders Institute, which met in Washington, DC, earlier this month.

As part of the institute Pickel was able to hone her leadership skills while connecting with leaders from around the country to build a network of colleagues. “I enjoyed meeting leaders across the country and learning how their respective institutions approach similar challenges. The highlight for me was hearing from Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab whose work in food insecurity and basic needs on college campuses is truly inspiring,” said Pickel about her experience.

Pickel has worked in higher education for 16 years and has served as dean for three years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication, a Master of Education in Educational Organization and Leadership with an emphasis in Higher Education, and is currently working on her Doctorate of Education in Higher education with an emphasis in Community College Leadership.

“Leadership occurs at all levels of the institution and those connections are critical for a leader’s success. As a dean at Richland Community College, I have the responsibility to lead both up and down. I’m fortunate to have leadership at the college that welcomes my feedback and input on how to improve processes, policies, and structures that lead to greater student success. I also strive to provide leadership to my faculty and staff through regular communication, collaboration, and encouragement. We will be more successful in improving student outcomes by working together,” added Pickel.

Dr. Cristobal Valdez, President, said, “We were extremely pleased that Dean Pickel was selected for this distinguished professional development opportunity. Jessica was able to learn from and connect with community college leaders on a national level. These experiences help the College network and interact with best practices across the nation while allowing her to more fully realize her leadership potential and capacity.”

According to Pickel, “Community college leadership requires collaboration with faculty, staff, and students. We have amazing opportunities at Richland Community College to learn from one another, but it does require intentional and sometimes difficult conversations; however, the reward of seeing students achieve their goals and the community benefit from a well-educated and trained workforce is worth the challenging moments.” She continues, “I have been very fortunate at Richland Community College to have amazing mentors who have helped prepare me for each step of my career. I think at a small institution like Richland, we have the benefit of forming strong bonds with our colleagues and with our students. These strong bonds connect us to the institution and provide us purpose and a sense of belonging. We need both purpose and a sense of belonging to continue our efforts in improving the educational trajectories for our students and our communities.”

The AACC John E. Roueche Future Leaders Institute is a 3-day seminar designed for department chairs, deans, assistant/associate deans, or directors who look to advance into a senior leadership role.