Community college can have ‘transformative impact’, says CCA presidential candidate Mordecai Brownlee

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AURORA | Community College of Aurora presidential finalist Mordecai Brownlee answered questions Tuesday in a virtual public forum about why he believes he is the best candidate for the job.

Mordecai Brownlee, candidate for Community College of Aurora, answers questions in an online forum.

Brownlee is one of three finalists for the role, which will be open this summer after current president Besty Oudenhoven retires. He currently serves as the vice president for student success at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas.

In the meeting, Brownlee said that he was raised by a single mother who was an educator, and attended a community college. He said he initially struggled in school and failed a class while he was working full-time, but that over time community college had a “transformative impact” on his life.

Throughout the meeting, Brownlee repeatedly returned to the theme of student success and the importance of focusing on making sure that students’ needs are being met. His favorite part of being an educator is getting to watch students walk across the commencement stage.

“For me, that’s the Super Bowl,” he said.

Despite the blow that COVID-19 has dealt to higher education institutions, Brownlee said that it’s also provided educators an opportunity to reevaluate how they do things.

 “It’s shown us how flexible we can really be,” he said.

Coming out of the pandemic, he said colleges should continue to find ways to innovate instead of just working to return to normal. He specifically said colleges should keep looking into how technology can be used to connect with students.

Brownlee said that diversity, equity and inclusion are important to him and that if selected he will be committed to continuing the diversity work that CCA has made a central part of its mission. He emphasized the importance of making sure that faculty and staff of color feel included along with students.

“If our staff and faculty don’t feel valued, how will students?” he said.

Similarly to finalist Michelle Schutt, who spoke to the community on Monday, he said that he endorses the model of shared governance and involving a wide range of people in the decision-making process.

Because Aurora is a growing city with many residents who have partial or no college education, he said that he believes CCA is poised to grow, and that as president he would work to strengthen the college’s connections with local community organizations and the K-12 school system.

“Everywhere where we can tell the CCA story, you will see Mordecai Brownlee,” he said. 

The third candidate, Stephanie Fujii, will have a virtual meeting Wednesday from 11:15 to noon. Information on how to attend is available on CCA’s website.

A final decision will be announced in May by Colorado Community College System Chancellor Joe Garcia.

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