Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley Community College, is one of four community college presidents nationwide to be featured in the launch of the Legendary Leadership video project. The videos, produced by Ferris State University’s Doctorate in Community College Leadership (DCCL) program, are a series of intimate conversations with eminent current and retired community college presidents who are highly regarded for their leadership contributions.
In her extensive interview, Dr. Jenkins shared wisdom and experiences she has had throughout her journey to the presidency. The topics discussed in her interview range from the unique challenges of women and minority leaders to leading during a crisis and advice she would give aspiring presidents. She also shared her personal story of growing up in rural Louisiana and the path she took to Moraine Valley where she was first hired as a part-time librarian in 1986. Dr. Jenkins became the college’s fifth president in 2012.
“People should seize opportunities as they present themselves,” she said. “There’s no way to plan for this job, but you prepare yourself for the opportunities that will come your way, so you are ready when they do. Don’t limit yourself. Work hard. Show people you can do a good job, and good things will happen for you.”
Dr. Jenkins also addressed the proverbial “glass ceiling,” stating that it does still exist – even in higher education. She encourages women to get involved, be at the table and have voice. She also advises women to look for people who want to encourage them, including many men who want to give their support and guidance.
Believing her role is not any more important than others at the college, she is most proud of the relationships she has built with people on campus. Despite the challenges community colleges face daily, she has congenial relationships with the four collective bargaining units at the college and praises the collaboration among the executive leadership team and board of directors she inherited.
“When you walk into this job, you think you know what you’re walking into, but honestly that perception has changed over the years,” she said. “Any decision I make impacts someone, so I take that very seriously. I believe in helping and growing people here.”
Ferris State University initiated the Legendary Leadership project because community colleges are America’s gateway to opportunity and are often led by visionaries. Roberta Teahen, associate provost and director of Ferris’ DCCL program, considers the video series to be vital.
“We believe it is essential to capture what they’ve learned so it can be passed on to the next generation of leaders,” she said. “They have been extraordinarily open, honest and authentic in their interviews, and that’s what makes them so compelling.”