President Bill Segura

The Austin Community College Board of Trustees named Bill Segura the College’s sixth president, succeeding interim president Roland Smith who had filled in after Dan Angel departed to take the presidency of Stephen F. Austin State University. Segura, a 45-year-old El Paso native, came to ACC from Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon. Among the issues the new ACC president faced were a divided governing board, a fast-growing student body, and the educational and training needs of a dynamic, high-tech economy.

Bill Segura

Segura was ACC’s ninth president, counting both permanent and interim CEOs, since the College’s founding twenty yeas before. Roland Smith had held the interim position three times. Many College insiders, as well as outsiders, wondered how long Segura would last. Pressure  to address important issues built up quickly. Funding had been successfully addressed in the tax referendum of 1986; however, the Trustees were deeply divided over the College’s direction going forward, along with the costs involved. Segura was neither intimidated nor surprised by the situation. Urban community-college CEOs were used to dealing with high pressure and short leashes. Segura had dealt successfully with pressure at Chemeketa, which also was situated in a politicized  state capital. The job was not for the weak and timid. The average tenure of public community-college presidents was only 3.5 years, substantially shorter than for four-year college and university chief executives. Furthermore, urban constituencies were often difficult to please. Segura’s wo predecessors had largely done what they had been hired to do. Cecil Groves secured Southern Association of College and Schools (SACS) accreditation, and Dan Angel won a critical tax-base election, thus  lifting the college out of perennial poverty. Afterward, however, both felt hands on their backs pushing them out the door. In the twenty years of ACC’s existence, the average presidential tenure was 2.2 years. If Segura were going to succeed, he would have to hit the ground running, define the College’s direction unambiguously, push hard, and work fast.

Bill Segura was well-suited to the situation. One Chemeketa trustee said: “One thing he did quite well was [not] spend a lot of time complaining about how poorly we were treated.” At ACC, workforce and allied health-science programs were especially hard-pressed for space and the very expensive machinery required to keep their job-training programs relevant, and Segura had to explain that to taxpayers. Even with taxing authority, pressure built on budgeting and spending, and that was coupled with heavy reliance on highly educated adjunct faculty who received a fraction of the pay given to full-time faculty. The pool of such potential faculty was huge in a community like Austin. Many adjuncts regarded themselves as exploited laborers comparable to the factory and mine workers of t times past and other places and were . The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools did not disagree, stipulating that accreditation might be withdrawn if ACC did not show marked improvement in budgeting and planning and a significant lessening of its reliance on part-time faculty, many of whom had doctoral degrees and significant work experience.

With funding basically flat, Segura and his team had to look at everything they were doing and ask: “Is there a better way to do this. . . . Does the community need it” After a year at the helm, Segura, broadened the school’s realm by breaking free from its narrow definition as strictly a academic institution.  There was a restlessness in the Austin metro area, along with pessimism, poverty, and hate,” Segura noted, were things we need to pick off as targets for education.” During ACC Board elections, winning candidates talked a lot about ACC providing programs tailored to the needs of East Austin. There was much conversation emphasizing the “community” in community colleges, so much that ACC being the “community in community colleges became a slogan. Another facet of this social vision was bringing together high schools and community colleges. Segura was aware of what was happening. “We had a very effective . . . high school at the college I came from.” He also brought to ACC a commitment to programs aimed at homeless people in ACC’s district.

Source: Austin American-Statesman, August 2, 1993, Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research at the University of California at Davis

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