Stephen Dunnivant, currently dean of business, industry, and technology at Tallahassee Community College in Florida was in town Tuesday to meet members of the Lee College Community — the second of four finalists in the running to replace Dennis Brown as president of Lee College when he retires in January.

The son of a country musician and a waitress, Dunnivant said he grew up in poverty, both in rural Arkansas and also in housing projects in upstate New York. The first person in his family to graduate from college, he credits much of his success to his mother’s commitment to reading in his early years.

While students face many practical obstacles in attending college, he said his background convinced him that “most of it is a cultural assumption.”

As the college tries to more effectively reach underserved areas, “We’ve got to have a sustained presence in those neighborhoods if we want long-term change.”

With Lee College having the challenge of reaching both the fairly urban area of Baytown and the rural communities in its service area, Dunnivant said the school should make more use of distance learning, hybrid learning and creative approaches.

At his current college, he said, the school emphasizes the distinctiveness of its dual-credit classes in high schools by clustering its classes into branded hallways, painted in college colors.

Adjunct faculty members teaching in dual-credit

dual-credit classes also participate in the same professional development as faculty on campus, he said, strengthening their ties to the college.

About 70% of Lee College students do not take online classes, Dunnivant said, where 70% of students taking such classes is more typical of community colleges.

When asked about how to make Lee a “college of choice,” Dunnivant said the emphasis should instead be on making it a college of success and achieving successful outcomes would naturally lead to it being a college that students would choose to attend.

Another distinctive emphasis Dunnivant raised was his belief that faculty should be seen as — and see themselves as — scholars rather than instructors.

Each semester, he said, he asks faculty in his department to report on reading they have done in their subject area, in the art of teaching, and in understanding the students they teach. The same applies to both full-time and adjunct faculty.

Dunnivant said the college needs to function both as an academic institution and as a business, practicing financial stewardship of the money entrusted to it by taxpayers and supporting students in the path to gainful employment.

The first of the four candidates to meet the community was Lynda Villanueva Monday, and two others will follow today and Thursday.

Each will answer questions at public forums in Tucker Hall on campus at 8 a.m. for faculty, 11:15 p.m. for administrators and staff and 2:30 p.m. for students and the community. No one is limited to only attending the forum matching their relationship to the college. Regents will interview each candidate in executive session in the evening.

• Today’s candidate is Dr. Johnny Moore, president of Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont, West Virginia.

• Thursday’s candidate is Dr. Scott Scarborough, professor of practice-School of Accounting at the University of Akron and previous University of Akron president.

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