College System of Tennessee releases second podcast in a three-part series on disruptive transformation in higher education

College System of Tennessee releases second podcast in series

TBR - The College System of Tennessee has released a second podcast focused on how higher education leaders build and cultivate creativity within their teams during times of disruption. The three-part series this fall is led by Dr. Heidi Leming, Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) vice chancellor for student success, with conversation based on a book she selects and discusses with industry experts and higher education leaders.

Dr. Leming was joined this month by Dr. Michael Stokes, vice president of student services at Cleveland State Community College and one of the longest-serving senior student affairs officers in Tennessee, and Stephen Thomas, director of student life at Dyersburg State Community College. They examined themes from the book, “Disruptive Transformation: Leading Creative and Innovative Teams in Higher Education” by Robert D. Kelly, Colin Stewart and Associates. It was published by the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators (NASPA) in 2020.

Stokes and Thomas gave unique perspectives as student affairs professionals who deal directly with diverse students in a community college setting. They discussed how their own experiences of embracing diversity during times of crisis have helped to not only bring about change but creatively led students and team members through these periods of transformation.

“The diversity of our staff and the perspectives that younger staff bring are really important,” said Dr. Stokes. “I think for me and others like me, we need to continue to hear those voices and be able to engage with them.” He went on to state the importance of recognizing different perspectives and how blending ideas can help reach those not reached in the past.

Thomas added that including students and being receptive to their diverse backgrounds and viewpoints can help colleges grow and establish a culture of positive change. In his experience, bringing students to the table and inviting them to meetings with the president and key personnel can offer better insight into what the students desire to see on campus.

A common theme throughout the podcast, recorded in the McWherter Center Auditorium at Jackson State Community College, was the positive role that diversity can play within a team and student body. Just as institutional transformation requires a shift of attitudes and behaviors of key stakeholders, it also requires a focus on how to achieve sustained cultural change through transparency and communication. Both Dr. Stokes and Thomas stated that being open to new and different ideas can provide opportunities for growth not only in numbers, but in cultural change as well.

Besides the TBR website, the recorded podcast can be found all major platforms. The third and final podcast in the series will be held live Nov. 16 at 11 am CT inside the Community Room at the Williamson County campus at Columbia State Community College. The first podcast in the series was recorded at Pellissippi State Community College in September. 

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 24 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.