President Ashford & President Flora selected for Leadership Tennessee Class of 2020

Dr. Rebecca Ashford, Dr. Bethany Flora

Two Tennessee community college presidents are among the 46 members of the Leadership Tennessee Class of 2020 announced Monday by the statewide leadership initiative.

Dr. Rebecca Ashford, president of Chattanooga State Community College, and Dr. Bethany Flora, president of Northeast State Community College, are among the seven educators -- five from higher education -- selected for the new Leadership Tennessee class.

Starting in August, the 46 leaders from rural and urban communities across the state will spend the next year engaging in collaborative, non-partisan dialogue on issues of statewide importance. Leadership Tennessee crosses the state’s three Grand Divisions to inform and empower leaders in business, education, government, health and nonprofit organizations on the most critical challenges and opportunities facing the state.

Ashford has been president of Chattanooga State since July 2017. She previously served as vice president of student affairs at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville and has held executive leadership appointments at community colleges since 2000. She earned an Ed.D. in educational leadership at the University of Central Florida. 

Flora became president of Northeast in January, after serving as associate director of the Center for Community College Leadership at East Tennessee State University, where she also served as associate professor of postsecondary leadership in ETSU’s Clemmer College of Education. She earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration at Virginia Tech.

“Dr. Ashford and Dr. Flora are rising leaders in the College System of Tennessee and will provide their Leadership Tennessee class with valuable insights into the key roles that our community and technical colleges play in student success and workforce and economic development across our state,” said Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings. “At the same time, they will learn more about the state’s broader challenges and opportunities. Leadership Tennessee is Tennessee’s premier leadership development program and I couldn’t be prouder that our system will be represented by two of our outstanding presidents.”

Entering its seventh year, Leadership Tennessee selects a new class of leaders annually to take part in a statewide study course while visiting different areas of Tennessee, learning best practices and analyzing important issues faced by Tennesseans. Through its first six classes, Leadership Tennessee has built a statewide network of 246 leaders.

"I am honored to be selected and look forward to learning more about the differences and similarities in industry, education, community health, and policy hot topics across the state," President Flora said. "I am proud to join President Ashford as we represent the technical and community college system of Tennessee, a system that leads the nation with innovative policies like Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect. It is a great time to be part of workforce and economic development conversations in Tennessee."

President Ashford agreed: “I am so proud to join Leadership Tennessee Class VII -- proud to join my distinguished colleagues from Chattanooga in representing our great community and my colleague from the College System of Tennessee, Dr. Bethany Flora. It is going to be an exciting year."

In announcing the new class, Leadership Tennessee Executive Director Cathy Cate said, “Tennessee has a lot of momentum right now, but Tennesseans continue to face significant challenges that require new and innovative partnerships to overcome them. Each class brings its own unique perspective and insight to the conversation, and we’re excited about Class VII joining the Leadership Tennessee network.”

In April, Leadership Tennessee announced it would lead “Vote Tennessee,” a statewide effort to increase voter registration. And in January, the organization announced the first class of Leadership Tennessee NEXT, its program offering early-to-mid-career professionals in-depth personal and career development while fostering a better understanding of Tennessee.

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 100,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.