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The Importance of Continuing Education Leadership in Public Higher Education

The Importance of Continuing Education Leadership in Public Higher Education
Continuing education activities are moving from the periphery of higher education institutions to the core, but there is a lack of qualified continuing education professionals ready to step into these increasingly important leadership roles.

Public higher education institutions, particularly in California, face long-term budget challenges. More than ever, institutional leaders are looking to their continuing education colleges and divisions to create programs and activities that increase access, help students accelerate their time to degree and enhance revenue streams through innovative and creative strategies. Institutional leaders are increasingly recognizing the versatility of continuing education leaders to support and advance institutional goals in a variety of new and parallel roles. Continuing education leaders are assuming responsibility for important areas, such as international programs and advancement, and increasingly critical duties within academic affairs offices. The skills essential to successful continuing education administration are equally desirable in other areas of the university.

While continuing education leaders explore new roles within the institution, their units face a challenge in filling critical positions. Given the integration of continuing education leadership within the larger university structure, how do we engage, encourage and prepare our emerging leaders for new and expanding opportunities?

One thing we can do is more aggressively promote continuing education as an exciting and fulfilling career choice, rather than a stop on the way to another opportunity. Continuing education units are populated with talented, accomplished and enthusiastic leaders who serve as examples to those who aspire to leadership positions. I know that our professional associations and institutions value staff professional development, but I also hear from colleagues that filling key staff positions has become increasingly difficult. This has become an area of concern, both locally and globally, and may affect the health, vitality and sustainability of both continuing and extended education. This issue deserves continued and focused attention so the creativity, innovation and passion that current continuing and extended education leadership possesses can be an inspiration to future leaders.

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