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Montgomery College inaugurates a new leader

Montgomery College, the largest two-year institution in Maryland, inaugurated DeRionne P. Pollard as its new president Friday.

Pollard was named in May to replace interim administrator Hercules Pinkney and is the first permanent president of Montgomery College since the removal of Brian K. Johnson last fall. She had been president of Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif.


At 39, she's one of the youngest community college presidents in the nation and is one of a few who are openly gay. She started work in Rockville on Aug. 2 as the ninth chief executive in the college's 64-year history.

Montgomery College has a reputation -- mostly deserved -- as one of the finest two-year colleges in the nation. Rather than simply invoke that reputation, Pollard challenged it, reciting some sobering statistics:

In Maryland, community colleges average a completion rate of 14 percent. Add in the statewide transfer figure of 20 percent, and the average success rate for Maryland community colleges is 34 percent.

And where is Montgomery College? Fourteen percent of our full-time, degree-seeking students earned a degree or certificate within three years. Another 32 percent transferred to four-year colleges or universities. Our total success rate is 46 percent.

Folks, among Maryland community colleges, fourth place is not good enough. It's time to take first.

This is our wake-up call. Yes, our rates don't include those who attend part time or those who are studying for an industry-based certification or taking a few classes to improve their work opportunities. Many of those students do accomplish their goals without a degree.

Still, the state and federal governments measure our success by our 14 percent for graduation rate and our 32 percent for transfer rate. We should aspire to do better.

We must do better.

We will do better.


Pollard shared details of her life and of her uncertainties about what path to follow in her education and career, an experience not unlike that of the typical college student:

It may come as a surprise to some of you, but I didn't always plan to be a college president. In fact, it took me a while before I found my calling. Like many college students, I changed my mind a few times.

I considered being a Marine, a minister, and later an attorney. I fell for the written word and chose to major in English.

And then I hit that wall of self-doubt. I considered dropping out and becoming a nanny. But one of my mentors--a college professor--made me realize that I was running away from my future, that I was afraid to shine. She gave me the insight and the courage to follow my dreams and complete college.

Pollard indirectly answered her legislative critic, Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County), who called a news conference earlier this week and alleged that Montgomery College is breaking the law. The college is apparently the only higher-education institution in the region that admits illegal immigrants as resident students, charging them lower in-county rates if they come from local public schools.

Pollard touched on this topic at least twice:

We pride ourselves on being inclusive. On being fully relevant to our entire community. On being relevant to each individual student.


Montgomery College is an open-access college. We welcome everyone who can benefit from college, no matter a student's background, age, or skill set.

Follow College Inc. on Twitter.

By Daniel de Vise  | October 30, 2010; 12:44 PM ET
Categories:  Access, Administration, Attainment, Community Colleges  | Tags:  Montgomery College, Montgomery College immigrants, Montgomery College inauguration, Pollard inauguration  
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