Community College Changed My Life: A Narrative of Former Community College Students Who Are Community College Leaders



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Background: Access to higher education would not be possible for some without community colleges. Community colleges play a pivotal role in educating over 11 million students a year. Graduates of community colleges often enroll in four-year colleges and become career professionals, with many becoming community college leaders determined to assist students with completing their education. Purpose: Student completion at community colleges is problematic in higher education. The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to explore the perceptions and experiences of community college leaders who began their higher education journey at a community college, completed their education, and then progressed to become a leader at a community college. The following research question guided this study: What are the perceptions and experiences of current community college leaders regarding their journey as previous community college students and its impact on their career path? Method: Pursuing a narrative inquiry allowed four community college leaders from a very large urban community college in Texas to express themselves through the storytelling of their lives as they shared their journey from community college students to community college leaders. Participants were selected using purposive sampling and the researcher's social network of community college leaders who began higher education as community college students. Data was collected from three semi-structured interviews that chronologized the participant's lives, member checking sessions, and the researcher's reflective notes. The interviews were held virtually using a video conferencing platform due to the national pandemic of COVID-19. The electronic transcriptions of the interviews were converted into a word document after each interview, allowing the researcher to analyze the data for themes, conduct word frequency tests, and generate word clouds as a visual for the findings. Member checking occurred before the second and third interviews, which allowed the participants to review the transcript, add or subtract any thoughts, and clarify any answers if needed. Results: The prominent emergent themes from this study were path uncertainty, people, and love. The results of this study indicate that uncertainty does not determine one's trajectory. All participants were uncertain about their next steps after high school; however, today, all are community college leaders. The findings also indicated that having a mentor in one's life matters. Every participant was able to identify a mentor who played a role in their growth and development and propelled them to another level. Lastly, the participants perceived love as the underlying element of their successes. All the participants conveyed a type of love for others that was genuine and authentic. They conveyed philia love for their friends, storge love for their families and students, philautia love for themselves, and agape love for humanity. Conclusion: This narrative inquiry suggests that community colleges, in and of themselves, are not the only transformative entity in community college leaders' lives. The participants' transformation from student to leader is derived from individuals in their personal and professional networks, and the love they shared with others. Specifically, they shared philia (love for friends), storge (love for family), philautia (love for self), and agape (love for humanity).



Community College, Community College Leaders, Community College Students