Photo of Dr. Rose Bellanca, President of Washtenaw Community College

New Member! AFIT Welcomes President Bellanca of Washtenaw Community College

AFIT’s Executive Committee is pleased to announce that Dr. Rose Bellanca, president and CEO of Washtenaw Community College (WCC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been accepted as a new member. Dr. Julie Morrison, executive director of institutional effectiveness, planning, and accreditation will serve as the College’s AFIT Rep.

Dr. Rose Bellanca and Dr. Julie Morrison of Washtenaw Community College
Dr. Rose Bellanca (left) and Dr. Julie Morrison (right).

Dr. Bellanca was named the fourth president of Washtenaw Community College in 2011. Under her leadership, WCC has maintained steady college enrollment during a period of national decline, and she has implemented numerous innovations in teaching and student services to respond proactively to the disruptive forces in higher education. Prior to WCC, Dr. Bellanca was the president of Northwood University’s West Palm Beach Campus, president of St. Clair Community College, and provost of Macomb Community College.

Dr. Bellanca and her team attended AFIT’s 2020 virtual Summer Institute as a guest of President Dan Phelan of Jackson College.

We caught up with Dr. Bellanca to learn more about her decision to join AFIT and the innovation and transformation underway at WCC. Please enjoy our interview…

  1. Why did you decide to join AFIT?

Washtenaw Community College has long been committed to the same principles that guide AFIT. Indeed, innovation is one of WCC’s stated values. When I was hired as president of the college in 2011, WCC’s Board of Trustees specifically sought a leader to initiate change and implement a comprehensive and integrated strategic planning process to support innovative practices for future success and long-term sustainability. The result, Shaping Our Future 2012-15, is now on its third update and has launched multiple future-focused initiatives that have transformed the work of the college and its ability to meet the needs of students, the community, and business and industry partners, now and well into the future.

Over the last decade, we have developed a strong leadership team focused on continuous learning, collaboration, and creative thinking in addressing student, community, and employee success. In summer of 2020, our Executive Leadership team attended the AFIT Summer Institute as our annual summer leadership retreat.  The Summer Institute’s focus on growth mindset and facing disruption; the learning partners from Microsoft, the United States Air Force Academy, the Center for the Future of Work, and Baldrige-winning Howard Community College; and the rich trove of learning resources delivered exactly the kind of learning experience we value and utilize regularly as a leadership team as we work to move the college forward.

AFIT’s core beliefs and vision for innovation and organizational transformation fully align with our own vision as we advance WCC’s work to assure the college’s continued impact, connectedness, and relevance. WCC’s team shares AFIT’s commitment to collaborative learning, and gaining knowledge from the practices and successes of organizations outside higher education. The resources, learning opportunities, and networking that AFIT offers will strengthen our work at WCC and further connect our team with like-minded campuses and learning partners promoting aspirational, change-oriented leadership.

Finally, as an institution, WCC is fully committed to student, community, and staff success, as indicated in our college Vision statement. I am convinced that continuing our involvement with AFIT will enhance our abilities as a leadership team and as a college to foster success across our campus community.

  1. Why is transformation and/or innovation important to you and Washtenaw Community College?

I believe that transformation and innovation are essential for organizations to survive and thrive in our continually changing world. As an educational institution—particularly a comprehensive community college with a mission to serve as an educational and economic driver in the region—it is our responsibility to stay ahead of future forces that may affect our ability to successfully serve our students, community members, and partners. COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the need for institutions to innovate and transform existing practices; there are other forces, however, that will continue to influence colleges far into the future. Students now compete in a globally competitive, technologically advancing marketplace. A rapidly changing workplace requires us to be increasingly responsive in preparing students for jobs that may not yet exist and meeting the changing needs of employers. Socio-economic and demographic trends may impact the college’s sustainability and ongoing role in community and economic development. It is critical to embrace these challenges as opportunities to be innovative and intentional to position WCC for future success.

WCC’s most innovative work has been achieved through our strategic plan. Our comprehensive process has incorporated environmental scanning, internal input, and feedback from leaders across multiple sectors.  We are fortunate to be located near two large universities, three major medical centers, and regional hubs for information technology, STEM fields, the automotive industry, and the mobility sector, among other industries. We have utilized the planning process to leverage these relationships to transform WCC’s offerings for the 21st century.

  1. What initiatives you have taken to implement transformative and/or innovative practices?

A few examples of WCC’s innovative initiatives include:

  • A nationally recognized Advanced Transportation Center, a multidisciplinary, one-of-a-kind center offering credit and non-credit curriculum across information technology, advanced manufacturing, and automotive technology focused on intelligent transportation, positioning WCC as a leader in mobility.
  • The first nationally designated Center of Excellence in Nursing in Michigan, with innovative collaborative programming with Eastern Michigan University designed in response to employer needs.
  • A holistic Teaching and Learning Center transforming professional development on campus for all employees under one umbrella.
  • A WCC Leadership Academy for rising leaders, led in collaboration with external experts, providing intensive, cohort-based, leadership training.
  • A National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education designated by the U.S. National Security Agency/ Department of Homeland Security.

AFIT is excited to welcome Rose Bellanca, Julie Morrison, and the entire Washtenaw team to our alliance. We are honored to be part of WCC’s transformation journey!