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Passing the Torch: Doctoral Cohort Learning from Higher Education Heavyweights to Become Tomorrow’s Community College Leaders


Article by: Mike Bratten

An Air Force veteran and a working professional with a master’s degree, Carlos Garanzuay is accustomed to setting and achieving long-term goals.

When an opportunity arose last year to earn a doctorate while working full time – a three-year endeavor – he jumped on it. He has since been soaking up lessons in leadership from higher education luminaries such as Dr. John E. Roueche, George Boggs and Dr. Terry O’Banion.


I’ve always been a lifetime learner. When I got out of the military, I wanted to venture out and explore something I didn’t know. This program is a good way to position myself for a long-term career in higher education.
Carlos Garanzuay, College Relations Office Coordinator

The Community College Leadership Program (CCLP) enables working professionals to take doctoral classes close to home through online and face-to-face instruction, while also exposing them to a network of leaders in the community college field. It’s an innovative alternative to the traditional doctorate path often requiring a sabbatical from work.

After two years of coursework and one year for dissertations, students are awarded a Doctor of Education degree.

Offered by the Roueche Graduate Center at National American University (NAU) in Austin, the program was launched at Del Mar last fall and now includes 10 students: Five employees from Del Mar, four from community colleges throughout Texas and a student from Kansas.

Del Mar is one of three community colleges in Texas currently hosting a cohort, according to the Center.

World class experience

Roueche, a Mount Rushmore figure in the community college world and president of the Center, previously served as professor and director of the CCLP at the University of Texas at Austin for 41 years.

“I was fortunate to be a mentee and protégé of Dr. Rouche when he was at the University of Texas,” said Dr. Mark Escamilla, president of Del Mar College and a CCLP graduate. “I wanted to bring the program to Del Mar so that others can have a world class experience with world class leaders.

“Hopefully, this cohort will lead the next group of students and forge the path for them.”

Ostensibly, the CCLP is designed to prepare a new generation of community college leaders to fill an increasing number of vacancies left by retiring Baby Boomers.

“We want to have qualified individuals to take their places,” said Dr. Rito Silva, vice president of Student Affairs at Del Mar and a cohort advisor. “This program is a pipeline to presidency and chancellor positions.

“For our employees to sit in the classroom and learn from internationally renowned instructors and apply what they learn in their departments is a huge benefit for Del Mar College.”

Roueche and Escamilla have been guest speakers at the cohort’s once-a-month classroom sessions at Del Mar, along with Boggs, president and chief executive officer emeritus of the American Association of Community Colleges, and O’Banion, chair of graduate faculty at NAU and president emeritus of League for Innovation in the Community College.

“I like the prestige of the program and the professors,” said Natalie Villarreal, a member of the cohort. “They’re the who’s who of the community college world.”


Dream realized

Villarreal, assistant director of Del Mar’s Department of Adult Education and Literacy, said she had always dreamed of earning a doctorate, but wasn’t sure if the opportunity would ever be within reach.

“You have to prioritize your life, but the flexibility is pretty amazing for a doctoral program,” she said. “Everyone from the professors to the staff sticks with you. Their job is to see you finish and get that degree.”

Peer support is a critical part of the CCLP, said Silva, a program graduate.

“I probably wouldn’t have gotten my Ph.D. without the support in the cohort program. When you’re in the trenches academically, you need the person next to you saying, ‘You can do it’ and ‘I’m here for you.’”

Two semesters into his doctoral studies, Garanzuay is finding his voice in the higher education conversation.

“I’m able to see how I can use my skills, abilities and life experiences to bring a different perspective to the table,” he said. “I want to go as far as I can in this field and be a mentor to others who may feel that earning a degree is an unobtainable goal or a college campus is not a place they belong.”

The Del Mar College cohort will begin graduating in summer 2019, Silva said.

Other members of the cohort are:

  • Raifu Durodoye, math instructor, Dallas County Community College District
  • Angelica Gomez, adjunct professor of mathematics, Del Mar College
  • Sharon Hyak, biology instructor, Victoria College
  • Lisa Muilenburg, branch librarian and associate professor, Del Mar College
  • Jim Nutt, director, skills development grants, Lone Star College
  • Robert Nyabiti, student from Kansas
  • Sandra Ochoa, instructor of radiologic technology, Del Mar College
  • Arthur Smith, government instructor, Tyler Junior College

For information on the CCLP, go to


About Del Mar College

Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.