CHAMPAIGN – Parkland College presidential candidate Betty Young is an expert on nontraditional students.
She was one herself, entering college at 28 and going on to earn a doctorate and a law degree.
One of five finalists to replace President Zelema Harris, Young met with Parkland personnel Wednesday before interviewing with the college board of trustees.
Young, 50, grew up on a farm, an only child. She said she was a B student in high school, and flunked Spanish, then ended up marrying a man from Cuba, George Gandor.
As president of Northwest State Community College in Ohio, she uses her sales and marketing background to promote community colleges.
She won national attention when she rode her Harley on a tour of community colleges, ending in Los Angeles to confront Jay Leno after his show.
The talk show host had besmirched the honor of community colleges, and Young convinced the motorcycle fan and community college grad to lay off.
Young clearly was a hit with the Parkland educators at her afternoon reception, outlining her ideas, praising their efforts as well as those of Harris, and telling jokes.
Besides academia, Young has worked in sales, as an Ohio state employee and owned a pet shop. Before Northwest State, she was at Franklin University in Columbus, where she served as an associate vice president, assistant vice president for Academic Services, Dean of the Ross School of Management and Leadership, interim Dean of the Graduate School of Business and Assistant Dean of Curriculum Development.
Before that, she was at Washington State Community College in Marietta, Ohio.
Her Ph.D. is from Ohio University, Athens, and she is a graduate of Capital University Law School. She is licensed to practice law in Ohio and West Virginia and has done pro bono work.
She said she would be active in the community if chosen as president, always promoting Parkland, and would keep an open door for her office. She reminded the educators that she's fond of a joke.
"I don't take Betty Young very serious," she said.
But she said she is very serious about breaking down the traditional walls of high academia by seeking out a diverse student body and encouraging new technologies like Internet courses.
"You have a good beginning online," she told the Parkland audience.
She said she is a doer and liked other people who are doers.
She mentioned bringing a marketing program to her first college. "That's how you get to be a program chair. Start your own program," she said.
She said she has never looked back – all her moves have turned out all right, "though not all were planned."
As a woman raised on a farm, she praised college programs that let people stay near their homes and continue their studies.
"I do have a lot of energy and a passion for community colleges," she said.
Robert Exley, vice president of academic affairs at Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs will visit Parkland today; and Eric McKeithan, president of Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, N.C., will visit Friday.
The other finalists are Gordon Burns, president of Wilkes Community College, North Carolina; and Kathryn Jeffery, chief executive for the Community College of Southern Nevada's Charleston campus. They will visit campus on March 13 and 14, respectively.