Arapahoe Community College will bid farewell to a devoted leader next spring, after President Diana Doyle announced her retirement.
Doyle announced she will step down in June 2021, ending an 11-year tenure as the head of the Littleton-based college, and wrapping up a 43-year career in higher education.
“My original goal was to stay here for 10 years, but in the unusual time we’re in, I decided to add one more year for good measure,” Doyle told Colorado Community Media.
Doyle said she’s proud of her legacy at ACC, including adding numerous bachelor’s and associate’s degree programs, starting a veterans’ services center, developing wellness programs for students, and overseeing the development of a new satellite campus in Castle Rock, shared with Colorado State University. ACC also has a Parker campus.
“There’s so much we do for students now that didn’t exist a decade ago,” she said. “But no president does their job alone. I have been blessed with a dream team of employees, students and partners.”
Doyle said she fell in love with higher education right from the start, becoming a resident assistant in her dorm at Illinois State University. After graduation, she became a residence hall director, then went on to work at the University of Nebraska and the Colorado School of Mines.
“I’ve always loved the ability of higher education to help students grow not just academically, but as individuals,” she said.
But it wasn’t until she took a leadership role at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff that she found her defining role in the community college system.
“Community colleges are a wonderful place to have a more direct impact on students who might not have thought college was for them,” she said. “I’m a first-generation college student, and there are a lot of those out there. Many people don’t have parents who can assist them with the challenges of college or give them advice on how to succeed.”
Community colleges graduate students who play many vital roles in society, Doyle said, including the vast majority of first responders, as well as auto technicians, IT specialists, nurses and cybersecurity professionals.
While some colleges have seen enrollment flounder in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Doyle says ACC’s fall enrollment is up 6% over last year. Doyle says she believes the climb is driven by students who may be delaying transferring to a four-year school, those looking for more flexible or affordable options, and people laid off from the workforce seeking to boost their skillsets.
She also said ACC has engaged in robust communication with students and the public to overcome hurdles to attendance.
ACC had an easier time than some institutions with the transfer to largely online learning, Doyle said, because the school began developing widespread online offerings years ago. Some classes are attending in person, particularly career and technical education classes that have irreplaceable hands-on components like nursing and auto repair.
The Colorado Community College System, which oversees 13 schools statewide, will conduct a nationwide search for Doyle’s replacement.
Joe Garcia, the chancellor of the CCCS, had high praise for Doyle.
“We have been fortunate to not only have Dr. Doyle at the helm of ACC for the past decade, but also as an incredible thought leader who has paved the way for significant change in how post-secondary education is delivered to meet and support the needs of today’s students,” Garcia said in a statement. “I know I speak for our entire system when I express our deep appreciation for her transformational work and tireless dedication to student success.”
Doyle said she hopes the pandemic has abated by next spring.
“I want to go see the world,” she said. “I’m open to new adventures.”
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