Warren County Community College President Dr. Will Austin was recently named the recipient of the Association of Community College Trustees’ (ACCT) 2017 Northeast Regional Chief Executive Officer Award. This is the second year in a row that Dr. Austin has earned a national award.
Dr. Austin was presented with his award at the organization’s annual meeting in Las Vegas earlier this fall.
Dr. Austin has been the President of WCCC for the past 12 years. Prior to WCCC, Dr. Austin was employed at several South Jersey colleges. He previously served at Gloucester County (NJ) Community College (Vice President of Student Services), Salem County (NJ) Community College (Executive Assistant to the President for Advancement, Planning & Academic Effectiveness and Executive Director of the College Foundation), and Burlington County (NJ) Community College Institutional Research & Planning Specialist, accomplishing numerous goals at each. He has been an Adjunct Professor or Guest Lecturer at various colleges, both 2-and 4-year institutions, including Rutgers University, Temple University, and Nova Southeastern University.
“This is truly an amazing honor,” said Dr. Austin, who became the youngest community college president when he was first hired as a 33-year old administrator by WCCC. “There a number of outstanding leaders out there; to be recognized as the best is very humbling. However, this award is not just about me. I work with many outstanding people – professors, board of trustees, staff – who all play an important role in reaching our goals.”
“I can think of no community college president who is as deserving for this national recognition as Dr. Austin,” stated Peter Schmidt, Chair of the WCCC Board of Trustees. “He places students and the Warren County communities our college serves above any other interests and you will never see a more dedicated, responsible, and ethical college leader anywhere. Warren County is fortunate to have Will Austin as a college and community leader.”
“The continued recognition nationally of the works and talent of Dr. Austin proves how fortunate we are to have such a dynamic, innovative and well respected educator leading Warren County Community College and also as a leader in the state,” added Phil Linfante, Vice Chair of WCCC’s Board of Trustees.
As President and CEO of WCCC, Dr. Austin has dramatically changed the landscape of the college and its relationship to the community at-large: essentially doubled the credit enrollment, doubled the non-credit enrollment, and increased the physical footprint and space of the college by over 130% and more is on the way as plans for an expansion on the Washington campus is expected to be completed within a year. And WCCC continues its growth. In December 2010, the NJ Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education identified WCCC as the NJ Community College with the highest graduation rates in the state; WCCC remains among the best in graduation rates in the state.
With Dr. Austin’s guidance, WCCC has initiated significant partnerships with senior institutions allowing for completion of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees on campus from multiple providers, including Ramapo University, FDU, UMDNJ, William Paterson University, Felician College, and Seton Hall University; partnered with the Warren County Fire Academy to become sole provider of educational services to participants, and led the development and approval process of an Associate’s nursing program (RN), first approved in NJ in over 20 years, which received initial NLNAC accreditation prior to outcomes of first graduating class.
Arguably Dr. Austin’s most significant accomplishment at WCCC is the VIPER program. Veterans in Pursuit of Educational Readiness has gained national attention for its ability to let veterans seamlessly gain their associates degrees. VIPER, in fact, has been highlighted on Fox News and public television, and has been recognized publicly by the Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders as a major asset to the community. Under Dr. Austin the school also started a Creative Writing program, making WCCC one of only a handful of schools around the country to offer a 2-year degree in Creative Writing. The Workforce Investment Program at WCCC is considered the best in creating jobs in Northwest Jersey and the Continuing Education program as a whole has met the challenges and needs of the population of Warren County, assisting hundreds of businesses and individuals in the process.
Dr. Austin currently also serves as the Chair for the New Jersey Council of Community College Presidents and as Immediate Past Chair of the American Association of Community Colleges’ Presidents’ Academy Executive Committee, and is a long-time member of its Executive Committee. He also serves as a member of the American Association of Community Colleges Board of Directors. Yet, the pivotal essence of Dr. Austin’s success has been the transformation of Warren County Community College into its rural county’s most vital institution. Dr. Austin tirelessly works on advancing student enrollment and most importantly has guided the college to the highest two-year graduation rate for any community college in the state of New Jersey.
This national award comes on the heels of another for Dr. Austin. A year ago, he received the AAUA (American Association of University Administrators) McInnis/Ryan Award for his achievement in Mid-Career Higher Education Leadership. The mission of the American Association of University Administrators is to develop and advance superior standards for the profession of higher education administration. Through its policy statements, programs, and services the Association emphasizes the responsibility of administrators, at all levels, to demonstrate moral and ethical leadership in the exercise of all their duties.
Also last year Dr. Austin assumed the role of the Chair of the New Jersey Council of Community College Presidents, a group that meets regularly to focus on issues and trends facing community colleges in the state. Additionally this past year, he served as chair of the American Association of Community College’s President’s Academy and its Executive Committee. The Presidents Academy Executive Committee was created by the AACC Board of Directors to advise the AACC President and CEO and AACC Board of Directors on professional development training for CEOs. The Presidents Academy Executive Committee serves in an advisory capacity to the AACC President and CEO in planning the Summer Institute and provides special sessions for CEOs at the AACC Annual Convention and at the Association of Community College Trustees Annual Congress.
Dr. Austin also remains active in other related activities. He teaches undergraduate, Masters, and Doctorate level classes, chairs dissertations, develops graduate syllabi on college finance, and has written two books, one for students on finances, and another on strategic planning
Dr. Austin is immersed in the community at-large, having recently served on many community boards over the years. In addition, Dr. Austin has been honored as a “Good Scout” Award Recipient by the Boy Scouts of America, Central New Jersey Council, President’s Award, Warren/Sussex NAACP, and Mallencrodt Baker Silver Tray for Volunteerism, to name a few.
Dr. Austin has been a leader in the Warren County business community as well, and has served as a Board member on numerous county and state organizations; including both of county hospitals, Hackettstown Medical Center and St. Luke’s-Warren Hospital.