| photography by Alex Lepe |
Dr. Eugene Giovannini understands the complexities involved with growing up in a large family. Married for 33 years, he has three children in their 20s. “My mother grew up with seven brothers and sisters, and my father had 17. They lived across the street from one another. So you can imagine, family is very important,” Giovannini says.
In August of last year, Giovannini was welcomed professionally into another expanding family. Tarrant County College District (TCCD), the fourth largest community college system in Texas, appointed him as its new chancellor after longtime TCC employee, Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley, lost her battle with cancer.
Vice Chancellor Angela Robinson acted as interim chancellor while a nationwide search occurred to fill the esteemed position.
It was Giovannini’s 33 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in community colleges that gave him the edge over the outpouring of other contenders. Most recently Giovannini was the founding president of Maricopa Corporate College in Scottsdale, Ariz., and before that acted as president of GateWay Community College in Phoenix, Ariz.
Giovannini’s career began in 1983 as an instructor at Virginia’s Eastern Shore Community College. He then continued on to Broome Community College in New York, where he served as chairperson of the department of Office Technologies. Giovannini next moved to Evansville, Ind., and acted as the dean of Instructional Affairs and interim director of Student Services at Ivy Tech Community College. He also held the title of vice president at Burlington County College in New Jersey. Throughout his career, Giovannini has taught as an adjunct faculty member.
He holds a doctorate in community college education from Virginia Tech, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work in seven states, mostly at community colleges. I saw a tremendous amount of opportunity at TCC. The area is rapidly growing, and the community is economically diverse,” Giovannini says.
He describes his leadership style as open and direct. Giovannini says, “I often ask, ‘How can we best serve each other in serving our students and our community?’ There isn’t a single person that can meet all of the needs of the students. We must do it collectively.” It’s his “it takes a village” mentality that stands at the core of his vision for the future of the district.
Giovannini believes the educational system must evolve to fit the requirements of an ever-changing world. “To understand the role education plays in a person’s life, take a look at what’s happening in the workplace. Seven of the top 10 jobs today didn’t exist 15 years ago. Looking ahead to 2030, seven of the top 10 projected jobs don’t exist today. In regard to filling jobs, two of the most pressing current issues are the lack of talent management and the lack of education and training programs available to develop the skills needed for the jobs today. The most dangerous threat to our economy is a lack of skilled workers,” Giovannini says.
One way in which TCC is combatting these concerns is its ability to study the market and then develop certificate and degree plan proposals to meet those growing needs. Giovannini is the board chair for the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurs (NACCE), an organization of more than 300 community colleges representing nearly 2,000 staff members. The goals of NACCE are to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset when dealing with the business of leading a community college and grow the community college’s role in supporting job creation and entrepreneurs in their local ecosystem. “Community colleges must be entrepreneurial…not only in finding new revenue streams, but in the way we develop and offer programs and services, how we support students and how we connect with the community,” Giovannini says.
His position allows for little downtime. “As far as fun goes, I enjoy reading…And when the weather cooperates, I like to play golf.”