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A visionary for community engagement

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Commentary
​Gunder Myran

​Editor’s note: The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) will present its 2014 Leadership Award to three individuals at the Annual AACC Convention this weekend in Washington, D.C. The award honors individuals whose accomplishments and professional contributions to the community college field have been outstanding.

Gunder Myran’s vision helped transform community colleges — democracy’s colleges — from campus-based to community-based, serving the needs of all populations.

Myran has been an advocate for democratizing and diversifying programs and services at two-year institutions and is regarded as the “father” of adult and continuing education in the community college.

Focused on the community

His began his work in this area while he was a faculty member at Michigan State University in the late 1960s, and continued developing a model of community-based education during his 23 years as president of Washtenaw Community College (WCC) in Michigan. 

Myran developed models of community engagement, including developing a curriculum for career education and community-based education. He emphasized the need for colleges to become involved in community-based projects, including economic and workforce development, expansion of customized job training to employers and labor unions, and serving low-income and unemployed groups.

In 1997, Myran helped establish one of the first middle colleges on a community college campus. The Washtenaw Technical Middle College focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Through the program, high school students are transformed into college students, receiving advising and skill-based instruction while they earn a high school diploma and a college certificate or degree.

During his tenure at WCC, Myran also established partnerships with national trade unions, such as the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, implemented customized job training and founded one of the first community college foundations in the nation. WCC’s community ties and innovative programs gave the college national prominence.

Continuing his work

Myran retired from WCC in 1998 and started his own consulting firm. He’s worked with more than 50 community colleges, universities and associations on leadership and other critical issues. He is continually working to improve the community college model and to nurture emerging leaders.

Myran has been associated with numerous organizations, including serving on a national advisory committee for Ferris State University’s community college leadership program. He was also chair of the board of directors for the Michigan Community College Association and the National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET) and served on the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors.

Myran's many awards include the Presidential Leadership Award from NCCET, the Thomas J. Peters National Leadership Award and the Directors Award for Outstanding Service form the Michigan Technology Council.

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