New president, new ideas at Montgomery College
Pollard is ninth president in institution's 64-year history
If Montgomery College is going to increase graduation rates, its new president says it is going to need new ideas.
During her inaugural address Friday afternoon, DeRionne P. Pollard, the ninth president of the college in its 64-year history, announced the creation of a privately funded program, the Innovation Fund, designed to stimulate creative programming at Montgomery College.
Now, when educators have an idea to improve a course or program at the college, they will have the seed money to make a change, she said.
"The Innovation Fund is about creating sustainable, systemic, international organizational improvements at Montgomery College," said Pollard, the school's first openly gay president. "Just like a good Fortune 500 company, each project should create a cycle of discovery, testing and scaling up, because a good idea shouldn't just live with one person, one department, one campus."
About 700 people sat in the Physical Education Building on the college's Rockville campus to hear from friends, family and colleagues of Pollard.
The event cost the college $86,000 in non-operational and philanthropic funding.
The guests spoke of Pollard's ability to communicate well.
"What makes her a good leader is her ability to listen," said Gretchen J. Naff, president emerita of College of Lake County in Illinois and one of Pollard's mentors. "She truly hears what people say ... and she absorbs information like a solar panel absorbs light."
Pollard began her community college career as a professor of English at College of Lake County.
In her address Pollard stressed the need to make Montgomery College accessible and relevant to all potential students.
"Community colleges are potentially the most transformative institutions in contemporary America," Pollard said. "We have seen, firsthand, how Montgomery College can change the trajectory of an individual ... and the cultural essences of a community."
Born in 1970, Pollard excelled in school and fell in love with English. She grew up in Chicago and enjoys jazz and gospel music as well as the poems of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. Two large screens on either side of the stage displayed videos of speakers and photographs of Pollard as an infant and child.
Her father, P. Paul Pollard, said he knew from an early age his daughter would reach for success.
"Her gaze was far reaching to the horizon and the next horizon," he said.
He said she always wondered: "How can I chant things for the better?"