On July 1, Dr. Eric Leshinskie was named president of Scottsdale Community College after serving as the interim executive vice chancellor and provost for Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD).
Leshinskie said his passion for education started when landed his first job out of college as an eighth-grade English teacher. “That’s where I truly developed my love of and commitment to public education. I taught four years in Arlington, Virginia, and really loved every minute of it,” he said.
Education led him to Arizona in 1998, where he worked in private industry training and development before returning to the public sector in 2003 with the MCCCD system. He said, “I really felt the calling to come back to public education.”
He said there is a certain energy that he feels when working with MCCCD, to see students grow and learn and find their place within the colleges.
“While working at positions within Maricopa Community Colleges, I found myself becoming more involved in leadership roles where I was helping to lead a group or helping to lead a program or an initiative,” said Leshinskie. Some these initiatives included addressing the workforce needs of surrounding communities and starting programs for students to obtain hands-on experience in a profession, such as a pharmacy technician program, nursing programs, a computer information systems program and a thriving film program.
As president of Scottsdale Community College, Leshinskie has continued leading initiatives to help make it a place of belonging for students. “Well, first and foremost, the pandemic affected our students in our community in many ways, and not in good ways necessarily,” he said. Many of them experienced isolation during the pandemic, and as they begin to return to the classroom, SCC will look at ways to support students by creating a sense of community.
“We realized how important it is to enhance our in-person experiences. So one of the focus areas of this first semester and moving into the spring semester [is creating] a vibrant in-person experience, because our students are telling us that’s what they want and that’s what they enjoy,” said Leshinskie.
He added that is also important to show the students that SCC cares about them as people and cares about their academic goals, as well as enhancing the school’s existing relations with the local communities like the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
He said, “I’ve been very fortunate to have a couple of meetings thus far with President [Martin] Harvier, talking about the strength of our relationship and ways we can continue to support SRPMIC and whatever it is they need. We are interested in workforce development for adults that we can offer within the Community or on our campus. We have many unique workforce development programs that are preparing the next workforce for tomorrow, and quite honestly, we’re excited [about that].”
Leshinskie said that SCC serves as a way to lift barriers to higher education for SRPMIC members who want to attend college. Regarding the financial barrier, he said, “We’re very lucky that with our relationship with SRPMIC, Community members can access Scottsdale Community College at no cost.”
In terms of a Native cultural presence on campus, the school opened the Indigenous Cultural Center as a space for Native students to present instruction, organize community gatherings and new educational opportunities.