New President of Northeast Named

Story by Northeast Public Relations

NORFOLK, NE – For the first time in its 91-year history, Northeast Community College will have a female president.

On Wednesday, the College Board of Governors unanimously selected Dr. Leah Barrett, currently a vice president for a community college district in Wyoming, as the institution’s next president. Barrett, who will succeed Dr. Michael Chipps, becomes the ninth president of Northeast in January.

She is honored to be selected for the position.

“I am looking forward to taking on this leadership role as we begin to talk about the future for Northeast,” Barrett said. “So what I share with your today is what I think is the foundation and the priorities for our institution. … And that surrounds the empowerment of our faculty and staff and our students to listen and to learn from each other and create a vision together of where we see Northeast Community College going (toward) 2025 and beyond.”

Barrett said as Northeast’s Vision 2020 strategic plan comes to a close next year, this is an ideal time for a presidential transition.

“The role of our College is to support the success of our students and be an effective partner in our region’s vitality. I look forward to engaging the college community and the citizens of northeast and north central Nebraska in conversations to lead us into the future.”

Chipps retired May 30. It was then a 12-member search advisory committee, made up of members of the board, college administration, faculty, staff and students, began a nationwide search for his successor. Barrett was selected from 63 applicants.

Board Chairperson Steve Anderson, of Concord, said Barrett’s breadth of experience and knowledge, with 27-years in higher education, complement the work taking place at Northeast.

“Northeast Community College has been searching for a leader who will continue to move the institution forward to meet the workforce and economic development priorities of the region and provide the essential services to ensure our students obtain a quality education. We have found those attributes in Dr. Barrett,” he said. “Her background in student affairs is a strong asset in terms of student success and will serve Northeast well. The board also received excellent feedback from the College community and the public following her two open forums on campus. She will be an excellent president.” 

Barrett was drawn by the success Northeast Community College has achieved, which she said is evident across the college and in the community.

“There is so much pride in this institution. The photos of the faculty listing their credentials and their accomplishments (across campus) show a commitment to student success and faculty development. The partnerships with business, education and industry have helped to create academic programs and build buildings. And the hundreds of people wearing Northeast gear on campus and in the community shows a sense of pride shared throughout the region. That’s the kind of institution I want to lead.”

Barrett comes to Northeast from the Northern Wyoming Community College District (NWCCD), where she is vice president for student affairs. She has managed the departments of institutional research, financial aid, registration and records, student conduct, counseling services, support for students with disabilities, academic advising, TRIO student support services, and the America’s Promise Grant since 2016. NWCCD has two primary campuses, Gillette College and Sheridan College.

Prior to her time in Wyoming, Barrett served as the associate vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at The College at Brockport (State University of New York) from 2008-2016. She has also been employed by Arizona State University, Boise State University, University of Wyoming, and Valparaiso University since first entering higher education in 1992.

She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from the University of Wyoming and her doctorate (Ed.D.) in executive leadership from St. John Fisher College, in Rochester, NY. Her dissertation and continued research interest focuses on a sense of community on the college campus.

Barrett grew up in Wyoming. She and her husband, Doug, have two sons, Sean, 14, and Finnian, 11.   

“I am so honored to have been selected as Northeast’s ninth president and to lead this very special place,” she said. “My family and I are eager to begin calling northeast Nebraska our home.”

Since its founding in 1928, Northeast Community College and its predecessor institutions – Norfolk Junior College, Northeast Nebraska Vocational Technical School, Northeastern Nebraska College, Northeast Nebraska Technical College, Northeast Nebraska Technical Community College, and Northeast Technical Community College – have been led by men. Barrett will join H.B. Simon (1928-31), Dr. Allen Burkhardt (1931-32, 1942-60), F. Don Maclay (1960-71), Dr. Michael Paradise (1968-72), Dr. Robert Cox (1972-95), Dr. James Underwood (1995-00), Dr. Bill Path (2001-11), and Chipps (2012-19) in serving as the institution’s CEO.   

Wednesday’s announcement fell within the timeline Anderson declared at the beginning of the search to hire a new president. Former Northeast administrators, Mary Honke and Steve Schram, who have been serving as co-interim presidents since June 1, will remain in their positions until Barrett assumes office in early 2020.