Sunday, December 5, 2021
The RP Group

 Leading from the Middle: An Evolution

Founded by Robert Gabriner and Laura Hope in 2013, Leading from the Middle (LFM) has blossomed into a thriving community of peers, working across the California Community College (CCC) system to support an ethos of collaborative learning, knowledge co-creation, collective leadership for collective action, and a deep commitment to equity and social justice.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession that ensued in 2020, coupled with a national reckoning around race, have changed the higher education landscape. In what is now a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment, CCC middle leaders need a multiplicity of strategies and an expanded skill set to lead the institutional transformation outlined by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in the statewide call to action. More than 25 coaches and facilitators–all former participants–spent over a year redesigning LFM to support the cultivation of middle leaders with the tools to address the impacts of COVID-19 and racial injustices..

 Program Overview

LFM is a change-focused leadership development program dedicated to developing and equipping middle leaders from California Community Colleges (CCC) with skills and strategies to “lead from the middle.” Campus-based teams composed of tenured and adjunct faculty, administrators, classified professionals, and researchers engage in experiential learning to explore and apply effective strategies to advance systemic student-centered reform efforts to close equity gaps in student success and completion at their respective colleges. LFM engages former program graduates to serve as coaches and facilitators to support the learning process. As middle leaders themselves, they bring real-world experience augmenting and contextualizing the LFM curriculum.

LFM has moved from a 9-month to a 15-month experience, beginning in October 2021 and ending in December 2022. The LFM Academy consists of the following three stages:

  1. Virtual pre-academy preparation activities facilitated by an assigned LFM coach

  2. Three in-person two-and-a-half-day convenings in a retreat setting that enable campus teams to engage with and learn from one another

  3. Follow-up planning meetings to ensure the sustainability of the work

As part of LFM's experiential learning model, participants will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge to a "real world" problem at their college. This year, each campus team will work on a project that is aligned with their college's strategic priorities that seek to address institutional inequities, diversity, inclusion, and racial injustice.

For more information or questions, please send an email to Ireri Valenzuela, LFM Director, at