Northeast welcomes Barrett as new president


Special to the Viewpoint

NORFOLK – January not only begins a new semester and a new decade at Northeast Community College, it is also the start of a new era in leadership for the two-year college.

Dr. Leah Barrett assumed the office of president recently, becoming the ninth CEO of Northeast and its predecessor institutions. She comes to the College after previously serving as vice president for student affairs at the Northern Wyoming Community College District.

In her first address to the over 300 faculty and staff during a Spring In-Service session, Barrett spoke of her passion for students and higher learning and preparing for a new five-year strategic plan, Vision 2025.

“I am so fortunate as a new president that you all have already done so much work. Northeast Community College has set itself up so nicely for the next strategic plan. First and foremost, our priority is our students – it was in Vision 2020 and it will be for Vision 2025. This will not change.”

Barrett said she believes her strengths and values of high standards and a strong work ethic align perfectly with Northeast’s values and its mission of dedicating itself to the students and the region it serves. She said this comes from her time in supervisory roles in higher education.

“For 20 years, I have been in positions managing and supervising department leaders. They will tell you that I have influenced campus culture through building trust, developing and empowering employees, addressing challenges directly and promptly, and ensuring we prioritize mission-driven work. My staff would share that I appreciate diverse perspectives and work toward creating an environment of trust that allows conflict with civility, which most often leads to effective decision making and prioritization.”

Barrett said attention to professional development, building the strength of supervisors and managers, listening, assessing the current climate, and empowering employees are also critical actions for the College’s work in creating a sense of community.

She also noted she is looking forward to getting out and meeting constituents and stakeholders across Northeast’s 20 county service area.

“I want to spend time getting to know our communities, the elected officials, the educators, the thought leaders, and the industry professionals. Visiting our partners throughout the service area and listening and engaging in economic development conversations. … We need to be thoughtful, strategic and understand our opportunities and our limitations.”

In his remarks to the In-Service audience, Steve Anderson, Concord, chairperson of the Northeast Board of Governors, also noted the timing of Barrett’s arrival to the institution.

“Northeast Community College and its predecessor institutions have served as a cornerstone to northeast and north central Nebraska for 91 years. Now, in January 2020; we are charting a new era as we welcome Dr. Barrett,” he said. “It is time to celebrate and begin to establish new endeavors and write new chapters as we approach a century of service to northeast and north central Nebraska. And this remarkable institution will be leading the way.”

Barrett concluded her address by saying that she believes that financial stewardship, community partnerships, and a sense of a college-wide community will help fulfill Northeast’s mission and create a new strategic plan that everyone can believe in.

“These efforts will help us feel satisfied and fulfilled in our work and the work of Northeast Community College to achieve our mission to effectively and collectively serve our students, now and in the future, and effectively and collectively serve as good stewards, good leaders and good partners in the vitality of northeast Nebraska!”