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Daniel Phelan, Ph.D.

President, Jackson College

Jackson, Michigan
Office Representing: President

Daniel Phelan has served as president of Jackson College in Jackson, Michigan for the last 17 years. Prior to his time at Jackson, Phelan served for four years as president of Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Iowa. In these roles, Phelan has advanced innovative and continuous quality improvement practices, data and analysis methodologies, and student support services, especially as they relate to improved student support systems, advising, diversity and success.

During his tenure at Jackson College, Phelan has helped to create an innovative preparatory and early college located on the college's central campus. Under his leadership, Jackson College has reconstituted its approach to talent recruitment, development and retention, and implemented guided instructional pathways practices. The college has also worked, and obtained ‘Leader College' recognition, with Achieving the Dream, as it continues its work in advancing student completion levels. The college is currently working with Saul Kaplan and the Business Innovation Factory in its undertaking of the development and implementation of a new business model that addresses clarity around who the Jackson College student is, what the college offers to its students, how the institution creates a value proposition around what it provides, and how it generates revenue.

How did you first get interested in or involved in higher education issues?

"I have been involved in higher education for 35 years, both in public and private organizations. My interest in the field, and related public policy issues, began when I first served at North Iowa Area Community College wherein I was involved in the creation of state legislation focused on business expansion and recruitment by creating tax diversions to the College for employee education. From there, regardless of the higher education institution where I have served, I increasingly have attended to issues in higher education, particularly to public policy matters, such as the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, state funding, financial aid, accreditation, the community college baccalaureate and the prisoner education, to name a few.  Additionally, I have served as chairperson of the American Association of Community Colleges' (AACC) Public Policy & Government Relations Committee, wherein I worked to build member advocacy. Later, elected as AACC board chair, I re-established the primacy of the organization's public policy work. I have enjoyed my research, advocacy and lobbying work to be sure, as well as the experiences of testifying before state government and Congress on numerous occasions. I remain well-read on higher education issues and work within my own organization in ways to innovate, anticipate and/or adapt to changes to our industry."

Why did you apply to be a part of the Forward50? What drew you to this opportunity?

"I appreciated the description of the work to be done by the group, particularly as it relates to the creation of innovative approaches. In my view, the importance of this work, relative to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce's Higher Education Act reauthorization bill (i.e., the PROSPER Act) released in December 2017, cannot be overstated. Furthermore, insofar as Sen. Lamar Alexander has a particular focus upon accreditation practices that encourage innovation in higher education, the Senate's forthcoming HEA bill might likewise benefit from the work of the Forward50, not to mention the benefits that would accrue to states and to local institutions, many of which struggle with how to address difficult education issues. In sum, I believe that, given my experience and the particular areas of focus of the Forward50, I can provide a meaningful and innovative contribution to the collective work."

Leadership roles with professional associations:

  • American Association of Community Colleges (AACC): Immediate Past-President
  • Higher Education Research & Development Institute (HERDI): Current President
  • Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA): Board Member
  • Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE): Board Member for National Advisory Board
  • Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK): Board Member
  • Alliance for Innovation and Transformation (AFIT): Board Member

Membership(s) held with other professional associations:

  • Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT)
  • Continuous Quality Improvement Network (CQIN)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)