A merger of two different educational institutions, budget cuts to higher education, and unprecedented campus growth are all part of Dr. Natalie Harder’s first five years as chancellor of South Louisiana Community College. This week marks her five-year anniversary as the CEO of the third-largest community college in Louisiana.
Soon after arriving at SLCC, Harder successfully led the merger of the community college with seven technical colleges in Acadiana. This created an eight-campus comprehensive community college, where associate degrees, technical diplomas, and industry certifications are offered to all students.
New high-demand, high-wage programs were created under her leadership, including registered nursing, aviation, oil and gas, digital media and design, application software development, accounting, and business administration. Student enrollment and graduate rates increased since her arrival in 2012. The college’s graduation rate, as reported to IPEDS, has increased 375%, and enrollment grew 12% in 2016.
She also led the college to attract more than $10 million in fundraising dollars, and $32 million in new facilities, and the honor of being nominated for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
“In the last five years, Dr. Harder has done a great job of leading SLCC during very challenging financial times for higher education in Louisiana. Her ability to engage and garner support from the business community, grow enrollment, and stabilize the college financially is a testament to her commitment to the mission and her leadership,” said Dr. Monty Sullivan, President of Louisiana’s Community and Technical College System.
Embracing national trends and best practices is a new normal for the commununity college and SLCC’s national reputation has grown under Harder’s administration. She serves on the prestigious Executive Committee of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and chairs the organization’s Public Policy and Government Relations committee. She is also a board trustee on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and is an executive committee member. SACSCOC serves as the higher education accrediting body for 11 U.S. Southern states and Latin America.
“As a former president of the Louisiana Community and Technical Colleges, I can say first-hand that Dr. Harder’s presidency has had a positive impact on the colleges and the community,” said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of AACC. “Her service at the national level is rivalled only by her commitment to the success of the thousands of students served by SLCC. "
Locally, Harder supported the One Acadiana initiative as an investor on behalf of the college, working with One Acadiana President and CEO Jason El Koubi. Through this partnership, workforce development became a priority in the strategic efforts of the economic development group. Harder and El Koubi were two key forces behind the college’s new International School of Aviation Excellence in Iberia Parish, which offers pilot training and aviation maintenance training. Harder also serves as a board member of One Acadiana, an executive committee member, and chair of 1A’s workforce development committee for the past two years.
“Natalie’s tremendous leadership at SLCC and commitment to strengthening Acadiana’s workforce development system makes her one of the most important contributors to One Acadiana’s progress in building a stronger region. On behalf of the entire regional business community, we thank Natalie for her service and celebrate this milestone with countless others who have been touched and inspired by her work,” said El Koubi.
Harder has also led the college through eight consecutive budget cuts in five years, with preparations for additional cuts in the upcoming Legislative Session. In response to this, the chancellor found ways to find efficiencies within the college and posture SLCC as the most fiscally-sound community college in the state.
“The reputation and growth of SLCC is entirely attributable to the hard work of the college's employees and the investment by the business community,” said Harder.
SLCC is a comprehensive community college that serves more than 11,000 students annually and operates campuses in Abbeville, Crowley, Franklin, Lafayette, New Iberia, Opelousas, St. Martinville, and Ville Platte.