Dan Lufkin’s career has placed him at just about all points on the educational ladder, teaching students from first grade to community college to graduate school. His latest rung on that ladder is as president of TCC South.
Lufkin comes to TCC from Virginia’s Paul D. Camp Community College, where he had been president since 2016. His other administrative stops were as vice president for student affairs at Thomas Nelson Community College and dean of enrollment management at Gateway College, where the president was Eugene Giovannini, now TCC chancellor. He has taught at Ashford University in San Diego, Calif., Mesa Community College in Arizona and Northern Arizona University.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Potsdam, Lufkin earned his master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University and his doctorate in educational leadership and organizational leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
A few days after his appointment was announced in February, he took some time from his workday in Virginia to talk about his new post.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
I’m really excited about moving into the area. I’m excited about both the area and the campus. I like the programs there and am very familiar with the work-based programs, the career and technical education. And then, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for liberal arts as well, and what they offer our students in terms of transfer and being exposed to a wide range of subjects. I like the size of the campus. I’m very comfortable with a campus that has 10,000 to 20,000 students. That’s my real comfort zone, and I was excited to see the resources they have, especially as they relate to the new labs.
There’s a lot to look forward to and a lot to be excited about.
President, TCC South
You’ll want to establish a rapport with your campus community, but that’s going to be kind of difficult when the pandemic has resulted in so few people actually being there.
As my colleagues say, my super strength is my ability to connect with others and build relationships. And I do that by intentionally walking around the campus, just to make connections with individuals. I’m a very open leader. I share who I am personally. I like to talk about my family. I like to learn about other people’s families and just engage in simple, but meaningful, dialogue. And that will be a challenge. However, I’ve learned with technology that we have to use it to the best of its ability. But I’ve always made myself extremely available. So, my message to the campus community is that we can have campus-wide Zoom meetings or Microsoft Teams meetings, but that my door is always open. I share my personal cell phone number and allow individuals to call me. It’s about learning what our challenges are, where our opportunities are, what our resources are and how we can best utilize those resources to serve our students and create a positive learning environment.
What’s Job One?
Job One, again, is just making those connections. Obviously sharing what my goals are. Really learning and listening. I want to learn what the organizational culture is. I want to learn, hear from others what those challenges are, where our greatest strengths are, where our opportunities are and what do they see as those priorities. And once I learn what their most pressing priorities are, that’s really going to shape how I move forward.
Prior to your application for the position, what did you know about TCC, if anything?
All I really knew was that Dr. Giovannini had gone there and that it’s a growing college—not only the College itself but the area. When you look at the demographic studies in the Mid-Atlantic you see what’s called a birth dearth. There’s just a declining population. But, in the Southwest, and particularly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you’re seeing a growth in population of about 1.5 percent annually. That’s what I really started looking at, not so much the College itself, but the industry that’s moving into the area, that they build F-35s and locomotives there. And then, you look at TCC South and how all their programs align with that industry growth. One of my strengths is getting out in the community to meet with these business and industry leaders to make these partnerships that will be beneficial to us and them. This is just going to be a wonderful opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
So, when you started researching more about the College itself, what did that research tell you?
It told me that they’re investing in their students, that the College has resources and that they’re willing to put resources behind the student experience. Also that the College is really investing in the professional growth and development of its faculty and staff. And in a time of declining budgets, when I saw all the investment they’re making in professional development—and your people are your Number One asset —that was very attractive to me.
When you were actually here, on-site, what did you think of the grounds and facilities?
It reminded me of a traditional liberal arts college in its architecture, where you have the big courtyard, trees and benches and the walkways. And then the academic buildings, each one represented by a different department. And what I really liked was that in the Student Center there was a representation of the different countries for international students. I think there were 70 different flags in there. I was able to experience that at Gateway when I was at Maricopa. They had a growing international program, and the value that international students bring to the overall learning experience is invaluable. And when I saw that, I was just extremely excited about the opportunity to be back on a college campus with such a diverse population.
What about the people? When you were interviewed, did they give you a pretty good third degree?
Yeah, they asked some hard questions. And I think that hopefully, through their questioning, they were able to learn about the type of leader I am, my vision for the College and how I might handle difficult situations. It was a good experience speaking with the leadership team and the faculty members.
What can you tell me about your family?
They’re very excited to move. My wife grew up in Oklahoma and has a brother there who’ll be about four hours away, and she’s excited to move into the area so we can make some trips to visit her family. My daughter (Lily) who’s 12 is a competitive dancer—extremely competitive. She’s in 13 different dances right now and competes in different states and travels to compete. She dances probably 30-plus hours a week, and she’s looking forward to being in a bigger city where there’s even more competition. My son, Layton, he’s nine, and his passion is baseball. He loves to play baseball, but he’s also a YouTube kid, right? I don’t know anything about this stuff, but there’s this thing called “Dude Perfect,” some YouTube sensation group, and they do all these little skits and gimmicks and so forth. They’re headquartered in Dallas, and he just believes that we’re going to go there, we’re going to knock on the door and we’re going to get to meet the Dude Perfect guys.
What about your hobbies, personal interests?
I start my morning, every morning, by shooting baskets. I played college basketball. I’ve played basketball my whole life. I don’t play competitively anymore just because my body can’t withstand it, but my sanctuary is the basketball court. So, I’m up every morning at 5 a.m. I’m at the gym by 6 o’clock, and I shoot baskets for about 45 minutes. And then, I like to get in a little workout to start my day. It’s just been good for me to create that balance. I consider myself a family guy. I enjoy being with my family. I enjoy going to my daughter’s competitions, my son’s baseball games. My wife (Catey) and I share in the traveling and the carting of kids from here to there, and we just enjoy each other. We go on family bike rides, and there are trails all over Fort Worth, so we look forward to getting on our bikes and doing that as well.