A native of Merritt Island, Florida, Dr. Rebecca Ashford currently serves as the president of Chattanooga State Community College. She is a community college graduate herself, and has spent her career serving in such roles as academic advisor, dean of student services, and vice president of student affairs before becoming president of Chattanooga State in 2017. Under her leadership, the college was named an Achieving the Dream Leader College in 2020 as a reflection of improved student outcomes.
What is your best business habit?
In the course of my career, it has become clear to me that harnessing the power of focus is key to success. When the world shut down in March 2020, our entire college intensely focused on transitioning from a mostly in-person learning environment to a completely virtual college in a one-week time span. This transformation was achieved because the entire college was focused on it. As we transitioned out of the pandemic, we made the bold move to shift our academic semesters from the traditional 15-week format to a 7-week format. Like the transition to a virtual environment, the change to 7-week courses took the intense focus of everybody at the college.
How did you discover or develop it?
One of my greatest strengths is that I have incredible discipline, which is key to my ability to focus. Even as a child, I remember my parents commenting on the fact that I had a lot of discipline. I made my bed every morning, kept my room clean, and finished my chores before playing. As I grew older, I used this discipline to focus on my studies in college. In my personal life, I am very disciplined and focused in my exercise, eating and spending habits. I realized that I could use and fine-tune my natural inclination to be disciplined in order to accomplish my career goals. I am very goal-oriented; I make daily, weekly, and monthly goals, which I use as my focal points.
How has it improved your work and/or personal life?
The power of intentional, disciplined focus got me through the pandemic, particularly at the beginning in 2020. I could have easily been overwhelmed with the number of issues to consider and worries about an uncertain future. Instead, I chose to focus on what the college needed to accomplish each day. When others would start to worry about the future, I would redirect the focus to our immediate issues. There are many, many opportunities for us to get involved in; and we must focus our limited resources on our highest priorities in order to make progress toward our vision and goals.
How might others apply it?
If discipline does not come naturally, a good start is to focus on one area of your life, either personal or professional. Developing the discipline muscle in one area will often extend to other areas of life.