2008 Distinguished Alumna
Leann Ellis, Ed.D.
Vice President of Academic Affairs, Butler Community College,
El Dorado, Kansas
For Leann Kuenstler Ellis, the road to success began the week following graduation from Jayton High School. She enrolled at South Plains College because she was familiar with the campus, and in that first year, she met the person who influenced her professional career. She said timing is everything.
“I knew that South Plains College was the place for me,” Ellis said. “I found the people there so friendly and inviting. It was not just on campus, the community supported the college and that was evident to me.”
While at SPC, Ellis was a student assistant for Helen Roberts, speech and theatre professor. “When people ask me who influenced me in my life, Helen is prominent on that list,” she said.
Ellis attended SPC from 1977-79 and received an associate of arts degree. She credits her academic success to Roberts who was able to help her discover that her passion rested in speech communication and not business or accounting. “After my first semester, I decided to switch to business as a major. I found that to be one of my more miserable experiences and I found that it was not a good fit for me.
“I went back to Helen, and asked to get back into speech and she made it happen,” Ellis said.
She transferred to Texas Tech University where she earned bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in speech communication.
Ellis joined the South Plains College faculty as an instructor in speech communication in 1982. Over the next 16 years, she would advance to the rank of professor and would chair the Communications Department from 1991-1998. During this time, she taught classes in business and professional speech, public speaking, fundamentals of speech communications, oral interpretation and communication for the classroom. Ellis directed SPC’s competitive forensic activities for five years.
In 1996, she was named Community College Educator of the Year by the Texas Speech Communication Association. A year later, she completed a doctor of education degree in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin Community College Leadership Program.
She left SPC in January 1999 to take on a new challenge as vice president for academic affairs at Butler Community College. “I stepped out on faith when I moved from Texas to Kansas right into this job,” Ellis said.
At Butler, Ellis serves as a member of the Executive Council, the leadership team which shapes the strategic vision and priorities for the campus, leads campus master planning and budget development and develops college policy and procedures. She is the chief academic officer for all credit and non-credit instructional programs and services to promote student learning and success at six campuses, as well as 21 high school learning centers, clinical and community sites. Butler has a credit enrollment of 8,365 students.
She leads the Academic Division Action Project for the Academic Quality Improvement Program, which is Bulter’s alternative re-accreditation process with the Higher Learning Commission for North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. She oversees the Kansas Board of Regents Performance Agreement goals and indicators relevant to the Academic Division for achieving performance-based funding.
Ellis directs the college’s Faculty Evaluation Task Force in the development of tools and processes for a more meaningful and comprehensive faculty evaluation system. She heads the annual review and revision of the college catalog and is responsible for continuous review and approval of the college curriculum. She creates and maintains a two-year Academic Learning Calendar and supervises course scheduling. Ellis coordinates and hosts the annual meeting of area high school principals and counselors.
Ellis led Butler’s participation in the 21st Century Learning Outcomes Project, sponsored by the League for Innovation and The Pew Charitable Trusts for 2000-02. This project reframed the college’s assessment program and resulted in the identification, development and integration of student learning outcomes across the curriculum.
She served as a key member of the leadership team to expand Butler’s Andover Campus learning space. In summer 2003, Phase One was completed and resulted in 30,000 square feet of additional general education space and faculty-staff offices. Phase Two was completed in summer 2005, and it created additional space for programs in information technology, manufacturing and engineering technology, realtime reporting, emergency medical services, physical education and business.
She has also directed the development of five new instructional programs at Butler.
Ellis helped to streamline and improve hiring and evaluation policy and procedures for adjunct faculty as well as directed an action project to create a comprehensive adjunct database. She also led the development and implementation of the college’s Leadership Studies certification program and Grizzly Adventures Outdoor Challenge Course.
Ellis helped develop a standardized, electronic syllabus template and implemented it across the curriculum. In July 2004, she completed the certification of the Phi Theta Kappa Leadership Development curriculum.
She has served on the Kansas Council of Instructional Administrators since 1999 where she was vice president for 2002-03 and president for 2003-04. Ellis served on the Kansas Board of Regents System Council of Chief Academic Officers from 2003-05. In this capacity, she served as co-chairperson for 2004-05. She has been a task force member and speech group facilitator since 2000 for the Kansas Core Outcomes Project. She also served on the Task Force for Concurrent Enrollment Policy Development for 2003-05.
She was honored for her 25 year membership with the Texas Speech Communication Association in October 2006. Ellis received the Team Award for Butler’s Celebration of Excellence employee recognition program in April 1999 and 2000. She received the Girl Scouts of the Golden Plains Council Award of Distinction in 2007.
“SPC is the place where my journey began and gave me the confidence in myself to keep going and do whatever I choose to do,” Ellis said.
Leann and her husband Randy have a daughter, Lanie, who is a graduate of Butler College with an associate of arts in performing arts.