Dr. Shawnda Floyd got her start as a high-powered litigation attorney, going to battle in court. But in her second career as the Dean of Liberal Arts at North Lake College, she’s found a leadership style which thrives on collaboration, cooperation, and humility.
Raised to lead
Floyd is the second of three sisters. As a child, she felt “like mission control, always having to keep the peace between the oldest and the youngest.” That upbringing turned her into a leader and problem-solver, whether as a team captain in playground games or a mediator of conflicts between her friends.
Dr. Floyd describes herself as a “servant-leader.” She sets clear standards for herself: “Be humble. Be patient. Listen more than you speak. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong, and always apologize if you did something wrong. There are very few things that can’t be fixed, but a lot of the time we get stuck because we refuse to adapt or acknowledge our shortcomings.”
Dr. Floyd finds that an open-minded, humble style of leadership leads to great results. She constantly solicits ideas and feedback from her department. “When people gravitate towards you, it’s not because you’re telling them what to do. It’s because you’re working with them in a manner that invites them in.”
From the courtroom to the classroom
Academic leadership was not always in Dr. Floyd’s plans. After graduating from Temple University’s law school, Floyd spent several years as a litigator, carrying a heavy load of up to 300 active cases. “Every job has its late days, but with that kind of case load, it’s a consistent 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. day, every day.” When Floyd and her husband began a family, which now includes three daughters, that workload was no longer something they wanted. “I began to decide that I needed to do something else.”
So she began teaching, joining a community college’s adjunct literature faculty. She quickly fell in love with teaching, and became a full-time English professor. “I’m a people person,” Floyd explains, “so not only did I enjoy the classroom, but I also enjoyed the relationships I began to build with colleagues in the English department.”
That relationship-building was the beginning of her transition to department leadership. When her family relocated to Texas, she was a natural addition to the North Lake College family.
Psychology professor Thomas Fox says Dr. Floyd immediately fit in when she joined NLC in 2014. “I remember meeting Shawnda in the break room in the summer before she began,” Fox says. “She seemed very smart, energetic, approachable, and open. It turns out that she’s exactly like my first impression.”
Every day Shawnda Floyd looks for a “flicker of humanity” in the people she meets, and tries to foster it. “I’m inspired by people and their internal goodness and hope,” she explains. “That desire to do something better, to be something better,” is what draws her to education, and especially to community colleges. “People see education as a beacon of hope.” And, like many of her liberal arts professors, she feels called to help students follow that beacon.