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AACC honors visionary work of six community colleges

​Photo: Sylvia Johnson

WASHINGTON — Six community colleges were honored Monday night for their exceptional work toward advancing the student success agenda.

This is the second year the American Association of Community Colleges has presented the Awards of Excellence​ at its annual national convention, which bring together more than 2,000 community college leaders, advocates, researchers and policymakers.

And the winners are...

In the Emerging Leadership Category, Howard Community College (Maryland), led by Kathleen Hetherington, was named the winner. This category recognizes AACC member CEOs who have created a campus culture that supports employee leadership advancement at all levels. Hetherington makes available several in-house professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. She also developed and grew the college’s nationally recognized coaching program, Step Up, which connects students with faculty or staff coaches.

"This is a tribute to our faculty and staff and all the work they do to advance themselves," Hetherington said after receiving the award. "They serve as role models to our students, who we also encourage to grow and learn."

Midlands Technical College​ (South Carolina) won in the College/Corporate Partnership Category. Midlands partnered with Michelin North America, Inc. to develop a pipeline of technical talent to help fill critical shortages at the company. Working with a local school district, they created the Michelin Technical Scholars Program, which identifies promising high school students and introduces them to industrial opportunities, while changing their perceptions of manufacturing jobs. The students are offered full scholarships to Midlands along with paid, part-time positions at Michelin. After earning their degree, scholars are positioned for growth in full-time positions with competitive salaries.

The Advancing Diversity Category recognizes colleges that are dedicated to increasing diversity and advocating for social equity on their campuses and in the community. Highline Community College, one of the most racially/ethnically diverse higher education institutions in Washington, won in this category. The college developed a cultural diversity policy to affirm its commitment to a providing a safe learning environment and to the elimination of discrimination and updated its mission statement to reflect its commitment to diversity and globalism.

Florida’s Miami Dade College (MDC), winner in the Student Success Category, is employing bold strategic plans, innovative programs and evaluation of data to advance student success on its campuses. Led by Eduardo Padrón, MDC has a success rate of greater than 86 percent and leads the nation in graduating students with associate degrees and in degrees awarded to minorities. MDC restructured its developmental education curriculum and has enhanced its student supports to help students both inside and outside the classroom. The Student Achievement Initiatives brings together all of the interventions, processes and policies that help its students succeed.

In the Exemplary Board/CEO Category, Sinclair Community College (Ohio) was named the winner. The successful relationship between President Steven Johnson and the board of trustees at Sinclair revolves around a strategic focus to improve teaching and learning, accessibility, institutional sustainability and community alignment.

"This is the kind of thing that will inspire us to redouble our efforts," Bernard Wright, chair of the Sinclair board of trustees, said after the college received the award.

John Squires, an associate math professor and head of the math department at Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee, won in the new Faculty Innovation Category. In the course of three years, Squires assisted with the redesign of 12 math courses at the college. Squires worked with faculty to produce quality resources for each course, including videos and PowerPoints. Because of his efforts, developmental math student success rates at the college have increased from 48 percent to 65 percent and college math success rates improving from 66 percent to 73 percent.

"I'm extremely proud of the work my faculty has done. This is shared by all the faculty and administration. It's a team effort," Squires said.

Winners were selected by a committee of the AACC board of directors. Eighteen finalist colleges also were recognized at the Awards of Excellence Gala.