Awards of Excellence gala spotlights exceptional programs, people

Mike Flores (right), chancellor of the Alamo Colleges District, and ACD Board Chair Gene Sprague, accept the AACC Award of Excellence for Student Success at Monday's gala (Photo: Adam Auel)

NEW YORK — Being back in person, the 2022 AACC Annual this week has provided AACC members an opportunity to learn, network and celebrate in a way many of them haven’t done since 2019. That includes dressing up for a gala to recognize some of the best programs and professionals in the business through its annual AACC Awards of Excellence.

The association on Monday night announced the 2022 award winners in seven categories from among the finalists.

Seamless pathways lead to student success

The Student Success award recognizes a community college that has shown a sustained commitment to and proactively advances the cause of student success at a community college. This year’s Student Success award went to the Alamo Colleges District (ACD), led by Chancellor Mike Flores.

“Time is the enemy of degree completion,” Flores said Monday at the awards ceremony, noting that the district’s efforts are designed to help students stay on track toward completion.

For example, ACD organizes programs into career clusters called AlamoINSTITUTES. The clusters provide a starting point for the student, enrollment coach and assigned advisor to identify a career interest and begin to create a tailored individual pathway.

With clear and concise pathways through Transfer Advising Guides (TAGs), students can

transfer with courses that are degree applicable for not only ACD but the student’s university of choice. That saves students time and money and minimizes any loss of credit hours. TAGs provide a two-year, course-by-course crosswalk from ACD to the university of choice by reverse mapping all required university degree requirements for each university major to an ACD pre-major. These seamless transfer pathways mean students don’t just transfer – they transfer with degree applicability.

Students who start at the Alamo Colleges now earn their degree, which requires 60 semester credit hours, in an average of 65.4 hours, compared to the Texas state average of 81 credit hours.

Taking action on equity

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) received the Advancing Diversity award. Seeing how the pandemic disproportionately affected people of color and low-income people, the Ohio college took action. Tri-C, under the leadership of President Alex Johnson, has increased access to resources, as well as networking opportunities, for students and spearheaded discussions about racial justice and social equity. The college created the Stand for Racial Justice Alliance (SRJ) in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020. SRJ is a taskforce of students, staff, faculty and community members who enhance and develop training and education, policies and practices, and more.

Another Tri-C initiative is Advancing Women in Equity and Inclusion, a task force created to provide students, faculty and staff of all gender identities with information, services, programming and gender equity training that address matters of particular concern to women.

In accepting the award on Monday, Johnson recognized the tireless efforts of his team for developing “inclusive excellence.”

Partnering on innovative curriculum

The winner in the Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership category is Miami Dade College (MDC) and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Since 2018, MDC and AWS have built and strengthened their partnership to develop cloud computing degrees. They’ve worked together in developing innovative cloud curriculum, training MDC faculty, educating and certifying students, and securing student employment.

AWS curriculum-infused courses were first offered to college students and dual-enrollment high school students in 2019. Since then, more than 200 students have completed cloud courses, with 150 obtaining AWS certifications.

At the awards ceremony on Monday, MDC President Madeline Pumariega noted that many of those students now have good-paying, entry-level jobs with AWS — jobs that a few years ago would have gone to applicants with four-year degrees.

“And that’s a win for all community colleges in America,” she said.

Transforming STEM education

Karla Fuller, a professor of biology and program coordinator at Guttman Community College, received the Faculty Innovation award. She has been transforming STEM education and increasing success and access in STEM throughout her career. At Guttman, a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) in New York City, Fuller took a lead role in the formal integration of culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) into the STEM curriculum. 

As the co-principal investigator for a National Science Foundation grant, Fuller developed innovations that are addressing a gap in the national understanding of community college-to-baccalaureate STEM persistence. And her leadership on CRP also is showing how positive outcomes of CRP in K-12 environments are replicable in community college HSI settings.

Fuller has trained nearly half of Guttman STEM faculty in CRP and has been asked by other colleges to offer her CRP expertise. Through her leadership, the CRP STEM curriculum is now able to incorporate the cultural knowledge, lived experiences, frames of reference and performance styles of Guttman’s diverse student body.

New awards this year

In addition to the annual Awards of Excellence categories, AACC introduced three new awards this year: CEO, Trustee, and Faculty Member of the Year.

Chancellor Curtis Ivery of the Wayne County Community District in Michigan received the CEO of the Year Award. (Photo: Adam Auel)

Curtis Ivery, who since 1995 has served as chancellor of the Wayne County Community College District in Michigan, was presented with the 2022 CEO of the Year award. In his acceptance of the award, Curtis noted how over the past few years during Covid he has reflected on the college’s work to strengthen student success and equity, and the challenges ahead — but he’s especially happy to see students returning to the college.

The inaugural Trustee of the Year award was presented to Nicole Washington, vice chair of the Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees. At the awards ceremony, she thanked the board of trustees, the president, faculty, staff and students, noting they each of them have a part in student success. The result of that work is seen when about 7,000 students walked this year across the stage during graduation, Washington said.

Finally, the Faculty Member of the Year award went to Mara Fulmer, a professor of art and design at Mott Community College in Michigan. She thanked her colleagues and her students, who she said are her “best teachers.”

“I’m going to back and tell my students, this is for them,” she said.

About the Author

Tabitha Whissemore and Matthew Dembicki
Tabitha Whissemore is a contributor to Community College Daily and managing editor of AACC's Community College Journal. Matthew Dembicki is editor of Community College Daily.