CHICAGO, April 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The nation's community colleges are making great strides to increase completion rates. Seven community colleges were honored for their work toward the student success agenda on April 11 at the American Association of Community Colleges' (AACC) Awards of Excellence Gala, part of AACC's 96th Annual Convention in Chicago, Ill.
In the category of Emerging Leadership, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (Virginia), led by John Rainone, was named the winner. This category recognizes AACC member CEOs who have created a campus culture that supports employee leadership advancement at all levels. Rainone has developed an impressive mission-driven culture of teamwork across the institution. He hosts an annual event to acknowledge the contributions of faculty and staff, recognizes the volunteer efforts of employees and hosts lunches to increase communication. Building community partnerships also is a cornerstone of Rainone's strategy to bolster support for the college.
The Advancing Diversity category recognizes colleges that are dedicated to increasing diversity and advocating for social equity on their campuses and in the community. Halifax Community College (HCC) in North Carolina won in this category. In 2006, HCC, a minority-serving institution, appointed Ervin V. Griffin, Sr. as the college's first president of color. The board continued to advance diversity with the election of Bernella Delemora as chairperson, the first American Indian to serve in that role. This leadership launched new pathways to cultural diversity and community engagement. The college now offers a number of events featuring multicultural perspectives. These include the International Day and Food Tasting, an American Indian Heritage celebration and theatrical performances such as Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, an American Civil War musical revue recounting the nation's history from both northern and southern perspectives.
The 2016 Exemplary CEO/Board Award went to Highline College in Washington. The college's board of trustees and President Jack Bermingham highlight mutual respect and trust in their collaboration to advance college initiatives to improve the student experience. Among the positive results of their collaboration are the implementation of a Diversity Statement to ensure a climate conducive to both teaching and learning, development of public-private partnerships around student housing, and working with cities and transit agencies to create a new light rail station adjacent to the college.
Angela Heaton of Rhodes State College (Ohio) won in the Faculty Innovation category. Heaton is the chair of physical therapist assistant program. Faced with declining retention rates, she launched tablet technology as a resource tool for students in the program. It streamlined the learning process by enabling students to take notes and review videos, class e-mails, lab assignments, and supplemental diagrams in one location, eliminating time spent in busy computer labs. The result was student retention in the program accelerating from 61 percent to 93 percent for the graduating class of 2016. Students frequently refer to Heaton's educational techniques as contributing to their success as graduate physical therapist assistants.
Maryland's Montgomery College, led by DeRionne Pollard, was named winner in the Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership category. Montgomery College and Holy Cross Health established the first new hospital in the county in 35 years, serving 1 million residents in a rapidly growing region of the state. On October 1, 2014, Montgomery College became the first community college in the nation to host a hospital on site when Holy Cross Germantown Hospital opened on the college's Germantown campus. The $202 million hospital added 700 high-paying jobs to the region during an economic recession, and addressed the growing need for qualified healthcare professionals as the baby boomer generation begins to retire.
El Paso Community College (EPCC) in Texas, winner in the Student Success category, is nationally recognized for its culture of excellence and success based on evidence combined with a strategic focus on completion. The college is led by William Serrata. By using innovative strategies, clearing roadblocks to graduation, and creating more seamless student services, EPCC transfer rates exceed the national average. While enrollment has grown by 25 percent over the past decade, graduation rates have outpaced enrollment growth, increasing 211 percent. EPCC also has effectively reduced the need for developmental education and established powerful partnerships with both K–12 and four-year institutions.
The Community College Safety Planning and Leadership Award went to Maryland's Howard Community College (HCC), led by Kathleen Hetherington. College leadership empowered employees to develop and implement a Safe Campus Initiative. Creation of the initiative engaged various college departments and divisions including health and safety, emergency operations, public safety, human resources and student services. A distinguishing feature is a student intervention icon available to staff and faculty on their computers that leads to a website with guidance for addressing students of concern, information on the college behavior intervention team, and the HCC Emergency Operations Team.
Award winners were selected by a committee of the AACC Board of Directors. Sixteen finalist colleges also were recognized at the Awards of Excellence Gala.
As the voice of the nation's community colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), delivers educational and economic opportunity for 12 million diverse students in search of the American Dream. Uniquely dedicated to access and success for all students, AACC's nearly 1,200 member colleges provide an on-ramp to degree attainment, skilled careers and family-supporting wages. Located in Washington, D.C., AACC advocates for these not-for-profit, public-serving institutions to ensure they have the resources and support they need to deliver on the mission of increasing economic mobility for all.
SOURCE American Association of Community Colleges