ATD Voices from the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence

Since the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence began two years ago, 64 of the 117 Fellows have come from institutions in the Achieving the Dream Network. Twenty-six of those 64 are now presidents at community college across the nation. St. Petersburg College President Dr. Tonjua Williams, Amarillo College President Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, Highline College President Dr. John Mosby, and Columbia Basin College President Dr. Rebekah Woods share how the Fellowship helped prepare them for where they are today.

Dr. Tonjua Williams, President, St. Petersburg College (FL)

“The Aspen Presidential Fellowship experience helped me gain a better understanding of the definition of “student success” and the strategies to lead your team to accomplish it. I’ve learned to improve upon self-reflection and the assessment of my daily actions and the impact of those actions.  It’s become a regular part of my day. Since becoming president in July 2017, my Aspen experiences have guided my leadership initiatives, which have focused on strengthening the student experience by creating pathways to success for all students, especially those who are under-represented and under-prepared. Aspen has inspired me to think more boldly, come up with new ideas, apply what I’ve learned and take more risks. I am forever connected to a great group of thought leaders determined to change the world!”
Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, President, Amarillo College (TX)

“As a new president, I was overwhelmed with the “traditions” of the office that seemed to honor the history of the higher education more than honoring our students and community. Achieving the Dream gave me a context for data, structures, and a network of innovators. Through that network, I learned of the Aspen Presidential Fellowship program.

I applied for the Aspen Presidential Fellowship because I knew I needed more preparation. I was honored to be accepted into the inaugural class and it was a definitive experience for me personally and professionally.

I learned more about the student success agenda, certainly. Yet, I experienced far more important outcomes. I learned so much about myself and my need for more mindful intentionality. I developed a network of colleagues whom I love and adore more than I thought possible. And, I met innovative community college leaders within the higher education infrastructure. Their perspectives and experiences helped ground and connect me in what could be an isolating position as president. 

The experience grounded me and my presidency in a tangible, supportive, innovative, and transformative world. I will never forget it or the people with whom I shared the experience. I will never be the same. I am a better president. My college is a better institution.”

Dr. John Mosby, President, Highline College (WA)

"My Aspen Presidential Fellowship was a life and career game changer for me.  I was exposed to transformative leadership on a national perspective. This new lens challenged and confirmed my values in the areas of equity, student access and achieving student success.  Prior to the fellowship I was only interested in looking for Presidencies within my own state. The faculty, workshops and my cohort members provided such a rich experience that provided the confidence to look outside my comfort zone (and state) and carefully look at colleges that aligned with my passion and commitment to serve. The fellowship prepared me well for my Presidency and created a circle of colleagues that will always provide that support system for the rest of my career. I'm proud and humbled to be an Aspen Presidential Fellow."

Dr. Rebekah Woods, President, Columbia Basin College (WA)

“The Aspen Fellowship was transformational for me as a leader. It helped me develop my vision for a community college presidency and understand how to frame a model for student success.  The Fellowship accelerated the timeframe in which I was able to learn the skill-sets and develop the tools necessary to hit the ground running. I’m honored to have also gained so many esteemed colleagues and mentors that I now call friends.”

To nominate an exceptional leader, please visit the College Excellence Program website. Only the nominee’s name, position, and email address are required. Upon receiving a nomination(s), the Aspen Institute will contact the nominee to encourage her or him to apply. Applications are due December 14, 2018 with final selections made in early 2019.

To learn more about the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, visit here.

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