Two Network Colleges Convey Commitment to Students into Top Award for Community Colleges

Achieving the Dream is proud to congratulate two of our network colleges, Indian River State College and Miami Dade College, which have been named the co-winners of the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The $1 million Aspen Prize, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges.

The Prize highlights institutions with outstanding achievements in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students. In working with network colleges, Achieving the Dream focuses on academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity, particularly with low-income students and students of color.

Last year, among the more than 1,000 eligible public community colleges, 10 finalists were chosen for the award. Of these ten finalists, eight were in the Achieving the Dream (ATD) Network. We congratulate the award winners and network finalists, and we’re encouraged by the alignment of our work focus with what the Aspen Institute identifies as critical to high performing institutions.

“I’m thrilled and proud that two network colleges are sharing the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “They’ve shown an exceptional commitment to their students and a strong commitment to change, and have embraced the powerful foundation that ATD’s institutional capacity-building approach has contributed to their efforts to improve the college experience for all of their students.”

In awarding Indian River and Miami Dade the Aspen Prize, the Institute cited each college’s strong advising systems, which have led to steady climbs in retention and graduation rates. Miami Dade was also cited for its robust student support system, where students can find a range of services in one location, and for its strong relationships to local industry and two nearby universities, which are each committed to accepting and graduating transfer students. For Indian River, the nearest four-year campus is 60 miles away. As a result, the college built 17 of its own bachelor’s degree programs, closely aligning those programs with high demand fields in the regional economy.

Each of the two award winners have played prominent leadership roles in Achieving the Dream. Indian River State College has been an ATD Leader College since 2016, and Miami Dade President Dr. Eduardo Padrón serves on the board of Achieving the Dream. Miami Dade was also the 2017 recipient of the Leah Meyer Austin Award.

(Photo of Dr. Edward R. Massey receiving the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence by The Aspen Institute)

Leader College recognition indicates that every person who is affiliated with the institution is committed to ensuring student success for all of its students, and that certainly comes through from Indian River’s president. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Edwin Massey stressed the student-centered approach at the core of the institution’s work. “We sometimes redirect conversations if the conversation isn’t directly addressing student success,” shared Dr. Massey.

(Photo of Dr. Eduardo Padrón receiving the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence by The Aspen Institute)

The Leah Meyer Austin Award is the highest honor a college in the ATD Network can earn. The award recognizes institutional strength, aligned policies and procedures, a student-focused culture, and notable increases in student outcomes. Dr. Padrón’s remarks reflected why he has become a leader in his field, and with Achieving the Dream. In talking about his fellow ten finalists, Dr. Padrón shared, “They absolutely understand that the future of America is inextricably linked to what we do. These institutions are democracy’s college. They are great equalizers. Open access and academic excellence can go hand in hand.”

In addition to the co-winners, two network colleges – Palo Alto College (Alamo Colleges) and San Jacinto College, which are each ATD Leader Colleges – were named 2019 Rising Stars by Aspen. The other four finalists from the ATD network – Broward College, Kingsborough Community College, Odessa College, and Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom – were lauded for the considerable strides made in their work, which closely aligns to ATD core areas. All four of these additional finalists are also ATD Leader Colleges, with Kingsborough and Pierce College being Leader Colleges of Distinction since 2018.

ATD colleges have made up a noteworthy portion of Aspen Prize finalists, finalists with distinction, and Rising Stars since the Prize competition began. Past ATD Network winners include Valencia College (FL) in 2011 and Walla Walla College (WA) in 2013. Since 2011, 21 current and former ATD institutions have been named finalists, five have been named finalists with distinction, and four have been named Rising Stars.

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