Fifth Anniversary Reflections
I must say at the onset that it took me a little longer to write this blog post for my fifth anniversary as President of West Kentucky Community and Technical College. Due in part to either denial that five years can go by so quickly or anxiety in assessing whether I achieved some of the college’s goals under my presidency. COVID-19 has consumed the past two years, and the added Delta variant has skewed the passage of time.
The global pandemic has indeed been a game-changer requiring innovation, flexibility, patience, resilience, and enhanced coordination and communication to serve our students' needs. On a personal level, I also realized the impact COVID-19 restrictions had on my ability to engage students, staff, and the community.
There is certain student energy and excitement on a college campus I have relied on throughout my career. Interacting virtually and hybrid communication has taken a lot of adjusting and creativity for all of us in this "new normal." With that said, I continue to be thankful for the outpouring of support from my family, college president peers across the KCTCS system, and regional community stakeholders. I continue to learn and grow in my role as president. I work closely with very talented and committed cabinet and campus leaders who provide me with information, constructive feedback and assist with assessing and managing challenges and opportunities to meet the ever-changing needs of our students, faculty, and staff. The past five years have also provided me with a chance to meet and engage regional and local education, business and industry, and civic partners to gather, learn and prioritize key initiatives to support workforce and economic development needs. It is equally rewarding to see the incredible growth on prior "new" initiatives, including the regional WKCTC Education Express, Regional Educators Awards and Scholarship Program, and the Regional Business Symposium, being incredibly supported and embraced.
I would like to intentionally hover for a moment to discuss the significance of multiple national rankings, recognitions, and record donations to WKCTC over the past five years. In 2020 through 2021, the college was recognized nationally by the Bellwether Consortium, the Aspen Institute among the top 5 community and technical colleges (out of 1000), an Academic Influence feature in Forbes Magazine, and the only college in the Commonwealth of Kentucky ranked by Best Colleges as the best community college in the state. These national rankings and recognitions directly reflect many extremely talented faculty and staff committed to fostering and supporting student success. In addition, it speaks to the ongoing commitment to a culture of excellence and our willingness to meet students where they are and where they are heading. The regional community has certainly taken notice, and many business leaders and stakeholders link these achievements to fostering and boosting workforce readiness, economic development, and growth. The trust and recognition of the college have also provided me with an opportunity to serve on the executive team of the Greater Paducah Economic Development (from 2017-19) and currently as the 2021 chair of the Board of Directors of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce.
I would have to say that unequivocally a signature achievement that gained national recognition was the college receiving a record $15 million-dollar grant (largest in school history) from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in December 2020! The national coverage in news media and publications for the college was unprecedented, and I continue to receive many congratulations. I am particularly pleased that the seven-sector framework vision, which reflects donor intent and our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, has been initiated and is having a tremendous impact on diverse, lower socio-economic, and historically underserved populations. In addition, hundreds of students, community non-profits, adult serving agencies, civic, religious institutions will be able to reap the generational benefits of access and support of higher education as a result of this gift.
All that’s been accomplished does not happen because of the work of just one person; it takes a village. I would like to thank the thousands of students, parents, community members, and colleagues who have provided me the opportunity to serve them. I look forward to maximizing the ministry of education.