ACUE is proud to celebrate the remarkable achievements of four institutional partners that earned the nation’s signature recognition for America’s community colleges this year.
The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, awarded every two years, is a national recognition from the Aspen Institute awarded for institutions’ commitment to student success and equitable student outcomes. The prize, as President Obama once called it, is “basically the Oscars for great community colleges.”
Four ACUE partners were recognized by the Aspen Institute in 2021 as part of the prestigious selection process – including the top winner, San Antonio College. Other finalists were Broward College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and Tallahassee Community College.
ACUE Celebrates Aspen Prize Award Winners and Finalists
Earlier this year, we had a chance to speak with presidents, provosts, and faculty from the Aspen award-winners and finalists. In interviews, they reflected on their partnerships with ACUE and the role that faculty and quality instruction has played in their success.
Community College Excellence in Action
The community college finalists were “especially well-equipped” to address even the most unimaginable challenges, including those presented by the pandemic. As the Aspen Institute put it in their 2021 report , these institutions were well prepared “because of the student-centered work they’d been diligently doing for years.”
Broward College: Faculty at the Center of Student Success
Broward College, for example, revamped its budget system to require resources to be supported by evidence on how they’ll contribute to improved student success outcomes. In ACUE, they found a perfect fit.
A “key investment in student success is training new faculty in an evidence-based model of effective online pedagogy, provided by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE). An independent study found that the outcomes gap between Black and white students was halved for those in courses taught by ACUE-certified instructors, while the gap for students from low-income backgrounds was eliminated.”
“Our students were more likely to complete and pass their courses when taught by ACUE-credentialed faculty,” said Broward College President Gregory Haile. “Notably, greater outcomes were found for Black and low-income students. These results have helped us confirm the value of addressing equity issues among our students and the difference we can make in student outcomes when faculty have access to the right tools and the right practices.”
San Antonio College: Equitable Teaching Practices
At San Antonio College, a data-driven culture extends to the classroom. Faculty review student success data, broken down by student characteristics such as race and ethnicity. Faculty professional development is focused on inclusive teaching practices that advance equitable student outcomes, with the ACUE partnership serving as a key program.
“Our partnership with ACUE has led to faculty success,” said Sobia Khan, dean for academic success at San Antonio College. “Each and every faculty member who went through that first ACUE cohort has really changed the way they teach. It’s become transformational.”
“It’s important that in our pursuit for excellence at San Antonio College, we bring in the best partners in the country and we believe ACUE is one of our best partners,” added Robert Vela, president of San Antonio College.
Tallahassee Community College: Aspen “tells you what. ACUE gave us the how.”
At Tallahassee Community College, significant resources have been devoted to training faculty members in instructional effectiveness and course redesign. In addition, the faculty senate and leadership convened in 2019 for a workshop focused on equitably advancing a student-centered environment. That event paved the way for the development of a Teaching and Learning Framework and led to a growing partnership with ACUE.
“Aspen is very clear in their structure about what they want institutions to demonstrate that they are in fact excellent,” said Tallahassee Community College President Jim Murdagh. “[Aspen] tells you what. ACUE gave us the how. We’ve seen tremendous improvements in the success rates of students in gateway courses at our college.”
Borough of Manhattan Community College
At the Borough of Manhattan Community College, a school in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, Aspen noted BMCC’s focus on career readiness of its students. Leaders said the role of faculty is critical to any and all student success strategies.
“We try to do everything in our power, both inside and outside of the classroom, to have our students succeed, to persist, to be retained, to graduate,” said Erwin Wong, BMCC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Preparing faculty to teach online through ACUE was instrumental in terms of helping our students to continue to move forward.”
“The equity gap is of paramount importance to us, and we believe that the ACUE experience has allowed us to really crystallize and reinforce the initiative,” said Anthony Munroe, president of BMCC.
We applaud our community college partners championing student success! And, we are proud to play a key role in their achievements.