BATON ROUGE, LA – The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program yesterday announced that Dr. Willie E. Smith, Chancellor at Baton Rouge Community College, is one of 25 leaders selected for the 2021-22 class of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship. This program supports community college presidents in the early years of their tenure as they aim to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success. The Fellowship’s philanthropic partner is JPMorgan Chase.
The 25 Aspen Fellows, who lead colleges that collectively serve more than 280,000 students, were selected through a highly competitive process. Starting later this year, the Fellows will engage over nine months in residential sessions and virtual learning to develop strategies to meet their goals for student success and equity with data to assess challenges and progress.
“We continue to learn how the best community colleges improve outcomes for students and close persistent race- and income-based equity gaps,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program. “This year’s fellows have demonstrated their commitment to achieving excellent and equitable student outcomes, and we are eager to work with them as they join Aspen’s network of more than 100 fellows who serve as community college presidents.”
“I am incredibly honored to be selected for the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship,” said BRCC Chancellor Dr. Willie E. Smith. “I’m looking forward to working with community college leaders from across this nation as we focus on enhancing student outcomes and success and eliminating equity gaps between all students.”
As community colleges grapple with the impact of COVID and enrollment declines, turnover among presidents remains high. Aspen is committed to helping prepare the next generation of exceptionally capable and highly diverse leaders through its fellowship programs for new and rising presidents. This new class of Aspen Presidential Fellows is 48 percent female, and 64 percent are people of color. Located in 18 states, their institutions too are diverse, from a tribal college with fewer than 500 students to an urban college that educates more than 35,000 each year.
"We are incredibly proud that Dr. Smith has been selected to join this acclaimed group of college leaders," said LCTCS System President Monty Sullivan. "At this stage in their career, this opportunity to learn from the shared experiences of colleagues will have long term impacts on the communities they serve. Dr. Smith's extensive knowledge of workforce development and student-focused outcomes will serve him well among this group of distinguished peers."
“Community colleges play a critical role in helping to prepare young adults and incumbent workers for in-demand jobs of the future,” said Monique Baptiste, Vice President and Head of Jobs & Skills for Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase. “Ensuring that the leaders of these institutions are equipped with the support and training they need to develop equitable student success is an integral part of building capacity over the long-run. JPMorgan Chase is proud to partner with the Aspen Institute to build the next generation of exceptional college leaders as they work to advance the prosperity of the diverse communities and students they serve.”
JPMorgan Chase funds the Aspen Presidential Fellowship as part of New Skills at Work, a five-year, $350 million investment to prepare for the future of work and meet the growing demand for skilled workers, including support for community colleges and other pathways to great careers and economic mobility.
The 2021-22 Aspen New Presidents Fellows
- Rebecca Ashford, Chattanooga State Community College (TN)
- Seher Awan, Los Angeles Southwest College (CA)
- Vincent Bowhay, Independence Community College (KS)
- J.B. Buxton, Durham Technical Community College (NC)
- Karin Edwards, Clark College (WA)
- Angélica Garcia, Berkeley City College (CA)
- Veronica Garcia, Northeast Lakeview College (TX)
- Tracy Hartzler, Central New Mexico Community College (NM)
- Greg Hodges, Patrick Henry Community College (VA)
- Stephanie Kashima, West Valley College (CA)
- Georgia Lorenz, Seminole State College of Florida (FL)
- Kimberlee Messina, Spokane Falls Community College (WA)
- Rachel Pokrandt, Umpqua Community College (OR)
- Christy Ponce, Temple College (TX)
- Omid Pourzanjani, San Joaquin Delta College (CA)
- Monte Randall, College of the Muscogee Nation (OK)
- Anton Reece, West Kentucky Community and Technical College (KY)
- Ángel Reyna, Madera Community College (CA)
- Claudia Schrader, CUNY Kingsborough Community College (NY)
- Ricky Shabazz, San Diego City College (CA)
- Ron Slinger, Miles Community College (MT)
- Willie E. Smith, Baton Rouge Community College (LA)
- Russell Swagger, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College (WI)
- Justina Wilhelm, Iḷisaġvik College (AK)
- Jermaine Williams, Nassau Community College (NY)
For bios and photos of all extraordinary 25 leaders, visit HERE.
About the Louisiana Community and Technical College System
The Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) provides strategic management and support for Louisiana's 12 community and technical colleges. LCTCS colleges award associates degrees, technical diplomas, and industry-based certificates in programs aligned with business and industry and local economies, which lead students to good in-demand, high-wage jobs. www.lctcs.edu.
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices and leadership strategies that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit highered.aspeninstitute.org and follow us on Twitter at @AspenHigherEd.
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.
About JPMorgan Chase
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $3.7 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.