OC an Aspen Prize finalist again

Odessa College has been named among the 10 finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The announcement was made to members of the college board of trustees, community dignitaries, Ector County Independent School District Superintendent Tom Crowe and school board member Steve Brown Tuesday morning in the Zant Room of the Saulsbury Campus Center.

This was followed by a Coffee and Conversation where the announcement was made for OC faculty and staff, complete with confetti.

The $1 million prize is awarded every two years and recognizes institutions that achieve high and improving student outcomes.

The release said the prize recognizes community colleges with exceptional achievement in:

  • Student learning.
  • Certificate and degree completion while in community college and after transferring to a four-year institution.
  • Employment and earnings rates after graduation.
  • And access for and success of minority and low-income students.

Following a site visit in the fall, in April 2019, the $1 million prize will be awarded at an event in Washington, D.C., to the winner, two or three finalists with distinction and a Rising Star that has achieved exceptional levels of improvement, an Aspen Institute news release said.

Odessa College won the Rising Star award in 2017.

“This is truly an exciting, exciting time,” Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness Don Wood said. “The top 10 are out of 1,100 community colleges in the nation.”

Wood said OC’s graduation rates have risen 238 percent over the last nine years and every one of the more than 700 graduates who walked the stage May 12 was making history in higher education.

Vice President for Instruction Valerie Jones acknowledged the excitement about the announcement. “Let’s just take a moment to squeal,” she said.

But she noted that just because a community college has made it to the top 10 once, doesn’t mean it’s going to get there again.

“A lot of colleges have made it in one time and then not and so we are tremendously honored and excited to be recognized as a top 10 finalist for the Aspen Prize this year for the 2019 award,” Jones said.

She said the work of President Gregory Williams has been the catalyst for the college’s transformation and it’s borne fruit the last five or six years.

Crowe from ECISD said the honor lifts up education in the community and gives the district a chance to work more closely again with Odessa College.

With the help of the community, OC has committed to 1,500 presentations to the schools to change students’ outlook on their future.

“The opportunity for our kids to attend a community college that is hopefully the No. 1 community college in the nation, it just changes an outlook. I’ve talked many times about changing the perspective of education in the community. That’s what they’re doing. They’re helping to do that and they’re helping us do that, as well, so it’s a partnership,” Crowe said.

Odessa College Vice President for Instruction Valerie Jones talks about what it means for the college to be selected again as one of the top 10 finalists for the Aspen Award. The announcement of the winner will be made in April 2019.

Ruth Campbell|Odessa American
051418OcAnnouncement_03.jpgRuth Campbell|Odessa American

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