Honor Society CEO to Help Shape 21st-Century Education Action Plan

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Jackson, MS – Phi Theta Kappa’s Executive Director Dr. Rod Risley has been appointed by Dr. Walter Bumphus, President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), to serve on the National Steering Committee charged with developing an action plan to implement recommendations from the “Reclaiming the American Dream” Report issued in April 2012 by the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges.

Dr. Rod Risley

Dr. Rod Risley

Dr. Bumphus also announced Dr. Risley’s appointment to two of nine implementation teams charged with developing strategies to help community colleges adopt commission recommendations and promising practices. Dr. Risley will serve as Co-Chair of the Faculty Development and Leadership Team and as a member of the College Completion Team.

Dr. Risley recently served on the 36-member Blue Ribbon 21st-Century Commission. Composed of higher education, business, policy and philanthropy leaders, the Commission was charged with mapping a bold new direction for the future of community colleges.

“The issues facing community colleges are incredibly complex and inextricably linked to all levels of education as we grapple with equipping Americans with 21st-century skills and knowledge to compete in a global economy,” Dr. Risley said. “The urgency for change is clear. The Commission’s recommendations and call to action will profoundly impact the future of our nation’s economy, social structures and public policy. We heard from numerous experts in many areas as we begin to craft what hopefully will be bold plans for reform.”

Dr. Risley’s focus areas on the Commission included College Completion, College Readiness, Transitions (K-12-Community College-University), and Community College Financing. During a series of Washington, D.C. meetings held throughout the past year commissioners heard a number of experts address these concerns as well as the issues of workforce leadership, equity and diversity, technology and resources.

In addressing the recommendations of the commission, Dr. Bumphus announced the establishment of nine implementation teams, which will forward reports to the national implementation steering committee. The steering committee will develop a final report, according to Dr. Bumphus, which will serve as a blueprint for AACC’s new strategic plan. The focus areas of the nine implementation teams are college completion, institutional accountability, college readiness, faculty/staff engagement and leadership (focusing on student success), developmental education, closing skills gap / credentialing, policy advocacy agenda, redefining institutional roles and functions, and re-imagining pathways.

The national steering committee and nine implementation teams will convene this month in Washington, D.C., and their work is expected to continue over the next two years.

Last month, Dr. Risley participated in the AACC Board of Directors Summer Retreat to discuss with college presidents the progress to date on the national community college completion challenge. Phi Theta Kappa is one of five national organizations coordinating efforts to engage the nation’s 1,200 community colleges in improving retention, persistence, graduation, and senior college transfer rates.

During the retreat leaders from community colleges and other organizations described promising practices at their institutions aligning with the 21st-Century recommendations. Dr. Risley noted how Phi Theta Kappa’s Community College Completion Corps (C4) is encouraging students to complete degrees and credentials by sharing with students the benefits of completion and the consequences of not.  Additionally, Phi Theta Kappa is providing support for colleges to hold campus-wide completion events including providing degree audits, support for career planning, and transfer to senior colleges. Colleges in some states, such as Nebraska, New Jersey and New York, are planning statewide events to drum up awareness among students, faculty, businesses and other community stakeholders about the importance of college completion and the value of the associate degree.

J. Noah Brown, President and CEO of the American Community College Trustees (ACCT), and Dr. Risley updated the AACC Board on college completion efforts. Dr. Risley acknowledged ACCT, 2012 recipient of Phi Theta Kappa’s Alliance for Educational Excellence Award, for their work on college completion.  He also revealed Phi Theta Kappa plans to upgrade the C4 (Community College Completion Corps) efforts by involving faculty. 

Several AACC Board members shared with colleagues the remarkable success of C4 events held on their campuses this past year and how they plan to expand and coordinate statewide completion initiatives this fall and spring. 

Brown has invited Dr. Risley to give presentations on C4 and CollegeFish.org at the upcoming ACCT Student Success Summit, which will be held in Boston October 10-13, and to re-present the Alliance for Educational Excellence Award at the opening session of the ACCT Annual Convention, which follows. The convention is typically attended by 1,500 trustees and college presidents. Phi Theta Kappa originally presented the award to ACCT during the Society’s Annual Convention this past April.

During the AACC retreat several college presidents noted that faculty support and input are critical the success of the college completion initiative and AACC’s overall strategic plan. “We want to be able to demonstrate that we will move the needle forward at community colleges with regard to completion,” Dr. Bumphus told retreat participants.

For more information about participating in the Community College Completion Challenge, visit the C4 website online.

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, headquartered in Jackson, Miss., is the largest honor society in higher education with 1,280 chapters on college campuses in all 50 of the United States, plus Canada, Germany, the Republic of Palau, Peru, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. More than 2.5 million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 135,000 students inducted annually.