Risley Gives Commencement Address at Montana College

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Dr. Rod Risley, Executive Director and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa, has been on the road this spring delivering commencement addresses at community colleges around the country.  On May 11, he made a stop at Miles Community College in Miles, Montana, serving as commencement speaker for the Class of 2013.

Dr. Risley waits for the Miles Community College Commencement to begin with (from left) Dr. Stefani Hicswa, President, Miles Community College; Dr. Sheila Stearns, Former Commissioner, Montana Higher Education; and Dr. John Cech, Deputy Commissioner, Montana Higher Education.

For the second year in a row, MCC was nominated for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, placing them in the top 10 percent of community colleges nationwide.

“We earned this nomination by demonstrating strong retention and graduation rates,” said Dr. Stefani Gray Hicswa, MCC President. “Our retention rate is 24th in the nation, and our graduation rate is 8th in the nation.”

In his address Dr. Risley congratulated the graduates for “completing what they started” and pointed out that unfortunately, they are the exception rather than the norm.

“Completion of a credential or degree is more the exception than the rule – and the consequences are frightening.  Upon entering a community college, 85 percent of students indicate that they plan to complete a baccalaureate degree.  But, studies suggest the number of those who actually complete is significantly less than 50 percent,” he said. “More and more students are entering our colleges underprepared – not ready.  More than 60 percent of our students require developmental education classes, and the number who successfully emerge to take college credit classes – well it is frightening.”

In 2010 Dr. Risley, along with CEOs from the five leading national organizations in the community college arena — the Center for Community College Student Engagement, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Community College Trustees, the National Institute for Staff and Organization Development, and the League for Innovation — made history by collectively signing an agreement, Democracy’s Colleges: A Call to Action, committing to increase the number of community college students completing a degree or credential by 5 million by 2020. He conceived the development of C4 — The Community College Completion Corps — students helping students complete and participated in the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges.

“You have received a first-class education here at Miles Community College.  And never has it been so cool to graduate from a community college as today.  In my more than 35 years working with community colleges, there has never been a more exciting time to be associated with them,” Dr. Risley said.  “I have never before seen the measure of attention provided our institutions by corporations, foundations and the national media.”

Dr. Risley also attended a reception for students following the commencement, where he had the opportunity to meet members of the Beta Theta Gamma Chapter at Miles Community College.

“It was such an honor to have Dr. Risley on our campus for commencement!” said Jessie Dufner, Director of Student Financial/Enrollment Services for Miles Community College. “His speech was incredible, and he has such a wonderful presence.” 

Learn more about Phi Theta Kappa's C4 effort by visiting the website and read full coverage of the MCC Commencement online.