Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

CPE’s new unit will promote the value of higher education, strengthen economic development partnerships

February 01, 2023

Dr. Rick W. Smith Sr., Ed.D.
Dr. Rick W. Smith Sr., Ed.D.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) today announced a new unit in the agency focused on increasing public awareness of the value of higher education and strengthening partnerships with the business community and other key partners. The External Affairs and Economic Partnerships unit, which will be headed up by Rick W. Smith Sr., Ed.D., is charged with leading the agency’s strategic communication efforts promoting higher education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The office will also support CPE’s external partnerships with economic development leaders, state agencies and nonprofit organizations.

“One of the agency’s priorities is forging connections between higher education and the communities we serve, and this new unit demonstrates our commitment to that,” said CPE President Aaron Thompson, Ph.D. “This team will reinforce CPE’s leadership role within the state and nation on issues such as student access and success, equity, creating a more robust educational pipeline, and strengthening the alignment between higher education and the workforce.”

Dr. Smith previously served as associate vice president of workforce and economic development at CPE before taking on the role of vice president for external affairs and economic partnerships. Before joining CPE, he held critical leadership and development positions at the Kentucky College of Art + Design, Kentucky State University and Northern Pennsylvania Regional College. He most recently served as the president and CEO of the United Way of Ross County, Ohio. Smith has also held leadership roles in healthcare administration, public relations, business development and nonprofit leadership over the past three decades.

“I’m honored to lead this new unit, and I look forward to traveling the state to strengthen our coalition of higher education champions and ensure that our postsecondary education system is meeting the needs of every Kentuckian,” said Smith. “This work is critical to the economic future of our state and the well-being of our communities.”

Last Updated: 2/2/2023