Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Higher education leader to helm new student success collaborative

July 06, 2021


Lilly Massa-McKinley, a career leader in higher education with a focus on improving equity and student outcomes, will serve as executive director for the new Kentucky Student Success Collaborative.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), which created the collaborative this year, announced her appointment today. Massa-McKinley has worked in higher education for more than 15 years, serving in an array of areas that include crisis counseling, community engagement, access and success support, career development and strategic partnerships.

Most recently, she served as the assistant vice president for career development and strategic partnerships at Bellarmine University, where her efforts focused on collaboration, partnership development and student success.

"Lilly's qualifications are a perfect fit for this role, but I'm most impressed with her energy and passion for students," said CPE President Aaron Thompson. "She has dedicated her career to helping students thrive through the most difficult challenges, and she approaches the mission of higher education with both clarity and generosity. That's the hallmark of a public servant."

CPE is tapping a $2.1 million grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation to establish the new statewide collaborative. The goal is to help campuses develop innovative strategies that boost graduation rates, close equity gaps, enhance workforce development and increase learning opportunities for emerging leaders in higher education.

The initiative – the first statewide center in the country that works with both two- and four-year institutions – will help facilitate greater information sharing, professional development and assistance with research and analytics. It will also link campuses with business leaders and state policy makers.

In her new role, Massa-McKinley will work with CPE leadership along with an advisory committee for the collaborative. She will lead a team of two professionals and help develop CPE's new strategic agenda, which will guide state efforts to enhance educational achievement across Kentucky.

"The vision of the collaborative is both inspirational and essential, and I am eager to begin working in partnership with all Kentucky's colleges and universities to build up our collective capacity for student success," Massa-McKinley said.

Massa-McKinley received her bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University, a master's degree in student affairs administration from Indiana University, and a doctorate in higher education leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University.

In addition to her work at Bellarmine University, Massa-McKinley played an instrumental role in the 55,000 Degrees Initiative in Louisville, where she convened and facilitated collaborative action networks with university, community college, K-12 and community partners. The work centered on enhancing systems coordination for improved student access and completion.

Last Updated: 7/23/2021