Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

President's Message: New Student Success Collaborative will help advance systemic change

April 20, 2021

Aaron Thompson

Leading systemic change is perhaps the most challenging job of a higher education coordinating agency.

On the one hand, public colleges and universities are highly autonomous, with unique missions, strengths and audiences. On the other hand, statewide coordinating boards, tasked with regulatory and policy oversight, are generally unable to mandate or legislate change.

Fortunately, lasting, systemic change rarely comes from the top down. Instead, it requires extensive collaboration among multiple stakeholders, who "buy in" to innovations that benefit the institution and the system. This kind of leadership is not accomplished by the stroke of a pen; it requires expertise, diplomacy and perseverance.

I'm thrilled to announce that CPE's role as a convener and thought leader just got a major boost. The Louisville-based James Graham Brown Foundation has awarded CPE a three-year, $2.1 million grant to house the Kentucky Student Success Collaborative, the first of its kind in the nation.

The collaborative will develop and implement scalable strategies for improving student success, with an emphasis on raising graduation rates, closing equity gaps, and enhancing graduates' preparedness for life and work. The grant will connect Kentucky campuses and businesses with national policy and research expertise and position CPE for additional investment from philanthropic organizations. It will add critical staff capacity in the area of academic and student success, as well as a high-level advisory board of state and national leaders.

The collaborative will carry out its mission through information sharing, research and professional development, paying particular attention to practitioners and mid-level managers (e.g., deans, program directors and chairs). We'll begin with a smaller cohort of two- and four-year institutions, but our work eventually will touch every college and university in the state.

I'm grateful to the James Graham Brown Foundation for recognizing what CPE and our institutions have been able to accomplish through strategic, focused action. This grant is a validation of past work and a vote of confidence for future endeavors. I look forward to what more we will achieve together.

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Aaron Thompson, Ph.D.

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Last Updated: 7/27/2021