AC named finalist for national award

Courtesy Photo

By Bethany Fox

Staff Reporter

Amarillo College has been recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 community colleges. The college is a finalist for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. A team from the Aspen Institute will be conducting a virtual review from Sept. 9-11. 

Aspen picked 10 finalists from the nation’s 1,000 community colleges using selection criteria based on achievement in four areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, workforce success, and equitable outcomes for students of color and low-income students. AC officials say the recognition is a result of hard work by students, faculty and staff.

“It takes everyone on this campus to accomplish what we’ve done,” Cara Crowley, the vice president of strategic initiatives, said. “No one person or entity is more important than another.” 

The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program is awarded once every two years. Aspen aims to advance higher education practices and leadership that significantly improves student learning, completion and employment after college. 

Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, the AC president, called this award the highest honor in higher education. 

“We are receiving this recognition for several reasons: 1) our faculty and staff care so deeply, 2) the college has a culture of innovation and courageous risk taking; and, 3) our students work so hard and take advantage of the support systems we’ve built for them like tutoring, emergency aid and accelerated courses,” Lowery-Hart said. “Our community deserved to have one of the best colleges in the country.”

Aspen reviewers had originally been scheduled to visit campus Sept. 9-11 to do in-depth interviews, but, due to COVID-19, instead conducted interviews via Zoom.

“Aspen has requested to meet selected types of individuals, and each session will have approximately five individuals,” Crowley said. 

Ashley Guinn, a social services coordinator, was one of those selected to be interviewed. “By allowing Aspen the opportunity to see our Culture of Caring in action, I am confident we have a chance of being No. 1,” she said.

The winner of the prize will receive a cash award of $1,000,000. “The faculty, staff and students will decide how AC uses the cash prize for student success.” Crowley said. Aspen announces the winner in May 2021.

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