AACC honors Lee College for diversity efforts

Lee College employees pose with diversity award.
Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College President; Mark Himsel, Lee College Regent; Judy Jirrels, Lee College Board of Regents, Secretary; Jessica Falla, Lee College HSI STEM Grant Success Coach; Susan Moore-Fontenot, Lee College Regent; Victoria Marron, Lee College Executive Directory HSI Initiatives; Pete Alfaro, Lee College Board of Regents, Chair; Gina Guillory, Lee College Regent; Michael Pounds, Lee College HSI STEM Grant College Completion & Transfer Coach; Gilbert Santana, Lee College Regent.

When Lee College was recognized this week with the American Association of Community Colleges’ Award of Excellence in the category of Advancing Diversity, the honor reflected innovative work by people and departments across campus.

In announcing the award, Lee College President Dennis Brown said, “This recognition is a testament to the tremendous work being done by our faculty and staff in creating a culture that empowers our diverse student population to thrive, succeed and realize successful futures — whether they choose to continue their education or move on to rewarding careers.”

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. The association represents nearly 1,200 two-year, associate’s degree-granting institutions and more than 12 million students. “Winning in a category or being identified as a finalist for a category is always a huge honor,” says Brown. “For any institution, it’s like the Academy Awards for community colleges.”

Joining Brown in receiving the award were Lee College’s Executive Director of Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives Victoria Marron, Executive Vice President Dr. Christina Ponce and Vice President of Workforce and Corporate Partnerships Dr. Angela Oriano.

Victoria Marron said the efforts to improve the college experience for historically under-served populations benefits all students.

“We’re really trying to plan for the future growth, not just of our community, but of the college and addressing our growing Hispanic population is important for us as a college,” she said.

“We’ve been very blessed in having several different grant awards, and by centralizing those awards it allows us to work collaboratively across Lee to help all students.”

A prime example, Marron said, is the STEM lab, which is open to all students. “When the grant was written, because it comes from the Hispanic Serving Institutions department in the Department of Education, they’re expecting certain measurements and certain other activities to target low-income and Hispanic students.”

In making the award, the AACC statement said, “Lee College has taken a strategic, proactive approach to addressing inequities hindering the persistence of its under-served students, especially the growing Latino population.

“With a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Hispanic Serving Institution division, coupled with other funding sources, the college established a centralized Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives Department.

“The HSI Initiatives Department allows the college to provide students with a centralized hub to take advantage of academic support,” the statement continued.

“The college has targeted communities with the lowest college-going rates by taking its Mobile Go Center, which includes a wide array of resources, directly to families. Lee College also has offered city-wide STEM recruiting activities.”

Marron said, “What set us apart is that we took a really proactive approach to planning for the future.”

One of the innovative programs Lee has implemented is Weekend College which enables people who are working full-time to attain an associates degree or technical certification in 24 months or less by attending class on Friday evenings and Saturdays.

Marron said, “One of the things we’ve learned over the last six years is really how to leverage different grant funds with high-impact best practices. That formula is really making a difference. As a result, for example, we were able to develop a plan and write a successful grant application for our First in The World Grant, which in turn helped us develop our Weekend College.”

Lee College’s Weekend College has achieved a three-year graduation rate of 70 percent, far exceeding the 20 percent three-year graduation rate for Texas community college students overall.

The First in the World grant requires research comparing student outcomes in the grant-funded program with similar students in traditional programs. Marron said the Weekend College students have shown higher GPAs and higher graduation rates in that research.

“Much of this success can be attributed to the pathways we created that laid their whole degree plan out for them. They knew what they were taking every single term. And they were assured that wouldn’t change. We coupled that with intensive support from a college completion coach.”

Marron said the Lee College designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution is through the U.S. Department of Education. Criteria include that at least 25 percent of full-time students are Hispanic and that the institution’s students are eligible to receive Pell grants.

The designation makes the college eligible for some additional funding sources and requires an effort to streamline and improve services.

“When you can target and provide assistance to your under-served populations, you are providing services to all students,” Marron said. “That’s the beauty of this kind of scalability of practice and resources.”

“Advancing diversity doesn’t mean that we’re saying we’re as diverse across campus as we need to be, rather we’re advancing to the point of where we’re going to be.

“We got an award and we’re incredibly grateful for it, but this is just the beginning.”

Lee College was also a finalist in the award for College and Corporate Partnership. Joining Brown in receiving that finalist award were Bob Cautadal, manager of the ExxonMobil Chemical Plant, and Connie Tilton of the ExxonMobil Public Affairs Office.

Lee College has been honored by AACC multiple times in recent years — in 2017 as an AACC Award of Excellence Finalist for Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. In 2016 as an AACC Award of Excellence Finalist for Faculty Innovation, Exemplary Board/CEO and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership, and in 2015 as an AACC Award of Excellence Winner for Student Success as well as an AACC Award Finalist for Exemplary Board/CEO.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee College a finalist for three national AACC Awards of Excellence

A large group of people stands before the Board of Regents holding awards.
Lee College was presented with three awards from the American Association of Community Colleges as a finalist for national Awards of Excellence in three separate categories: Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. The awards were displayed to the community at the May meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. Pictured, from left: Connie Tilton, Woody Paul and Brian Nagel of ExxonMobil; Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown; Interim Vice President of Instruction DeDe Griffith; former Board of Regents Chairman Ronn Haddox; Grant Director Victoria Marron; Interim Dean of Academic Studies David Jaroszewski; Executive Vice Pres. Dr. Christina Ponce; Director of Workforce Development Marsha Tuha; 2017 graduate Jazmine Rodriguez; and Dean of Applied Sciences Layton Childress.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College has been honored as a finalist for the 2017 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Awards of Excellence for Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. It is the second consecutive year that Lee College has earned national recognition as an AACC Awards of Excellence finalist in three of five total categories — a rare feat among the nearly 1,200 community colleges that are members of the association and eligible for the awards each year.

The AACC presented Lee College with the three finalist award trophies in April at its annual convention in New Orleans. The awards were displayed to the community this month at the regular meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents.

The AACC Advancing Diversity Award recognizes the college that has contributed significantly and over a sustained period of time to advancing diversity in community college leadership, the community and within higher education as a whole. Lee College was honored for the success of the Puente Project, an academic mentoring program that aims to increase the number of educationally under-served students who transfer to and enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn college degrees and return to their communities as leaders and role models for new generations. Puente students — many of whom are low-income or the first generation in their families to attend college — have presented research at academic conferences, taken leadership roles on campus, advocated for social justice and volunteered their time and talents to serve and uplift the local community. More than a dozen Puente graduates have gone on to pursue bachelor’s degrees at universities around the state since Lee College became the fourth community college district in Texas to host the program.

Treva Brown-Askey, chairwoman of the Developmental Education Division, was the college’s nominee to receive the AACC Faculty Innovation Award, which recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated leadership in the development and implementation of a campus program that has had positive impact on the learning experience for students. The outcome of the program must result in the improvement of student completion numbers within a course or degree field, and nominees for the award are expected to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to student access and success. Brown-Askey was also nominated and named a finalist for the Faculty Innovation Award in 2016, due in large part to her efforts to make educational opportunities more equitable for all students and create opportunities for students to learn and be successful both inside and outside of the classroom. Additionally, she has led and coordinated the “College Bound School” partnership with Drew Elementary School in the Crosby Independent School District, which is part of the ongoing Cradle to Career Network effort to create a college-going culture for local youth by engaging all members of the community in providing wraparound support as students transition into college.

The AACC Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award honors local, regional and national collaboration between a college and corporate partner that has achieved demonstrable, multi-year success in advancing the mission of the institution; the economic prosperity of a community, region or the nation; and the learning excellence of students. Lee College highlighted its longstanding partnership with ExxonMobil, which has provided resources to support the education and workforce needs of Lee College students and the community for 82 years. In just the last 5 years, ExxonMobil has enhanced its support by sponsoring the Lee College EnergyVenture camp for middle-school students exploring careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; continuing to provide 3-to-1 matching gifts from its foundation for donations made to colleges and universities by employees and retirees; providing annual gifts of $125,000 to help meet the needs of the college’s petrochemical and technical studies programs; supporting capstone internships for students; and providing $1.8 million for the Community College Petrochemical Initiative. ExxonMobil staff members also come to classes to share their insights and experiences with students, participate in panel discussions and serve on college committees.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

VP DeDe Griffith awarded Aspen Presidential Fellowship

Griffith is one of only 40 nationwide selected for community college leadership program

DeDe Griffith
DeDe Griffith

BAYTOWN, TX — DeDe Griffith, interim Vice President of Learning at Lee College, has been awarded the prestigious Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence and will participate in a highly selective leadership program aimed at developing a new cadre of outstanding leaders capable of transforming student success at community colleges across the United States.

The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, announced today that Griffith joins the 2017-18 class of  Aspen Presidential Fellows, a diverse group of 40 extraordinary administrators from around the country who will embark on a year-long fellowship in July. Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative and top community college leaders, the program focuses on a new vision of leadership and aims to guide new and aspiring community college presidents to dramatically change student outcomes in four areas: learning; completion while in community college and of bachelor’s degrees after transfer; employment and earnings after graduation; and equitable access and success for underrepresented minority and low-income students.

“As an administrator and faculty member at Lee College for the past two decades, DeDe has been instrumental in developing and implementing innovative strategies and programs that enhance student success,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “Her selection as an Aspen Presidential Fellow is a testament to the effectiveness of her student-centered philosophy and her commitment to strengthening community college education to ensure future generations of students are able to achieve their dreams.”

According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 365 presidents left their posts over the last year. This staggering rate of turnover is happening at the same time that increasing numbers of students — including growing numbers of minority, low-income and first-generation college students — are flocking to community colleges to earn degrees that lead to good jobs and careers.

The 2017-18 Aspen Presidential Fellows hail from 24 states and 38 community colleges of varying sizes. Griffith was selected through a rigorous process that considered her abilities to take strategic risks, lead strong teams and cultivate partnerships and focus on results-oriented improvements in student success and access. A past recipient of the Lee  College Faculty Excellence Award and the John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award, Griffith also shared in institutional recognition through the AACC Award of Excellence of Student Success and coordinates and oversees many initiatives to provide greater access and completion support to all students. She is currently completing a Doctorate of Education in Professional Leadership in Education. For more information, visit http:///as.pn/1ky.

The Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, College Futures Foundation, ECMC Foundation, Greater Texas Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee named finalist for three national awards honoring excellence

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College has been announced today as a national finalist for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Awards of Excellence in three separate categories: Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. It is the second consecutive year that Lee College has been named an AACC Award of Excellence triple finalist.

Nearly 1,200 two-year, associate degree-granting institutions across the United States are members of the AACC and eligible for the Awards of Excellence each year. The winners for the 2017 awards cycle will be announced in April at the 97th annual AACC convention in New Orleans.

The AACC Advancing Diversity Award recognizes the college that has contributed significantly and over a sustained period of time to advancing diversity in community college leadership, the community and within higher education as a whole. This is the first year that Lee College has been named a finalist in the Advancing Diversity category.

Treva Brown-Askey, chairwoman of the Developmental Education Division, has been nominated to receive the AACC Faculty Innovation Award, which recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated leadership in the development and implementation of a campus program that has had positive impact on the learning experience for students. The outcome of the program must also result in the improvement of student completion numbers within a course or degree field, and nominees for the award are expected to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to student access and success. Brown-Askey was previously named a finalist in the Faculty Innovation category in 2016.

The AACC Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award honors local, regional and national collaboration between a college and corporate partner that has achieved demonstrable, multi-year success in advancing the mission of the institution; the economic prosperity of a community, region or the nation; and the learning excellence of students. Lee College was previously named a finalist in the Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership category in 2016.

Lee College was chosen as the winner of the 2015 AACC Award of Excellence for Student Success for its work to engage the entire campus and community in creating a college-going culture that ensures a successful student experience from high school through higher education. Lee College was also a national finalist for the AACC Award of Excellence in the Exemplary Board/CEO category in both 2015 and 2016.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Grant director chosen for national program for Hispanic community college leaders

Victoria Marron
Victoria Marron

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College grant director Victoria Marron was one of 22 community college administrators from around the country selected for the 2016 National Community College Hispanic Council’s (NCCHC) Leadership Fellows Program, which aims to develop a pool of highly qualified Hispanics and assist them in attaining high-level positions in community colleges.

As part of the program, Marron traveled to the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences for two residential seminars. She prepared an individualized professional development plan, engaged in a mentoring relationship with a Hispanic community college leader and attended the NCCHC Leadership Symposium, where she also completed online activities between sessions.

“Assisting in creating policies, offering services and helping students is part of my core,” said Marron, who oversees the college’s $2.7 million U.S. Department of Education First in the World Grant and more than $5.3 million in federal Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM Grant funding, while also serving as coordinator of the Puente Project mentoring program for academically under-served students.

“I myself had been a Lee College student in developmental education courses, fresh out of high school with a newborn baby. I walk across campus and understand the struggles our students face,” Marron said. “I look forward to continuing my growth and having the ability to continue to learn how to serve all of our students better. Lee College is truly a family and I am very appreciative of the ongoing support from my teams, faculty, staff and administration.”

NCCHC is an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges, a national organization that has provided leadership to the community college movement for more than 50 years. The council works to promote the educational interests and success of the Hispanic community and emphasizes access, equity and excellence for students and staff in community colleges.

Marron is one of more than 250 NCCHC Leadership Fellows who have graduated from the program since its inception. Of the original 72 Fellows, more than 15 are now community college presidents and many others have moved to positions of increased responsibility as executive-level administrators.

“Preparing strong leaders for the future is the primary purpose of the NCCHC Leadership Fellows Program,” said council Pres. Maria Harper Marinick. “A demographic shift is occurring in the United States and we need leaders who can model the way for the growing Hispanic population. Through this program, Fellows gain the knowledge and skills they need to lead higher education into the future and positively impact the economic and civic success of their respective communities.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee named AACC Award of Excellence triple-finalist

President, faculty, staff & industry partner presented with honors at convention in Chicago

AACC 2016 Annual Convention
Lee College was recognized at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Annual Convention, held April 11, 2016, in Chicago, for being an Awards of Excellence finalist in three categories. Pictured, from left: Dr. Charlene Dukes, chairwoman of the AACC Board of Directors; Vera Walker, student support adviser; Dr. Cathy Kemper-Pelle, vice president of Learning; Dr. Daria Willis, dean of Academic Studies; Dr. Dennis Brown, president; Paul Guilfoyle, ExxonMobil North American Growth Project; Treva Brown-Askey, chairwoman of Developmental Education; Dr. Christina Ponce, vice president of Student Success, Workforce & Resource Development; DeDe Griffith, director of Student Success; Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the AACC; Connie Tilton, ExxonMobil Baytown Area Public and Government Affairs; and Debi Jordan, executive director of the Center for Workforce and Community Development.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College received national recognition as a 2016 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Award of Excellence finalist in three categories: Exemplary Board/CEO, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership.

Nearly 1,200 community colleges are members of the AACC and eligible for the Awards of Excellence. Finalists and winners for 2016 were presented with their awards in April at the association’s Annual Convention in Chicago.

The Exemplary Board/CEO award recognized the collaboration and working relationship between Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown and the Board of Regents for promoting effectiveness in governance. Treva Brown-Askey, chairwoman of Developmental Education, was a finalist in the Faculty Innovation category for demonstrating leadership in the development and implementation of a campus program that had a positive impact on the learning experience for students. The Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership category recognized the collaboration between Lee College and ExxonMobil for demonstrating success in advancing the mission of the institution, economic prosperity of the community and learning excellence.

Lee College won the AACC Award of Excellence for Student Success in 2015 for its work to engage the entire campus and community in creating a college-going culture that ensures a successful student experience from high school through higher education. Lee College was also one of four national finalists for the 2015 Award of Excellence in the Exemplary Board/CEO category.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.