by Alana J. Mauger
Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) President Dr. Karen A. Stout is among an elite group of leaders invited by U.S. President Barack Obama to participate in a White House Summit on Thursday, Jan. 16. At the Summit, approximately 140 leaders from higher education, philanthropic organizations, businesses and local and state governments will launch a plan of action for increasing college opportunity for low-income and disadvantaged students.
Prior to the Summit, invited leaders were asked to submit their goals in writing, thereby committing their institutions and organizations to take measurable actions to improve college access and ultimately completion for at-risk students.
“I am honored to represent Montgomery County Community College, and community colleges across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in these critical conversations around issues of student access. My participation underscores the College’s commitment and systematic improvements in the areas of access and completion that anchor our work as an Achieving the Dream Leader College,” said Dr. Stout.
“We have seen, firsthand, that when a student completes his or her education, the impact is multi-generational because of the positive effect higher education has on individuals, their families and, ultimately, their communities,” she continued.
Through Dr. Stout’s participation in the White House Summit, MCCC will focus on three specific initiatives aimed at improving access for low-income and disadvantaged students. These include redesigning student entry and advising processes, developing a multi-platform model for student engagement, and expanding its minority student mentoring initiative.
For the first initiative, Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS), MCCC is redesigning its student entry and advising processes in a way that combines human capital with technological tools to allow for intrusive academic planning. The innovative and cost-effective program integrates analytical and communication tools to allow advisors, faculty and students to investigate course selection, monitor individual progress and coordinate academic intervention strategies, thereby increasing responsibility and ownership of student success among all stakeholders.
Next, MCCC is working to create a new model for student engagement. This prototype project looks to improve first-time students’ understanding of financial, civic and digital literacies – skills that are necessary for success in college and beyond. Through a series of engaging experiences across a range of platforms, the program aims to build continuous enrollment at the College, support completion efforts, and provide students with a set of tools that will enhance their success upon graduation.
The third initiative is an expansion of the College’s Minority Student Mentoring Initiative (MSMI). The initiative extends the support services of MCCC’s Minority Male Mentoring Program (MMMP), which was introduced in 2009 to help increase the retention and success of low-income African-American male students, to include low-income African-American and Latina female students.
The MSMI program connects participating students with caring mentors for guidance and support while providing opportunities for civic engagement, academic advisement, personal development and leadership development. Ultimately, students are challenged to develop the mental toughness, academic discipline and organizational skills necessary to achieve success.
All three programs are part of MCCC’s overarching Student Success Initiative, which works to expand access to higher education and increase student success through process improvements and support strategies that reduce the barriers for students to complete their education. In 2011, MCCC was designed as an Achieving the Dream Leader College, an elite group of 73 community colleges across the country that have demonstrated committed leadership, use of evidence to improve programs and services, broad engagement, and systematic institutional improvement.
During her 13-year tenure as MCCC President, Dr. Stout’s unwavering commitment to student access and success has impacted thousands of students, their families, and the community. In addition to laying the groundwork for the MCCC’s selection as an Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges in the nation, Dr. Stout helped to design and launch the College’s first comprehensive Honors Program and Minority Student Mentoring Program; expand support services for student veterans; re-introduce MCCC’s intercollegiate athletics program; collaborate with the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board to deliver GED instruction to more than 800 community residents; and re-energize the College’s facilities to enhance teaching and learning, among many other accomplishments.
The impact of Dr. Stout’s leadership extends nationally, evidenced by her selection to participate in the White House Summit. A passionate advocate for community colleges, Dr. Stout serves as Chair of the President’s Advisory Board to the Community College Research Center at Columbia University Teacher’s College, is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Board of Directors, is a Commissioner with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and as a co-chair of the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) 21st-Century Initiative Steering Committee.
She holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and a bachelor’s degree in English from University of Delaware, as well as a master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Baltimore.