Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA) is among a select group of 25 finalists in the national spotlight for innovation and promising practices among two-year colleges nationwide. PCCUA has campuses in Helena-West Helena, DeWitt and Stuttgart.
Sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the newly established Awards of Excellence will be awarded annually. Winners in each of five categories will be named April 23 in San Francisco during the AACC annual convention, which draws nearly 2,000 educators, policymakers, corporate and foundation representatives each year.
PCCUA was one of five colleges recognized as a finalist in the Student Success category for its reinvented approach to teaching and student engagement which have resulted in an increase in student course success and a dramatic increase in its graduation rate. Other Award of Excellence categories included Emerging Leadership, Exemplary CEO/Board, Advancing Diversity, and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership.
PCCUA had previously received recognition in the Leah Meyer Austin Institutional Student Success Leadership competition. One of only two Arkansas colleges receiving Achieving the Dream (AtD) Leader College status, Phillips has effectively used AtD to restructure its service to students.
PCCUA is now more directly focused on students and their success. Its overall plan included the implementation of supplemental instruction labs, increased contact hours, creation of an additional developmental reading level, and professional development to more substantially engage faculty in improving student learning outcomes. Also implemented were an intrusive advising system and enhanced student support services to better serve new students enrolled in at least one developmental education course.
“At PCCUA, one of our three core values is student success,” said PCCUA Chancellor Dr. Steven Murray. “We are committed to the success of every student. We believe all students, given the right conditions, can learn. We believe those conditions include high expectations reflected in a rigorous curriculum and personal engagement evidenced by a faculty and staff who invest themselves in the lives of our students and our communities. Our faculty and staff not only believe that. They live it out every day. If I were any more proud of them, it would be sinful.”
Criteria for the Awards of Excellence are designed to reflect innovative practices in areas that relate to recommendations of the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, a national, blue-ribbon group of education experts that issued its report last spring. In the report, commission members described a restructured community college of tomorrow, one that would “reinvent the student experience” and help “reclaim the American dream.”
“Over an 18-month period, the 21st-Century Commission provided a bold and forward-thinking blueprint for the community college of the future,” said Marie Gnage, chair of the AACC Board of Directors. “With these new awards, AACC intends to elevate community colleges that are in the vanguard of progressive practices. The awardees will receive national visibility, but the spotlight on their exemplary practices will ultimately benefit all community colleges.”