The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program recently named President Karin Edwards a Fellow of the 2021~2022 cohort of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship. With this accomplishment and the opportunities it provides, Dr. Edwards intends to closely examine Clark College and make a plan to improve the student experience.
This program’s mission, is to improve outcomes for community colleges by reducing barriers and disparities that largely affect low income students and students of color. The Fellowship aims to enhance the community college experience so students are prepared to be successful in college, and in life.
Every year, the Aspen Institute selects a cohort of 25 community college presidents from across the country through a process of nominations, applications and interviews. Each of the selected 25 Fellows will be asked to provide specific data on their colleges, particularly on student outcomes and student success. Upon studying that data, each fellow will develop an individual plan for their college.
“That’s what makes me excited that I have this opportunity,” says Dr. Edwards. “We’re not going to talk [theoretically]. This is ‘show me your data, and show me where there’s gaps, show me where things are going well,’ to develop a plan and some solutions for our college.”
In fact, Dr. Edwards already has some ideas for her plan. She wants to increase the graduation rate, close the equity gap, particularly for students of color and first generation students, and make sure Clark’s programs align well with local as well as broader workforce needs.
For Dr. Edwards, education is an endeavor that touches her personally. Upon getting the opportunity to study at a private school from the 8th grade, she became aware of the stark difference in the quality of education between her private and public schools. Because of that experience, she strongly feels that everyone deserves a high-quality education, which is what motivates her to this day.
“It’s become my life’s work to try and achieve that, that everybody, particularly those who have been marginalized, have access to the same quality of education,” says Dr. Edwards. “Because for me, it was life-changing.”