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Two academic leaders from Tennessee community colleges selected for prestigious Aspen Presidential Fellowships

Jackson and Nichols

Two academic leaders from Tennessee community colleges are among the 40 members of the 2018-19 class of the prestigious Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, a leadership program aimed at preparing the next generation of community college presidents across the nation.

Tennessee members of the new class of Aspen Presidential Fellows, announced Thursday by The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, are:

  • Dr. Shanna Jackson, who assumes her new role as president of Nashville State Community College June 1 and is currently associate vice president and chief operating officer of Columbia State Community College’s Williamson Campus in Franklin, one of the state’s fastest growing college campuses.
  • Dr. Dana Nichols, chief academic officer of Chattanooga State Community College, where she administers and leads all academic programs, libraries, distance education, honors, professional development, and academic success and retention initiatives.

Class members were selected through a rigorous process that considered their abilities to take strategic risks, lead strong teams and cultivate partnerships, and focus on results-oriented improvements for greater student success and access, the Aspen Institute said.

The select group of 40 Presidential Fellows will embark on a 10-month fellowship beginning in July. Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, the Fellows will work with mentors – current and former community college presidents – who have achieved exceptional outcomes for students throughout their careers. Fellows will also learn from national experts about ways to harness data to assess student success outcomes, strategies for internal change leadership and how to create strong external partnerships with K-12 schools, four-year colleges, and employers.

“I’m delighted that Dr. Jackson and Dr. Nichols were chosen for this highly acclaimed nationwide leadership program,” College System of Tennessee Chancellor Flora W. Tydings said Friday. “I have worked with both – with Dr. Nichols when I served as president of Chattanooga State, and with Dr. Jackson as she prepares to assume her new role as president of Nashville State – and both have bright futures ahead as college leaders focused on student success. In fact, Dr. Jackson’s inclusion in this respected program underscores the wise choice the Tennessee Board of Regents made last month in appointing Dr. Jackson president of one of our system’s largest colleges.”

The Aspen Institute estimates that nearly 80 percent of current community college presidents nationally will retire in the next decade and the Fellowship responds to a growing need for a new generation of leaders who are well-equipped to meet the challenges of the future. With the average community college nationally enrolling about 14,000 students, each Fellow who becomes a president has an opportunity to improve outcomes for hundreds of thousands of students over his or her career. To date, 22 Aspen Presidential Fellows are now sitting community college presidents, at institutions collectively serving more than 300,000 students nationwide.

“Exceptional presidential leadership will be essential if more community colleges are to deliver the talent sought by employers, to enable the social mobility needed by individuals, and to ensure the levels of citizen engagement critical to our democracy,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “This diverse fellowship class was chosen because they have to stuff to deliver against that promise – to be exceptional community college presidents.”

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 100,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.