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Two Leaders from the College System of Tennessee Selected for the 2018 Class of the Harvard Young American Leaders Program

Thompson and Ashford Headshots

Two leaders from the TBR - College System of Tennessee, have been selected for the 2018 Class of the Young American Leaders Program, a Harvard Business School initiative that convenes leaders from 12 U.S. cities who are working to make their communities prosper.

Dr. Rebecca Ashford, president of Chattanooga State Community College, and Dr. Wendy Thompson, vice chancellor for organizational effectiveness at the Tennessee Board of Regents, were named to the 2018 class, which will convene at Harvard University in June.

The overall class is 120 leaders – 10 from a cross-section of business, education, government and non-profit organizations from each of the participating cities. Ashford and Thompson are two of only three community college or community college system participants in this year’s class.

Ashford was appointed president of Chattanooga State effective last July, after serving as vice president of student affairs at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville for nine years. 

She has energized Chattanooga State's Focus on Completion program, which seeks to boost the number of students who complete their degrees and certifications; met with key workforce development partners to ensure the college is meeting their workforce training needs, and built relationships in the community that are important to the success of the college and its students.

Thompson came to the Board of Regents after serving as the first general counsel at Middle Tennessee State University. Her responsibilities at TBR have focused on development and implementation of policies and practices that expand access and increase success for diverse populations of students, faculty and staff. She oversees the Board’s Maxine Smith Fellows program, a leadership training initiative created 15 years ago to enlarge the pool of underrepresented groups within the faculty and administrations of the system’s colleges.

The Young American Leaders Program was created by a faculty team at Harvard Business School and was launched in 2015 to develop leaders who understand cross-sector collaborations for shared prosperity and who can implement them more effectively and spread them more rapidly than in the past.

Class members gather at Harvard for an intensive three-day workshop on local cross-sector collaboration for shared prosperity in their home communities, including urban and rural regional collaborations and strategies for economic resilience. The group learns about best and worst practices from across the country and around the globe, assesses the shared resources in their communities, and envisions collaborations that might improve them. Each city team is then encouraged to apply what it has learned to benefit their hometowns.

Chattanooga and Nashville are the only Tennessee cities participating. Others are Birmingham, Boston, Columbus, Detroit, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

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.