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Presidential Honors

DATE: Wednesday, February 5, 2020

President Royal selected for national fellowship

HCC president Christina Royal talks to HCC student

Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal has been selected for a national fellowship for new college presidents administered by the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute.

The Aspen New Presidents Fellowship is a new initiative designed to support community college presidents in the early years of their tenure to accelerate transformational change on behalf of students.   

President Royal and President Luis G. Pedraja of Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester were the only two community college presidents chosen from Massachusetts. They are part of the inaugural group of 25 Aspen fellows selected from more than 100 applicants nationwide.  

The leaders, all of whom are in their first five years as a college president, will engage in a seven-month fellowship beginning in June 2020.

"The Aspen Institute has a reputation for excellence, and I am honored to be selected as part of the inaugural group alongside President Pedraja," said President Royal, who started working at HCC in January 2017. "Higher education is experiencing a lot of disruption as the world changes. We are being challenged in a greater way to alter the ways we educate and provide support for students as demographics shift and their needs and preferences change. It is an exciting opportunity to be in the company of other scholars and community college presidents who want to grow and learn in an intense environment of data-informed immersion that exposes us to new and different thinking with both practical and applied learning experiences."

The fellows were selected for their commitment to student success and equity, willingness to take risks to improve outcomes, understanding of the importance of community partnerships, and ability to lead change.

"We know more than ever before about how community colleges can improve outcomes for students, both in and after college," said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. "And the urgency for them to do so only increases-especially for students of color and low-income students. These fellows have shown they are fully, urgently committed to excellence and equity, and we look forward to working alongside them."  

JPMorgan Chase is funding the Aspen New Presidentis Fellowship as part of New Skills at Work, a five-year, $350 million investment to support community colleges and other pathways to great careers and economic mobility.  

"It is a privilege to be chosen with my colleague President Royal. We are both looking forward to the opportunities this fellowship will afford us," said President Pedraja, adding, "QCC is a large inner city community college with a diverse student population. It is vitally important that our students know we are with them every step of the way on their journey for a better future. I thank the Aspen Institute for this fellowship, which will assist us in our continuing quest to effect positive change for our students and our community. It is only by working together that we can all grow and prosper."    

Nearly 80 percent of community college presidents nationwide plan to retire in the next decade. Through this fellowship and its other leadership programs, Aspen is committed to helping to replace those exiting the presidency with an exceptionally capable and highly diverse talent pool. According to the American Council on Education, only 36 percent of community college presidents are female, and 20 percent are people of color.

The incoming class of Aspen fellows is 48 percent female, and 40 percent persons of color. Their institutions span 15 states and vary widely, from a rural college with fewer than 2,000 students to a statewide system that educates more than 150,000. The program for new presidents is an addition to the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, which has been serving aspiring presidents since 2016. Of the nearly 160 fellows who have taken part in the Rising Presidents Fellowship, 41 are now community college presidents, serving more than 500,000 students. 

PHOTO by DON TREEGER: Christina Royal