WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Washington think-tank The Aspen Institute honored Odessa College Tuesday with the Rising Star Award.
“We’re honored to be here, first of all, and we’re thankful for the process," said Odessa College President, Dr. Gregory Williams.
Every two years, Aspen recognizes community colleges around the country for their achievements in student learning, degree completion, job placement for graduates, and access for minority and low-income students.
The judges say the college showed “rapid and dramatic improvement.” The annual graduation and transfer rates rose from 15% to 32% in just five years, the course withdrawal rate is less than 2%, and five years after graduating, Odessa grads earned more than double that of other workers in the region.
“It’s a spirit of improvement, it’s a spirit of wanting to be better today than we were yesterday and striving for tomorrow," explained Williams.
Joshua Wyner, the executive director of the College Excellence Program says the college’s growth is “unheard of.”
“Odessa is a rising star because they’re improving faster than just about any college we’ve ever seen," he said.
With the prize comes $100,000. Williams says the money will go into an innovation fund, "so that we can continue to improve and continue to get better. Continue to motivate our faculty, staff, and community to think of additional ways to make our college and community better.”
Odessa’s Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Dr. Donald Wood, hopes other community colleges can learn from his.
“You don’t have to change how you teach the students. What you do is support them in ways they’ve never experienced before," said Wood.
Odessa College is still eligible for the grand prize, which comes with a $600,000 award. They expect to be back at the awards ceremony two years from now.