Apr 24, 2014

Columbia State Receives National Recognition for Advancing Diversity

Photo Caption: Dr. Jane Karas, AACC chair and president of Flathead Valley Community College, Montana, and Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the AACC, present the finalist award for the 2014 AACC Award of Excellence in Advancing Diversity to Dr. Janet F. Smith, president of Columbia State Community College.

(COLUMBIA, Tenn. - April 24, 2014) - - -
Columbia State Community College was recognized for advancing diversity by the American Association of Community Colleges at its national convention in Washington DC. The college was selected as one of four colleges throughout the nation as a finalist for the 2014 AACC Awards of Excellence in Advancing Diversity.

"This prestigious honor puts your college in the vanguard of community colleges nationwide, distinguishing it as a model of progressive practice and innovation," said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the AACC.

Columbia State has always had a commitment to access and diversity, but in recent years the college has sought to integrate diversity into the programs and events of the colleges. That expanded awareness is embedded in programs and events that are organized by faculty and staff members of the Lyceum Committee, the academic divisions, the Office of Access and Diversity, the international studies department, student services, and clubs and organizations.

"This award speaks to the hard work and dedication of our faculty and staff who are committed to advancing diversity at Columbia State as a mirror of our population, our state, our nation, and our world," said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president. "They consistently offer diverse and educational programs, lectures and other events that are essential to our graduates who will live in a very diverse and ever-changing world."

Among the events are a variety of lecture series that includes topics on current events, women's history, STEM subjects and American history; musical performances that include international artists; and art exhibits that feature an assortment of local artists who work with a mixture of different media.

Cultural and heritage awareness months include a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month events. Columbia State also provides an international studies program for students interested in studying abroad, traveling to places such as Spain, China, Ireland, Peru, Kenya, and a number of other countries.

In addition, Columbia State has received a number of grants that focus on underrepresented faculty, staff and students, such as the College and Community Mentoring Initiative that is designed to foster mentoring relationships and serve as a support system for African-American students. Other grants include the Career Services Career Clusters Pilot Grant, the Learning Support Boot Camp, and the "Math for Life" Summer Math Academy Grant.

Columbia State also hosts and sponsors the Student Leadership Institute for high school students in the college's nine-county service area, which provides a diverse group of students with an opportunity that focuses on leadership skills, community skills, personal development, financial planning, career, and education options.

Diversity at Columbia State can also be found in campus-wide organizations. The Inter-Cultural Organization provides students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn about historical and social issues through culture, diversity and internationalism, while the Gay-Straight Alliance offers support and a safe place for any student who wants to talk and meet new people.

Since its inception in 2010, the President's Leadership Society has provided a free leadership training program that focuses on helping students develop and apply their unique leadership skills. As part of the program, students attend retreats, enjoy exposure to the arts, participate in workshops and campus life, develop civic understanding, and give back to the community through service.

As part of its continuing commitment to diversity, Columbia State has developed a plan that provides a concise picture of its diversity initiatives. Columbia State strives to go beyond the minimal standard and become an example of the advantages of a diverse population of students and employees by pledging to value and respect the uniqueness and differences of everyone.

"Diversity at Columbia State is not a program," Smith said. "It is who we are as a higher education institution, and it is about understanding and respecting our differences which is integral to student success."

The AACC created the Awards of Excellence program to recognize innovation and leadership among community colleges across the country that make a difference in the lives of students and members of their communities. Colleges are nominated in six categories, including advancing diversity, emerging leadership, student success, faculty innovation, outstanding college/corporate partnership and exemplary CEO/board.

Other finalists for the award included Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Kentucky, Highline Community College in Washington (overall winner), and Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois.

Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee's first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, one of the largest higher education systems in the nation. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.

Tennessee's Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. We offer associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit us online at tncommunitycolleges.org.

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