San Jac named national Top 5 community college by Aspen Institute

May 24, 2021Andrea Vasquez
Aspen 2021

The Aspen Institute has once again named San Jacinto College a national Top 5 institution as a Finalist with Distinction among more than 1,100 community colleges across the U.S. on May 18 at its national Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence virtual award ceremony.

"Receiving this honor clearly says that we put students first," said Dr. Laurel Williamson, San Jacinto College deputy chancellor and president. "Students have many options when making decisions about college. Whether they are new high school graduates, returning students, or students who want to advance in or change their careers, the choices in the Houston area are vast and varied. We are a college that cares. We prioritize student success by providing access and support that lead to equity for all students."

The $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, awarded every two years, is the nation's signature recognition for America's community colleges. The Aspen Prize honors institutions with outstanding achievement in four areas:

  1. Teaching and learning
  2. Certificate and degree completion
  3. Workforce success
  4. Equitable outcomes for students of color and low-income students
Aspen 2021

By focusing on student success and lifting up models that work, the Aspen Prize aims to celebrate excellence, advance a focus on equitable student success, and stimulate replication of effective culture and practice.

Jose DejesusGil, San Jacinto College director of outreach and recruitment, adds that given the last year with the College undergoing altered operations and facilitating all instruction and student services online due to COVID-19, much of the success also goes to College administrators, staff, and faculty for going beyond the extra mile to ensure that students would have the same resources available even in a virtual environment.

"San Jacinto College has long been a leader in excellence, and this recognition just confirms that commitment," said DejesusGil. "The work our staff, faculty, and administrators put forth in a normal year is phenomenal, but even more so given the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. From our maintenance teams who installed hand sanitizers and kept facilities ready for students and staff to return, to our student services staff who guided students through virtual meetings and engagement opportunities, to our faculty who recreated their lessons in a virtual format — every employee at San Jacinto College has remained committed to our students' success."

Last year, the Aspen Institute and the Siemens Foundation named San Jacinto College one of its Excellence and Equity in Community College STEM Award recipients, honoring the College's associate degree nursing and process technology programs — the only college to be nationally recognized for two programs. The award recognizes community college programs that provide outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing, energy, health care, and information technology. Additionally, the eight programs from the seven community college award recipients were also recognized for their intentional outreach and support of diverse populations that typically are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math careers. Each winning program received $50,000, with half of the funds allocated for program development and the other half allocated as scholarships for outstanding students, known as Siemens Technical Scholars.

"When community, business, and industry leaders want to make significant changes for the well-being of citizens and workers, they should look for a partner who understands how to effect and manage change. San Jacinto College is that partner," said Williamson. "We are leaders in workforce and economic development, and we are leaders in transfer pathways. Working with university partners, we ensure that our students are prepared for that next step in completion of bachelor's degrees. We are proud to serve as the educational partner for many of our local community and business organizations. This national Aspen recognition will create additional opportunities for us to be a partner of choice for national and international industries who are looking for an institution that can provide innovative training for the evolving workforce demands."

The Aspen Institute first recognized San Jacinto College in 2017 as a national Top 5 community college and a Rising Star award recipient. In 2019 the College was named as a Top 10 finalist for the Aspen Prize.


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