WWCC wins Aspen Prize

The college tied with another in California as the nation’s top community college, taking home a $400,000 prize.

Photo by Don Fleming


About the program:

The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to identify and replicate campus-wide practices that significantly improve college student outcomes.

The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

Walla Walla Community College will share the top prize of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence with Santa Barbara City College in California.

The award was announced by the Aspen Institute this morning during an awards ceremony held at The Newseum in Washington, D.C.

The ceremony concluded months of data-gathering and campus visits that narrowed down a pool of more than 1,000 community colleges in the nation to the top 10.

Walla Walla will share a $800,000 prize with Santa Barbara, each receiving $400,000.

Walla Walla was one of three finalists of distinction for the inaugural Aspen Prize in 2011.

Walla Walla Community College stood out for its record of work force training, and preparing students with skills necessary for the future’s workforce demands. Its enology and viticulture, water management and wind technology programs were named specifically as innovative in training students for careers currently in high demand.

In accepting the award, WWCC president Steven VanAusdle said more innovation is needed in community colleges across the country to keep up with demand.

“We are not winning the talent race in the global contest,” VanAusdle said from Washington, D.C.. “We have a huge skills gap in our country that is stifling the productivity of our nation. We’ve all got a lot of work to do.”

VanAusdle said his college transformed programming in the 1990s after food manufacturing closures and a decline in logging, by monitoring other trends. Its nursing program was doubled, a partnership was launched with John Deere, and a wine-making program was established.

“I am an encouraged president because I know what goes on at a lot of community colleges,” he said. “There’s tremendous energy, there’s tremendous innovation and entrepreneurship to accomplish what we need to do.”

VanAusdle thanks the college’s students, staff, faculty and community partners who help maintain a level of excellence.

“I also see it as a great tribute to the students, faculty and staff of Walla Walla Community College,” VanAusdle said. “We couldn’t have done it without all the partners in the communities we serve.”

The Aspen Prize was launched in 2011 to recognize the most outstanding community colleges in the country.

The top colleges were selected from a pool of more than 1,000 for achievements in student learning, degree and certificate completion, students securing competitive-wage jobs after college, and minority and low-income student success.

Part of the prize is identifying and modeling best practices from top colleges for replication throughout the nation.


paulgwine 2 years, 3 months ago

Congratulations! This is terrific news.


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