COTC staff graduate Ohio Leadership Academy for Student Success


Graduates of the Ohio Leadership Academy for Student Success gather.

Two leaders at Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) have graduated as fellows of the newest class of the Ohio Leadership Academy for Student Success. Graduating as fellows are John Davenport, PhD, dean of students, and Kendrah Cunningham, PhD, nursing program administrator.

The academy, sponsored by the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC), annually gathers midlevel faculty and staff for a year of training, exchanging ideas and immersion in how to promote student success.

OACC created the academy in 2019 to reverse management turnover by strengthening internal advancement pipelines within the state’s 23 community colleges. Michigan, New York and Texas are among the states replicating Ohio’s initiative.

The academy is an outreach of work done by OACC’s Success Center for Community Colleges. Created in 2012, the center focuses on helping Ohio’s two-year colleges marshal resources to better direct students’ education by aligning their academic choices with the careers they hope to undertake.

The presidents of each of Ohio’s community colleges nominate two employees to participate in the academy. Over the next year, the participants meet in person six times and work on group projects between sessions. The forums, with a special focus on Ohio education models, includes aspects of a presidential leadership curriculum provided by the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute, one of the program’s backers.

The academy was funded by several national organizations, ensuring that colleges incurred minimal expenses to participate.

“The Ohio Leadership Academy for Student Success is a superlative training and development opportunity for current and prospective leaders. Exemplary leadership has never been more critical to higher education, given the myriad challenges our institutions now face, from volatile enrollment and increasing costs to heightened and varied forms of accountability. This academy allows our leadership team members to comprehend the complexities of the higher education landscape with a central focus on student success as the guiding principle. It is an enriching experience for each participant,” stated COTC President John Berry, PhD.

The leadership academy brings together educators with different higher education roles to allow a deeper understanding of how parts of each school mesh to create student success models, said Laura Rittner, executive director of OACC’s Success Center for Ohio Community Colleges.

“The new fellows have learned how to implement transformational changes in their colleges that allow the best chances for students to both succeed and excel in their academic pursuits,” Rittner said. “States committed to improving student success must support college leaders at all levels of higher education institutions. The Ohio Leadership Academy is an example of a program that nurtures and advances these leaders in the name of helping students reach their potential.”

Supporting and mentoring talented higher education administrators is crucial at a time when their institutions bear an ever-increasing responsibility for graduating workforce-ready employees in fields such as healthcare and nursing, teaching, business, and information technology. This demand is also growing as Ohio sees a flood of jobs in the electric vehicle battery, semiconductor, solar panel and cloud storage sectors.

OACC represents the presidents and trustees of the state’s 23 public two-year institutions that work to advance community colleges through policy advocacy and professional development.

COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC has four campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.