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Skagit Valley College Vice President selected as a 2019-2020 Aspen Presidential Fellow

Dr. Kenneth Lawson, Skagit Valley College Vice President for Instruction, is among 40 exceptional community college leaders selected by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program for the 2019-20 class of the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence. This national leadership program prepares the next generation of community college presidents to transform institutions to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success. Dr. Lawson was selected through a rigorous process that considered his abilities to take strategic risks, lead strong teams and cultivate partnerships, and focus on results-oriented improvements in student success and access.

“We are very proud of Dr. Lawson’s selection for the 2019-20 Aspen Presidential Fellowship,” said Dr. Tom Keegan, President of Skagit Valley College. “He is deeply committed to equity and inclusiveness for faculty and students and he has taken strong leadership roles throughout his career that are preparing him to be an exceptional community college president.”

Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, the Aspen Presidential Fellows will work with mentors – current and former community college presidents – who have achieved exceptional outcomes for students throughout their careers. They will also learn from national experts about ways to harness data to assess student success outcomes, strategies for internal change leadership, and how to create strong external partnerships with K-12 schools, four-year colleges, and employers.

The Aspen Presidential Fellowship responds to a specific and growing need for a new generation of leaders who are equipped to meet the challenges of the future. Nationally, nearly 80 percent of community college presidents plan to retire in the next decade. The pathway to replace them has traditionally excluded women and people of color. The incoming class of Aspen Presidential Fellows is 65 percent female and non-binary, 43 percent are people of color, and their institutions vary widely in size and location.

“Evidence shows that substantial improvements in student success are achieved only when presidents have the commitment and skill needed to lead change within their institutions and through partnerships in the community,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “These fellows have been chosen because they embody that commitment and, we believe, will build their skills even further to become transformational presidents.”

Kenneth Lawson has over 20 years of experience working in community colleges in Washington State. He began his career in community colleges as an adjunct faculty in basic education. From that experience, he gained an appreciation for the power of community colleges to make a transformative difference in students’ aspiration, success, and well-being. Dr. Lawson’s career has focused on ensuring equitable access, achievement, and outcomes for all students, and he is deeply committed to the role higher education plays as an agent of positive social change. He served as the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Seattle Central Community College and as Dean and Professor of Political Science at Shoreline Community College before coming to Skagit Valley College in 2013 to serve as Vice President for Instruction. In this role, Dr. Lawson works with faculty and staff to create equitable learning environments, programs responsive to local economic and social needs, and educational pathways to serve underrepresented populations. He has helped lead SVC’s strategy to improve student learning and success through the implementation of a comprehensive guided pathways approach, placing equity at the center of the effort.

For a listing of the 2019-20 class of Aspen Presidential Fellows, visit

The Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence is supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, College Futures Foundation, Greater Texas Foundation, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices and leadership strategies that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit


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