FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) received the prestigious Government Partner of the Year award last week at the 2021 Derby Diversity Business Summit in Louisville.
The honor was part of the annual Isaac Murphy Legacy Awards, which recognize individuals and organizations that advance diversity and have a positive impact on Kentucky’s workforce, communities and quality of life.
CPE won the award thanks to its transformative work in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), which has helped propel underrepresented minority (URM) students to new levels of academic success in recent years.
“The past year has reminded us that higher education matters most in times of crisis,” CPE President Aaron Thompson said. “It’s central to our civic and economic health, and I’m proud to say we are closing gaps in higher education faster than any other state. I want to commend our team at CPE for their commitment to this effort and thank the Derby Diversity Business Summit and its partners for this tremendous award.”
In 2016, CPE launched a statewide DEI policy that called on campuses to create individualized diversity plans and demonstrate gains in key areas, including diverse enrollment, student success and campus inclusivity. The most recent evaluation shows that nearly all of Kentucky’s public colleges and universities have met or exceeded their campus metrics. CPE’s five-year strategy agenda has also spurred on substantial progress in eliminating disparities in success rates of URM students.
At four-year, public universities, the number of URM students graduating with a bachelor’s degree has climbed more than 27% since the 2015-16 academic year – nearly three times the rate for all students combined. Enrollment among URM students has also grown 13% at universities since 2015-16, and the six-year graduation rate for URM students reached 44% in 2019-20, up more than 5 percentage points compared to five years earlier.
Similar results have emerged at the community college level. At the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, degrees and credentials awarded to URM students have soared 40% since 2015-16. URM enrollment is up more than 6% for the period and the three-year graduation rate among URM students has increased by 6.2 percentage points compared to five years ago.
CPE created a DEI Unit in 2019 to oversee, expand and streamline its efforts. The unit serves as a resource hub for campuses and coordinates the Academic Leadership Development Institute, which provides professional development for URM faculty and staff. In addition, the unit has launched the Higher EDquity campaign, an online webinar series focused on DEI issues, and developed a cultural competency certification program for faculty, staff and students.
“We’re raising standards in every respect and creating a national model for change,” said Travis Powell, CPE’s vice president and general counsel, who oversees the DEI Unit. “Our progress over just the last few years will benefit Kentucky for generations to come. I want to thank our team for their work along with the many dedicated leaders on campuses who are striving every day to advance these goals.”
The Derby Diversity Business Summit announces the Isaac Murphy Awards each year in partnership with the Project to Preserve African American Turf History and the Legacy Equine Academy.
According to the Kentucky Horse Park, many consider Murphy, the son of a former slave, the greatest American jockey of all time. Among his many achievements, he was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derby crowns and the first inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
A video featuring President Thompson’s remarks on the occasion is available athttps://youtu.be/3esOXJfvdGA.