Rural Community Colleges with Lisa Larson, Chad Brown, Angel Reyna, and Jay Falkner (Part I, Ascendium Education Group)


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In Part I of this eight-part series on rural higher education and workforce development, produced in collaboration with and underwritten by Ascendium Education Group, Michelle chats with four rural community college presidents: Lisa Larson, from Eastern Maine Community College; Chad Brown,

from Zane State College; Angel Reyna, from Madera Community College; and Jay Falkner, from Carl Albert State College. Intentional integrative planning among highs schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges, meaningful partnerships, effective dual enrollment programs, and more proactive engagement with other stakeholders are all keys for community colleges success, says Reyna. Community colleges are still learning what it means to be a community college, says Brown, and one of the goals for community colleges should be changing the mindset of local communities, not just in terms of recruiting students, but also to impact their parents, especially students from minority communities. Larson asserts that it’s never too early to figure out what students’ aspirations are, so summer programs on campus, concurrent educations initiatives and guided pathways are vitally important for getting students connected with employers. Falkner says the community colleges should take a more holistic approach in education, especially as we approach a post-COVID era, including building valuable academic partnerships that include academic preparedness, exam preparation, and professional development for K-12 teachers. All four community college presidents agreed on once critical point: Community colleges play an integral role in rural regional economic success. This episode and the entire series on rural higher education and workforce development is sponsored by Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping learners from low-income backgrounds reach their educational and career goals.  For more information, visit

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