Editor’s note: Nominations are now open for the 2022-23 cohort of the Complete Tennessee Leadership Institute. 

The capacity to learn is a gift;
The ability to learn is a skill;
The willingness to learn is a choice.  
Brian Herbert, American author

Accepting the invitation to join the Complete Tennessee Leadership Institute was a simple choice for me both personally and professionally. I have embraced a commitment to continuous learning throughout my career, and the institute’s vision of postsecondary success for all students clearly spoke to my philosophy of success and to the mission I uphold at Columbia State Community College.

Through engaging with CTLI alumni, I sensed that each participant gained enormous insight into areas outside of their day-to-day responsibilities and were motivated to maintain the connections that deepened with each convening. As a postsecondary practitioner, I, too, wanted the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and collaborate with a broad range of individuals who shared my passion for student success.

The first CTLI convening did not disappoint. From elected officials to economic developers to educators from all levels, every participant engaged in the discussion and shared their experiences while reconciling their roles in boosting higher education completion. The relationships formed that day provided much-needed motivation. I came away determined to restore connections with community partners that had been interrupted by the pandemic and to determine how my institution could best support students through completion at all levels.  

The second convening — a joint meeting with members of ElevateNC — provided insight into the student experience and the challenges students face — not only while enrolled in postsecondary education but during the transition to higher ed as well. We examined issues relating to the transition period from high school to college, how to support transfer students, and how to remove barriers to postsecondary completion. Learning of best practices and opportunities from the ElevateNC cohort provided an additional lens for CTLI participants.

At convening three, we took a closer look at supporting student completion, expanding on the challenges to student success identified during meeting two and examining the data behind those challenges. Members shared how equity, food and housing insecurities, and student preparation challenges were being addressed at various institutions, especially following the impact of COVID-19. The recognition that all regions and communities share similar concerns in these areas was also timely given the impact that noncompletion and a lack of adequate training and qualified individuals can have on business and industry.

I strongly believe that education continues to be the common denominator that impacts quality of life in Tennessee. CTLI has broadened my scope of the challenges postsecondary students face and the resources available to them. CTLI has also affirmed my belief that college completion and student success are vital to sustain our state’s economic growth.

My choice to accept the CTLI invitation was an easy one, and I look forward to the additional opportunities to learn and be motivated through the relationships formed and resources accessed through CTLI. Do you know someone who could contribute to and would benefit from participating in CTLI? Nominate them today.

Ruth Ann Holt is vice president of student affairs at Columbia State Community College and a member of the 2021-22 cohort of CTLI.

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