Cloud County CC Moving Forward in Aspen Award Process

Cloud County Community College has been selected to advance to the next round in the competition process for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

In November, Cloud County was named as one of the 150 institutions eligible to submit an application to compete for the prize. Colleges selected for this honor stand out among more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide with outstanding achievement in five critical areas: Teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, and equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

In collaboration with an expert Data/Metrics Advisory Panel and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Aspen uses a model that relies on nationally available data on institutional performance, improvement, and equity in student retention and completion to identify approximately 150 community colleges that are invited to apply for the Aspen Prize.

As one of the top tier applicants, the college was notified this week that it will be moving forward to the interview process. The interview, with college leaders and the Aspen selection committee, has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 15.

β€œThe Aspen Institute does not publicize the number of institutions invited to participate in the interviews, but we were told that we should be very proud of this accomplishment as it is very competitive to even reach this step,” said Amber Knoettgen, Cloud County President.

β€œThis recognition is a direct result of the hard work of the faculty and staff and their commitment to our students,” Knoettgen said. β€œIt is an honor to be recognized as one of the nation’s top institutions.”

Following the interview phase, the next steps in the process include:

  • Selection of the top ten finalists by a panel of 15 experts in community colleges, higher education, and workforce training, to be announced in summer 2022.
  • Fall 2022 site visits to each of the ten finalists, during which the Aspen Institute and partners will collect additional information, including employment and earnings data and insights about promising practices.
  • A distinguished jury will meet and make award decisions in the first quarter of early 2023.
  • Announcement of the Aspen Prize in late spring 2023.
Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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