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Press Release

Friday, May 10, 2013

Susan Kessler

St. Johns River State College President, Trustees Win National Collegiate Award

President Joe Pickens, District Board of Trustees honored as National Exemplary CEO/Board for progressive role in college operations

SJR State President Joe Pickens, J.D., and the District Board of Trustees were recently selected as the overall winner of a national awards program designed to recognize innovation and progressive practices among two-year colleges.

The American Association of Community Colleges announced SJR State as the winner in the category of Exemplary CEO/Board during the 93rd Annual AACC Convention held in San Francisco. The College was selected as one of the five finalists in February based on the Board's dynamic role in the College's operations and on the President's leadership. Pickens was applauded for presenting effective, relevant and regular professional development opportunities for Board members as well as for his advocacy for the Florida College System.

Board Chairman John Nelson said that after an impressive and progressive four years at the helm, President Pickens has spearheaded incredible growth for SJR State, including transitioning the College into a baccalaureate degree-granting institution. Nelson also praised Pickens for fostering the Trustees' role both individually and as a collective Board. Substantive training included workshops for new board members as well as strategic planning and budget workshops.

"President Pickens has engaged us throughout his tenure, ensuring that we are positioned to participate in impacting students and their success," Nelson said. "It is an honor to serve alongside a President and fellow Board members who take unwavering steps to ensure the institution is doing the best job possible."

Additionally, Pickens introduced a training program for the Board that included a workshop featuring Dr. Belle Wheelan, the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Wheelan trained the Board on their role in college governance. Trustees from neighboring colleges attended the workshop as well. The presentation was also recorded and distributed to the other 27 Florida colleges.

Pickens said the College and Trustees work together very well in ensuring effective governance for not only their own district, but for the Florida College System as a whole.

"The Board's endorsement of my role as the Council of Presidents Chair, as well as additional leadership roles, is a testament of their commitment to the advancement of community colleges at the local, state and national levels," Pickens said. "It is most gratifying to be honored with this recognition as we continue working together on our many initiatives and together on moving the College forward, ensuring the success of our students and the communities we serve."

In addition to serving as Chair of the Florida College System Council of Presidents, Pickens' service includes PARCC Advisory Committee on College Readiness Governing Board member and Florida delegate, Southern Regional Education Board Vice-Chair, and Chair of the Florida Council of Presidents Policy and Advocacy Committee.

Pickens also offered his congratulations to Miami-Dade College for receiving the award for exemplary commitment to diversity. Overall, the Florida College System made an impressive showing in the national competition with Seminole State College and Indian River State College announced as finalists in additional categories.

"I could not be more proud of the Florida College System's recent recognitions and all of our efforts to position Florida's colleges as leaders in postsecondary education," Pickens said.

Finalists for the AACC Awards of Excellence were chosen by a specially-appointed committee of the AACC Board of Directors based on specific and measurable criteria.

According to a press release from AACC, over an 18-month period, the 21st-Century Commission provided a bold and forward-thinking blueprint for the community college of the future. Marie Gnage, chair of the AACC Board of Directors said, "With these new awards, AACC intends to elevate community colleges that are in the vanguard of progressive practices. The awardees will receive national visibility, but the spotlight on their exemplary practices will ultimately benefit all community colleges."