BOULDER, Colo. – Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, vice president for enrollment administration and student success, has won the Bernice Joseph Leadership Award for creating the “Stellar Student Experience” initiative at the Community College of Denver.
Dr. McKnight-Tutein began the initiative in 2021 to create a sense of belonging for every incoming student at the Community College of Denver from new student orientation through graduation. The Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders presented the award to Dr. McKnight-Tutein at its annual meeting earlier this month.
“The Bernice Joseph Leadership Award honors efforts to make high quality higher education accessible to all,” said Carli Schiffner, 2022 vice chair of the Alliance executive committee and deputy executive director of education, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “The work that Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein has done at the Community College of Denver is an exemplary, student-centered approach. We are pleased to honor her work and promote it to other academic leaders in the West.”
The Bernice Joseph Leadership Award was jointly developed by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s (WICHE) two leadership groups – the Western Academic Leadership Forum and the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders – as part of its Academic Leaders Toolkit. The toolkit is a peer-reviewed repository of programs and practices that have been successfully deployed in postsecondary institutions around the West.
“Dr. McKnight-Tutein’s Stellar Student Experience has allowed us to extend the number of resources available to nontraditional students, achieve a higher retention rate, and increase student engagement,” said Angelica Rueda, interim dean for enrollment administration and student success at the Community College of Denver. “I have seen firsthand the impact she has had on both staff and students, and we are so grateful to have her.”
Through the Stellar Student Experience, the Community College of Denver is addressing barriers to equity and inclusion by offering multiple learning options, virtual appointments and workshops; launched an online onboarding experience; created a partnership with the Mexican Consulate to support the college’s Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) status; engaged families and students through high school to college transition visits, summer social events, and bilingual parent sessions; and led an effort to explain the financial aid process with a student-friendly animated video.
The namesake for the award, Bernice Joseph, was vice chancellor of rural, community, and Native education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks when she became a founding member of WICHE’s Alliance group in 2010. Joseph, who passed away in 2014, was a visionary leader with an infectious energy for making high-quality education accessible to all, and this award honors her legacy by recognizing others who make meaningful contributions to accessible, high-quality higher education.
Since 1953, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education has been strengthening higher education, workforce development, and behavioral health throughout the region. From promoting high-quality, affordable postsecondary education to helping states get the most from their technology investments and addressing behavioral health challenges, WICHE improves lives across the West through innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy. WICHE members include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States.