On behalf of Montgomery County Community College and its Board of Trustees, President Dr. Victoria Bastecki-Perez extends heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Karen Stout on her appointment by President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“The entire Montco Family and I congratulate Dr. Stout on this prestigious appointment,” said Dr. Bastecki-Perez. “As we have seen here at MCCC, her lifelong work promoting community colleges and student success combined with her passion for the humanities and its profound impact on the economy’s prosperity make her an excellent candidate for this role. We are pleased for her and wish her much continued success.”
Dr. Stout was nominated by President Biden in November 2021 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in May 2022, according to the NEH release. She was sworn in on June 15. The 26-member council meets three times a year to review grant applications and to advise the NEH chair. Members serve staggered six-year terms.
Dr. Stout, the current President and CEO of Achieving the Dream, Inc. and President Emerita of MCCC, is a steadfast proponent of the humanities in higher education, and it was an integral part of her student success initiatives during her 14-year tenure at the College spanning from 2001 to 2015. In addition to incorporating the arts on MCCC’s campuses and in its academic programs, Dr. Stout engaged the greater community by taking the lead as the chair of Creative Montco, a civic initiative developed to shape the cultural and economic future of Montgomery County’s communities.
“Dr. Stout knows that the arts is a powerful catalyst that can help build communities and civic engagement and strengthen the economy,” said Margot Clark, who serves on MCCC’s Board of Trustees as the assistant secretary and worked with Dr. Stout when she was president. “The College continues to foster the creative arts both through its academic and community programming.”
MCCC’s Lively Arts Series, lecture series and Fine Arts Galleries host more than 12,000 patrons annually. Currently, MCCC’s theater is undergoing a major renovation to expand and enhance its seating and performance areas and incorporate additional gallery space. The renewed theater is scheduled to open in early 2023. MCCC’s campuses also provide opportunities for art, theatre, dance and music students to share their talents with the community using the galleries and theater, as well as the Black Box Theatre at the Blue Bell Campus and the South Hall Community Room at the Pottstown Campus.
“Dr. Stout is an innovative, visionary champion for student success as we saw firsthand when she was president here at Montco and now on a much larger scale with Achieving the Dream,” said Marcel L. Groen, Esq., who has served on MCCC’s Board of Trustees since 2009 and is currently the treasurer. “Because of her passion and dedication, the College’s Board of Trustees granted her President Emerita status in 2015 and the College named the student success center at the Blue Bell Campus, The Karen A. Stout Student Success Center.”
Under Dr. Stout’s leadership, the College redesigned the core curriculum with 13 key competencies in the arts and humanities to provide students with a well-rounded educational foundation. The core competencies focus on helping students develop strong skills in communication, problem-solving and learning that enable them to be successful participants in the global community, as well as with their careers or in continuing their education.
“At MCCC, we take a holistic approach in the intentional design of the educational experience to enable students to gain the skills needed to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s job markets, including critical thinking, analytical skills and effective communication, all of which are part of core curriculum,” said Dr. Catherine Carsley, MCCC English Professor. “The curriculum reform done under Dr. Stout helps students become lifelong learners and engaged citizens.”
In addition to the core curriculum redesign, MCCC started an Honors Program and a Study Abroad Program during Dr. Stout’s leadership. The Honors Program is open to highly motivated and academically talented students in associate degree transfer programs. The program provides intellectual enrichment, experiential learning and leadership through community service. Similarly, the Study Abroad Program provided immersive opportunities for students to engage in another culture for in-depth learning.
During Dr. Stout’s tenure, the College received a $150,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and implement an Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS) approach. IPAS provided technology support for redesigning the processes for student enrollment and academic advising to enhance the way the College engages students in educational planning, counseling, coaching and targeted intervention.
The College subsequently received a $100,000 Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLC) grant funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by EDUCAUSE for a Business Models Incubator project. With this grant, MCCC developed a MOOC-like (massive, open, online course) to help students learn financial, civic and digital literacies. By learning these skills, students are able to overcome barriers that prevent them from completing their educational goals.
During 2013-2014 while Dr. Stout was MCCC’s President, the College formed a steering committee of more than 120 faculty, administrators, students and staff to conduct an intensive self-study in preparation for the College’s reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). On June 25, 2015, MSCHE reaffirmed MCCC’s accreditation with multiple commendations. MCCC met all 14 Characteristics of Excellence needed for the accreditation and complied with all relevant Federal regulations. This finding represents the best possible result of the self-study process, and MCCC was not required to follow up with any additional reports to the Commission. Only 20 percent of institutions accredited by MSCHE secure an action with no follow-up required.
Throughout the 14 years Dr. Stout was president, MCCC revitalized facilities, redesigned curricula, and streamlined student support services to enhance the educational experience and improve student access, retention, and completion. Her work created a solid foundation upon which MCCC continues to evolve and prosper under the vision and leadership of its sixth President Dr. Bastecki-Perez as the College continues to inspire, lead and transform lives, destinies, and future generations.