Commonwealth of Kentucky Selected as the State for the Governing Board Equity in Student Success Project

August 19, 2021 (Brevard, NC)

 The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (Gardner Institute) and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) are pleased to announce that the Commonwealth of Kentucky was selected to participate in the Governing Board Equity in Student Success Project over the next three years. Supported with a $2 million grant from Ascendium Education Group, the first-of-its kind effort will help institutional governing boards and their institutions work together in innovative ways that help advance equitable student success outcomes for students from low-income backgrounds, including those from rural communities.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky was selected following a rigorous review of evidence and an extensive interview process conducted by the Gardner Institute and AGB. The state exceeded all the project’s selection criteria, including strong support from state leadership for the project’s equitable attainment goals.

“Equity and student success are priorities from the top down and the ground up at our campuses across Kentucky,” said Aaron Thompson, president of Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education. “We are excited to partner with the Gardner Institute and AGB as the first state in the nation to provide an academy for trustees to drive progress and excellence for equitable student success.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to launch this innovative project,” stated Andrew (Drew) Koch, President and Chief Operating & Innovation Officer at the Gardner Institute. “The effort is the first of its kind to harness, in a statewide and cross-sector manner, the power that comes when you intentionally get institution leaders and governing boards working together on equitable attainment outcomes over an extended period.”

“Kentucky is the perfect state to launch this kind of initiative,” added John N. Gardner, Board Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Gardner Institute. “The Commonwealth and its institutions have a long history of respectively and collectively working to improve student success in thoughtful and state-of-the-art ways.  The leadership of CPE and Kentucky’s institutions rightfully see the opportunity to add to their student success track record by getting governing boards and their appropriate institution leaders, including faculty leaders, to work together in even more intentional and focused manners to address equitable student success outcomes.”

“Board oversight of student success, for all students, is of vital importance,” added Henry Stover, AGB President and Chief Executive Officer. “AGB is honored to work with the Gardner Institute and higher education governing boards in Kentucky. We are committed to supporting boards in advancing equitable student experiences and outcomes.”

 “Ascendium is focused on identifying and addressing institutional and system policy and practice barriers to learner success,” said Sue Cui, a senior program officer for Ascendium’s Education Philanthropy division. “We’re proud to support a statewide effort that will build a knowledge base and promising models for aligning leadership to drive equitable student outcomes.”

 The Governing Board Equity in Student Success project will kick off in Kentucky at the annual governing board professional development conference that will occur virtually on September 14-, 2021. During fall 2021, institutions will be recruited for and oriented into a three-year Governing Board Equity in Student Success Academy (the Academy). All postsecondary institutions in the Commonwealth of Kentucky are eligible to participate in the Academy. In addition, up to seven of the institutions participating in the Academy will be selected to participate in deeper retention redesign efforts with support from the Gardner Institute and AGB. More on the progress of this work will be shared in fall 2021/winter 2022.

 About the Gardner Institute 

 The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to partnering with colleges, universities, philanthropic organizations, educators, and other entities to increase institutional responsibility for improving outcomes associated with teaching, learning, retention, and completion. Through its efforts the Institute strives to advance higher education’s larger goal of achieving equity and social justice. Specific focus is given to helping institutions develop and implement strategic action plans for first-year, second-year and/or transfer student success; improving teaching, learning and success in gateway courses; and conducting professional development focused on advancing educational excellence. For more information, visit

 About AGB

 The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) is the premier membership organization that strengthens higher education governing boards and the strategic roles they serve within their organizations. Through our vast library of resources, educational events, and consulting services, and with nearly 100 years of experience, we empower 40,000 AGB members from more than 2,000 institutions and foundations to navigate complex issues, implement leading practices, streamline operations, and govern with confidence. AGB is the trusted resource for board members, chief executives, and key administrators on higher education governance and leadership.

 About the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

The Council on Postsecondary Education is leading transformation in our workforce, economy and quality of life by advancing progress in educational attainment across Kentucky. As the state’s higher education coordinating agency, we champion high-quality, inclusive and affordable postsecondary opportunities that prepare students for civic engagement and sustainable careers. That’s why we are undertaking the 60×30 goal, an ambitious effort to raise the percentage of working-age Kentuckians with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 60% by the year 2030. At CPE, we believe that higher education matters – for everyone.

About Ascendium Education Group

 Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates, and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium’s work identifies, validates, and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit

 For more information contact Katie Locke, Director of Marketing and Communications, Gardner Institute,

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