Chamber Newsroom: News From Our Members

SJR State named finalist in national college awards

Published Wednesday, February 13, 2013

St. Johns River State College has been named one of five finalists in a new national awards program designed to recognize innovation and progressive practices among two-year colleges. A press release from the American Association of Community Colleges announced SJR State as a contender in the category of Exemplary CEO/Board.
SJR State President Joe Pickens said he could not be more proud of the accomplishment. “I offer my congratulations and appreciation to the members of our District Board of Trustees for their involvement in the initiatives which resulted in this distinguished recognition,” Pickens said.

The College was selected as a finalist 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 Diane Leone praised Pickens for his vision to foster the Trustees’ role both individually and as a collective board and for his leadership in transitioning the College to a baccalaureate degree-granting institution.

“President Pickens has engaged us throughout his tenure, ensuring that we are positioned to participate in impacting students and their success,” Leone said, adding how Pickens enhanced the Trustees’ involvement in the College’s strategic planning and budget process as well as included members in the institution’s latest  accreditation visit and annual faculty convocation.
Additionally, Pickens introduced a training program for the Board that included an orientation for new members as well as a workshop featuring Dr. Belle Wheelan, the president of the southern college accreditation association. Wheelan trained the Board on their role in college governance. Trustees from neighboring colleges attended as well. The presentation was also recorded and distributed to the other 27 Florida colleges.

Pickens said the College and Trustees work together to ensure effective governance for not only their own district, but for the Florida College System as a whole. He said the Board's endorsement of his role as Chair of the Florida College System's Council of Presidents reflects their unity in advocating for the advancement of the Florida College System.
“I am grateful for the Board’s support of my serving in a variety of capacities in recent years as an advocate for community colleges at the local, state, and national levels,” Pickens said.
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.

“My participation in these events is testament to the SJR State Board's commitment and my personal commitment to creating informed policies and practices to ensure the success of today's and tomorrow's community college students,” Pickens said.

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.”
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.
The four additional categories included in the awards are: Emerging Leadership, Student Success, Advancing Diversity, and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. The winners of the five categories will be announced on April 23 at the AACC Convention in San Francisco.

The four colleges also cited in the Exemplary CEO/Board category represent Ohio, California and Maryland.
Overall, the Florida College System made an impressive showing in the national competition with Miami Dade College, Seminole State College and Indian River State College announced as finalists in additional categories.

For more information regarding the AACC Awards of Excellence, visit the website at

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