ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Dr. Michael Ash, president of Southeastern Community College (SCC) in West Burlington, Iowa, has been named the 2020 Pacesetter of the Year by the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR). The award recognizes a two-year college chief executive officer who has demonstrated special leadership and support in college communication and marketing.
Since Dr. Ash arrived at SCC in 2012, the college has undergone an about-face in nearly every aspect, thanks in large part to his understanding of the communication office’s role in sharing a vision.
Soon after his arrival, Dr. Ash embarked on a listening tour to learn about SCC and identify improvements that could be made. The tour’s primary outcome was “Building the Dream,” the college’s first comprehensive campus expansion project in 25 years, which involved new facilities for health, industrial technology and science programs. Dr. Ash also launched a $27 million capital campaign, a goal thought by some on the planning team to be unattainable. However, the community rallied. Not only did SCC reach its ambitious goal, but it was able to provide an additional $5.6 million in new scholarships.
With state dollars becoming increasingly unreliable, Dr. Ash has developed new funding streams and enrollment opportunities. He formalized SCC’s international recruiting program, added athletic programs, and worked with area K-12 schools to bolster college and career programming. To create housing for the new students, he partnered with local developers to build a $5 million, four-story residence hall.
Dr. Ash’s mantra has always been, “It’s about the students,” and he has invested heavily in student support services. These include a new academic achievement center, early intervention systems and student advocates.
When it comes to marketing, Dr. Ash’s appreciation of the importance of marketing extends into the college’s strategic planning and advancement initiatives. Whenever there’s a project with broad impact, marketing has an early seat at the table.
When he first took an inventory of the college’s critical needs, Dr. Ash recognized he would need a strong team of communicators to tell SCC’s story. By adding one new hire and restructuring existing staff, SCC went from a woefully understaffed marketing department of one to a small but mighty team of three. Moreover, SCC saw new hires throughout the college in 2019.
“Through savvy fiscal management and more aggressive grant application efforts, he has found the resources needed to fund these initiatives, using the budget savings to hire the long list of vacant faculty and staff positions,” says Jeff Ebbing, SCC’s marketing and communications director. “Priority is always given to those that will have the biggest impact on student success.”