Director, Center for Community College Student Engagement
Community College Leadership Program, University of Texas at Austin
It’s hard to find someone more dedicated to the success of community college students than Kay McClenney. Her three decades of hard work and devotion to improving community colleges have set a standard that few can match.
McClenney is an adjunct faculty member of the Community College Leadership Program (CCLP) in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Within CCLP, she directs the Ford Foundation’s coordinating team for the national Community College Bridges to Opportunity Initiative and the MetLife Foundation’s national student retention project. She is also the senior consultant to UT’s work on the national Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count (ATD) initiative; director of the Initiative on Student Success supported by the MetLife Foundation and Houston Endowment Inc.; and co-director of CLASS—the California Leadership Alliance for Student Success.
With a remarkable depth and breadth of understanding of the issues facing higher education, McClenney has worked tirelessly to improve community college education as the director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCSSE), which conducts an annual survey that has been administered to more than 2 million students in almost 800 community colleges in 49 states. The organization also administers the Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE), which has gathered data from nearly a million community college students. In the surveys, students report on a wide variety of information, including on how often they study and write papers, the amount of time they interact with other students and with faculty, how difficult they find their course work, and the kinds of support they get at their colleges. The survey gives colleges invaluable feedback about the student experience and helps them understand where they are performing well—and where they can improve. It is particularly helpful for informing engagement strategies in community colleges throughout the country— making McClenney a guru for student engagement and an evangelist for institutional change. Over the years, thousands of students have benefited from McClenney’s dedication to education. She is a former faculty member and administrator within the Alamo Community College System in Texas and served as the interim president at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio. She is senior associate with the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning.
During her 10-year tenure as vice president and chief operating officer at Education Commission of the States, McClenney was a leading voice in national policy development and was instrumental in helping elected leaders understand the vital role of community colleges and in developing state-level accountability initiatives.
McClenney’s influence on higher education can be felt far and wide. She currently serves on the national advisory boards for the National Survey of Student Engagement at Indiana University, the College and Careers Transition Initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the project on Building Engagement and Attainment of Minority Students at the American Association for Higher Education, and the Community College Leadership Academy at Arizona State University.