Welcome to the start of a new year and a new semester. As you know, 2023 is a special year for Austin Community College District. It is our 50th anniversary. For 50 years we have served Central Texas. We have supported hundreds of thousands of students along their academic journeys. I hope as you begin the new year and our spring semester, you take a moment to reflect upon your time here at ACC and feel pride.
As Chancellor of this incredible institution, pride is certainly what I feel. Coming to ACC and serving this community is among my top personal achievements. I am immensely grateful to have served as President/CEO and then as Chancellor for nearly 12 years now. Being a Riverbat is part of who I am. It is what makes this email a bittersweet one to write.
As my colleagues, I want you to be among the first to know that I will be announcing my retirement plan this week. August 31, 2023, will be my last day as Chancellor of ACC.
As I prepare to step down, I find myself reflecting upon our accomplishments. I want to thank you — our amazing Riverbat community. You made my time here more engaging, meaningful, and joyful than I could have imagined.
Because of you, there has been tremendous growth at ACC. Together, we cultivated a culture of innovation, collaboration, and transformation. We put ACC at the forefront of the future of higher education.
Together, we passed two general obligation bonds totaling approximately $1 billion and created amazing new learning spaces for our community.
We embraced new ways of teaching and learning through collaborative learning spaces like our ACCelerators and incubators.
We evolved what it is we do as a community college — developing high-demand bachelor’s degree programs to provide students a more affordable pathway to an in-demand skill set in the region.
We expanded opportunities to all high school students in the service area to earn college credit while still attending high school at little to no cost through dual credit, Early College High Schools, Career Academies, and P-Techs.
We established Guided Pathways to provide students with easy-to-follow guides that ensure they take the right classes at the right time and stay on track to completion. As a result, our persistence and graduation rates are up. In fact, our graduation rates are the fastest growing in the state, and ACC is recognized in the region, state, and nation for its good work.
We redefined what collaboration looks like in higher education, and we created partnerships with companies like Tesla, Samsung, Baylor Scott & White, Toyota, NXP, Apple, Army Futures Command, University Federal Credit Union, St. David’s Healthcare, Ascension Seton, and more that help our students gain real-world experience along their learning journey.
Because of this great work, ACC has helped close equity gaps. We’re recognized for our leadership in this space. We were awarded the prestigious Seal of Excelencia from Excelencia in Education, named one of the first 10 Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campuses in the nation, recognized as an Achieving the Dream leader college, and appointed as a member of the League for Innovation in the Community College.
These are just some of the countless reasons I am proud to be Chancellor of ACC.
You may not know this, but when I was in high school I didn’t believe I was college material. My trajectory changed thanks to a teacher who encouraged me to do more, and I decided to give college a try. I started at a community college, and one of my first professors showed me that same type of encouragement. Both of these teachers served as mentors to me throughout my college career.
That sort of guidance and support is the type of spirit I see here at ACC every day. It’s what makes us Riverbats. We have an innate ability to inspire and motivate — to show everyone that college is for them and that ACC can put them on a pathway of upward mobility.
The work we do here impacts lives every day. Together, we are building brighter futures, and I am honored to stand by your side. Thank you for all you’ve done and all you’ll continue to do.
It has been the greatest pleasure to serve as your Chancellor, and I look forward to our shared work in the months ahead.
Richard M. Rhodes, Ph.D.
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