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Dr. Karen A. Stout Receives Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in Higher Education

News & Updates
January 12, 2024

Dr. Karen A Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, was honored today with the Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in Higher Education. The award, from the Higher Education Management Executive Doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, recognizes individuals whose leadership in higher education has resulted in “transformational change in colleges and universities in the context of their missions and their global markets.” 

The award is named for and honors Robert (Bob) Zemsky, who made extraordinary contributions in advancing innovative strategies to improve excellence in higher education policy and leadership in a long career as an educator, senior administrator, and public policy scholar. 

Stout is the first woman community college leader of the ten awardees thus far to receive the honor and only the second community college leader. In 2018, the program recognized Dr. Eduardo J. Padron, president emeritus of Miami-Dade College. 

“In his stellar career, Bob Zemsky pioneered how we look at higher education as a market and wrote books that asked all the right questions — about how innovation works and what is taught in college classrooms to how we control costs, allow students to take fewer years to complete college, encourage active learning for students, and encourage greater faculty leadership,” Dr. Stout says. 

In her remarks accepting the award, Dr. Stout drew many comparisons between Zemsky’s work and leading student success reform efforts of Achieving the Dream — including the organization’s commitment to help institutions use data to plan and thrive, its efforts to apply innovation and determine how it is sustained and energized, and its focus on what it takes to transform whole institutions from the inside and across whole systems. 

“At ATD, our vision has evolved to think of the whole community as the system rather than just the education system which trickles out impact into the marketplace,” she noted. 

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