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Dr. Karen A.

President & Chief Executive Officer

Since 2015, Dr. Karen A. Stout has served as president and CEO of Achieving the Dream (ATD), leading a network of over 300 community colleges working to become profoundly accessible hubs of learning, credentialing, and economic mobility that eliminate inequities in educational and workforce outcomes. ATD’s capacity building and coaching supports have reached more than 500 primarily open access institutions, including a large number of minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and Tribal colleges and universities.  


Dr. Stout has received national recognition for her achievements and accomplishments in higher education innovation and leadership. In 2022, she was awarded the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Leadership Award and entered the organization’s Hall of Fame. She was named the American Association for Women in Community College’s Woman of the Year in 2017, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s Leading Women in 2018, one of Washington Monthly’s 16 most innovative higher education leaders in 2016, to Washingtonian’s 500 most influential people list in 2023, and one of Ed Tech’s 30 higher education IT influencers to follow in 2023. She is the recipient of the Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in Higher Education, among many recognitions. Dr. Stout has also earned honorary degrees from Miami Dade College and Montgomery County Community College. In 2023 she was recognized by the Harford County Historical Society as one of 50 most Notable Athletes in the 250-year history of the county. 


Dr. Stout currently serves as chair of the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research Advisory Board at North Carolina State University, as co-chair of the University of Maryland Global Campus Doctorate of Management in Community College Policy and Administration Advisory Board, and is a member of the Common App Board of Directors, College Promise National Advisory Board, and the Community College Research Center Advisory Board. She also represents Achieving the Dream on the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, participates as a mentor and frequent presenter for the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship and Aspen New Presidents Fellowship, and has been a long-time presenter for the League of Innovation Executive Leadership Institute. In 2022, Dr. Stout was nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate to serve a six-year term as a member of the National Council on the Humanities. 


Prior to serving as president and CEO at ATD, Dr. Stout was president of Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) (PA) from 2001 to 2015, where she led the college through a transformation process to improve student success. The college distinguished itself as an ATD Leader College, earned the prestigious Leah Meyer Austin Award in 2014 for its college-wide approach to student success, and won numerous awards for work on campus sustainability. With her leadership, MCCC developed and implemented its first comprehensive Campus Facilities Master plan, yielding more than $160 million in improvements to the Blue Bell and Pottstown campuses, including construction of a new Advanced Technology Center, Children’s Center, Fine Art Center, Health Sciences Center, and Culinary Arts Institute. In addition, the college increased public grants support from $800,000 annually to $12 million annually, tripling the net assets of the college’s Foundation and completing the institution’s first capital campaign for scholarships, raising more than $9 million. In addition to institutional awards, Dr. Stout was recognized for her achievements including American Community College Trustees CEO of the Year Northeast Region, American Student Association of Community Colleges President of the Year, and Montgomery County Woman of the Year. In 2015, in recognition of her service to the college and community, the Board of Trustees granted her president emerita status and renamed the student success center on the Blue Bell Campus in her honor. 


As chair of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, Dr. Stout led the formation of a Trustees Council to support advocacy efforts and successfully changed the 40-year Community College Act with legislation to improve operating and capital funding for the Commonwealth’s 14 community colleges. She also led the development and securing of Pennsylvania’s $20 million TAACT I grant and $2.5 million TAACT2 grant in consecutive years, including managing the grant to develop a state-wide prior learning assessment framework and portal that launched in January 2015. 


Prior to her presidency at Montgomery, Dr. Stout held leadership positions at Camden County College from 1994 to 2001, including vice president/campus executive officer, William G. Rohrer Center; vice president for institutional advancement and enrollment services; and dean of planning, research, and communications. She started her community college career at her hometown community college, Harford Community College, in the admissions office, later leading strategic planning efforts there and founding its foundation. Dr. Stout taught for 15 years as an adjunct faculty member at Harford and Camden in marketing and management and later at Montgomery as part of the college’s honors colloquium. 


A frequent speaker and writer, Dr. Stout focuses on strategies for enhancing student success and completion, accelerating and scaling innovation, and strategic planning as well as on trends facing higher education and launching a new era of community college fundraising.  


She holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Delaware, a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Baltimore, and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Delaware. In recognition of her public service contributions, in 2014, the University of Delaware awarded her the prestigious President’s Leadership award. 


Ed.D. (Educational Leadership) | University of Delaware

MBA | University of Baltimore

B.A. (English, Journalism) | University of Delaware

Past Experience

President | Montgomery County Community College

Vice President and Chief Campus Officer, William G. Rohrer Center | Camden County College

Director, Planning & Communications | Dundalk Community College (now Community College of Baltimore County)

How has education changed your life/your family?

Access to education, and the constant presence of the local community college, transformed what is possible for me and my family. My driving purpose — my “red thread” as I call it — is to make this possibility ubiquitous for all.

Speaker and Public Engagement Requests

Please email [email protected] to request Dr. Karen A. Stout as a commentator on community colleges and the changing higher education environment.

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