Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner Wins National Award

National Association of System Heads Honors OPC’s Work in Expanding Barrier-Busting Program


WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND (April 24, 2024) – Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner received the National Association of Higher Education System Heads (NASH) Seeding for Change Award for its work in building a sustainable funding model for the Rhode Island Reconnect Program. The award was presented during NASH's annual convening of academic leaders in Washington, D.C., with many of the nation’s higher education systems represented.


The NASH Awards recognize individuals and multi-campus systems that have demonstrated commendable efforts in advancing student opportunities and success.


Rhode Island Office of Postsecondary Commissioner was recognized for pioneering efforts in developing scalable solutions and evidence-based strategies. OPC successfully implemented a funding model and community-based plan to expand the Rhode Island Reconnect program, tailoring support to refugees and forcibly displaced individuals within the state. Initial seeding money from the NASH Catalyst Fund helped to foster a flourishing program that is setting a precedent as a national model for success.


“On behalf of the entire Rhode Island Reconnect staff, I’m delighted to accept this recognition of the hard work they have been performing on behalf of our students,” said Shannon Gilkey, Ed.D., Rhode Island Commissioner of Postsecondary Education. “Removing barriers for students by providing one-on-one supports and coaching all populations, with increasing focus on our migrant refugee community, through the NASH Catalyst Fund has been a game-changer for our systems approach to postsecondary education. For the student, Rhode Island Reconnect allows them to focus on their studies, complete their education, and enter the workforce because of our efforts. I’m confident that our community has benefitted as much from their presence as they have benefitted from the support offered to them.”


"At the heart of Rhode Island Reconnect is empowering Rhode Islanders with the tools they need to build the future they want," said Dan McKee, Governor of Rhode Island. "I'm proud of this program's wide-ranging impact on people looking to achieve their education and career goals. Rhode Island Reconnect is a key part in our state's efforts to raise incomes by 2030 and that would not be possible without the commitment from Commissioner Gilkey and the RIOPC."


"These inaugural awards celebrate the invaluable work of our member systems, which directly embody the Power of Systems and align with NASH's overarching goal of leveraging systemness to advance prosperity for the nation," said Dr. Jason E. Lane, President and Chief Systemness Officer of NASH. "The recipients honored are truly deserving of recognition, and we anticipate ongoing growth and impact of their initiatives across their states and the nation as a whole."


Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner supports the work of the Board of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education in providing an excellent, accessible and affordable system of higher education designed to improve the overall educational attainment of the citizens of Rhode Island, support economic development, and enrich the civic, social and cultural life of all living in the state of Rhode Island. Go to riopc.edu for additional information.