Cincinnati State's new president navigates choppy waters with sights set on expansion

Posted at 11:07 AM, Jun 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-17 20:41:25-04

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati State scoured the country looking for its next president. Turns out the search committee didn't need to look any farther than its own provost's office.

Dr. Monica Posey, 60, took the helm on a permanent basis this week after spending eight months as interim president during a difficult but promising time for the community and technical college.

Several years of dropping enrollment, a state-mandated tuition freeze and rising fixed costs led to the college cutting 33 full-time jobs for the coming school year through retirements, voluntary severance and layoffs.

Monica Posey

And Posey and her staff are poring over budgets for further cost savings up to and including ways to cut utility expenses.

But thanks in part to starting the active enrollment process 40 days earlier this year, the number of registered students is up by 500 compared to a year ago. The college won a $6.6 million grant to renovate the first floor of the main building. The money will create a one-stop career services center that offers "concierge" service, expand the advanced manufacturing program's facilities and the 3-D printing lab. Nearly $1.7 million of the grant will go into making the campus more energy-efficient, which officials estimate will result in an annual savings of $230,000.

And if Posey has her way, many more people throughout the Tri-State and even around the world will soon learn about the good things happening there.

"We're really proud of the programs we offer and how hard our faculty is working promoting student success," she said. "My greatest dream is that our visibility grows across the board. We think that there's more that we can share and showcase."

A 13-member search committee and, ultimately, the board of trustees, chose Posey over 352 other candidates for the job.

Board Chairman Mark Walton cited Posey's experience and her penchant for using analytics to identify which programs are succeeding and which ones aren't and making timely changes to make sure limited money is being spent on what works.

"She's very data-driven, and she's letting data help tell the story to faculty and other constituents," Walton said. "And if a difficult decision needs to be made, she'll make that call."

Posey grew up in Philadelphia, the daughter of sharecroppers who were part of the mid-20th-century migration of African-Americans who migrated north to take advantage of plentiful manufacturing jobs.

She attended Cornell University and quickly honed her love for education and statistics working at AT&T.

Her husband, Michael Posey, worked for Procter & Gamble, so the couple decided to settle in Cincinnati.

She earned a doctorate in education at University of Cincinnati and, 24 years ago, accepted a job at Cincinnati State as assistant dean and has steadily moved through the ranks.

Cincinnati State's main campus in Clifton.

Posey is the first African-American woman to lead Cincinnati State or to lead any major college or university in Greater Cincinnati, according to the school.

She's also the first internal candidate promoted to the presidency since Cincinnati State was expanded to become a community and technical college in 1994.

"My pride is that I have a story to tell to other women, to our female students, about how with determination you can achieve great things and move up the ladder. I like to mentor and help others," Posey said.

Walton, who is also African-American, agreed it was a positive sign of progress that little regard was given to Posey being a trailblazer as a black woman because of outstanding qualifications.

"As an African-American, I had not considered that. What I thought was we had the best person at the right time for this position right in front of us," he said. "

"She is one who believes that the best solution lies in the collaborative process. Dr. Posey does not shy away from making tough decisions. She is very contemplative, but she will take action."

It's also safe to say she's the most accomplished martial arts fighter to assume the office. Posey has earned a black belt in karate. 

Private Recruiting a First

Posey is overseeing a new era at Cincinnati State where Pearson Education has been hired to lead recruitment, retention and marketing efforts. Pearson receives a percentage of tuition paid by students for its work, which will include sending coaches into the community who will act as a sort of caseworker.

They're contacting students who appear to be dropping out and try to find ways to help them finish their degrees or certificates, referring them to financial advisors or day care providers or other helpers. 

Posey said she's optimistic the partnership will lead to a more effective marketing and higher enrollment numbers, especially because Pearson has done a good job creating its strategy in partnership with Cincinnati State leaders rather than trying to apply a one-size-fits-all model.

Other Goals

Posey intends to redouble efforts to tailor course offerings to the needs of employers in the Tri-State to ensure that the number of unfilled skilled labor jobs continues to shrink and that students are being trained with skills that are in high demand.

She hopes to expand offerings at the college's child care center, which enables many parents of young children to go back to school.

And she'll keep pressing state lawmakers to give Cincinnati State and other community colleges the ability to offer bachelor's degrees in majors that nearby four-year institutions don't offer.

Cincinnati State will also pursue implementing the "3 + 1" model that allows students who are pursuing a bachelor's degree to spend three years at Cincinnati State before moving to a four-year campus, a big money saver.

Posey has a supporter in Mayor John Cranley, who he admires for her work with Cincinnati First Ladies, a coalition of pastors wives who work with Cranley's wife, Dena Cranley, on reducing health disparities and improving well-being among minority populations.

"It's been a phenomenal interaction for my wife and for me and the community. She's a very accomplished woman who exudes a sense of integrity," Cranley said. "She's a straight shooter, and I think she's really going to be great."

And he's hoping for more success at Cincinnati State.

"I very much believe Cincinnati State is the gateway to the middle class in Cincinnati," he said.

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