Aaron Thompson is a nationally recognized leader in higher education with a focus on policy, student success and organizational leadership and design. He was named president of the Council in October 2018, following the retirement of Robert L. King. He came to the Council in 2009 from Eastern Kentucky University, where he held a variety of leadership positions, including associate vice president for academic affairs, university programs. In May 2016, he left the Council to serve as interim president for Kentucky State University and returned to the Council in summer 2017.
His leadership experience spans 27 years across higher education, business and numerous non-profit boards. Thompson has researched, taught and consulted in areas of diversity, leadership, ethics, multicultural families, race and ethnic relations, student success, first-year students, retention, cultural competence and organizational design throughout his career.
As a highly sought after national speaker, Thompson has presented more than 800 workshops, seminars and invited lectures in areas of race and gender diversity, living an unbiased life, overcoming obstacles to gain success, creating a school environment for academic success, cultural competence, workplace interaction, leadership, organizational goal setting, building relationships, the first-year seminar, and a variety of other topics. He continues to serve as a consultant to educational institutions (elementary, secondary and postsecondary), corporations, non-profit organizations, police departments and other governmental agencies.
Thompson has published more than 30 publications and numerous research and peer reviewed presentations. He has authored or co-authored the following books: Changing Student Culture from the Ground Up, The Sociological Outlook, Infusing Diversity and Cultural Competence into Teacher Education, Peer to Peer Leadership: Changing Student Culture from the Ground Up. He also co-authored Thriving in College and Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success, Thriving in the Community College and Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development, Diversity and the College Experience, Focus on Success and Black Men and Divorce.
President Thompson's Priorities
Positioning higher education as the key to social mobility and economic development.
In a decade of rising tuition, reduced government spending, and public skepticism about the value of college, CPE will remind Kentucky why higher education matters. We will mount a comprehensive communications strategy and engage business, industry and community partners to encourage reinvestment in this public good.
Improving college access and affordability for high school graduates as well as adults.
CPE will work to control college costs and prepare more high school graduates to enter college. At the same time, we will make our colleges and universities friendlier to adults seeking new jobs or career advancement.
Closing achievement gaps so that all students succeed at the same rate, regardless of age, race or income.
There’s nearly a 10 percentage-point difference in the 6-year graduation rate of Kentucky’s majority and minority students; the graduation rate for low-income students is 12 points lower. These students need targeted resources and strong advising to ensure they have an equal opportunity for success.
Responding to Kentucky’s current business needs while laying the groundwork for the future.
CPE will encourage institutions to be more innovative and nimble when training students to fill employment shortages in advanced manufacturing, healthcare, business and IT, transportation and logistics, and construction. At the same time, we will ensure our graduates are high-level problem solvers, innovators, and communicators who can adapt to new technologies and work in teams.
Enhancing academic quality through game-changing strategies that improve teaching and learning.
CPE will advance cutting-edge, research-based approaches to create interdisciplinary, job-embedded academic programs that position students to succeed in the workforce of today and tomorrow. Increasingly, competencies, not credit hours, are determining credentials. How we understand and assess learning is changing, and CPE will lead this change.