Dr. Karen Rafinski announced Monday her intent to formally announce her retirement as president of Clark State Community College to the Board of Trustees by the end of the year. She plans to retire in June of 2013, concluding her 16th year in that role. The announcement came during the college’s annual fall convocation, when faculty and staff gather to prepare for the new academic year.
"You don’t replace the country’s outstanding community college president," said Andy Bell, chair, Clark State Board of Trustees, referring to the national recognition Rafinski earned in 2008. "We can only seek to find a new president who can build upon the wonderful work that Karen has done. Clark State's accomplishments under her leadership have been extraordinary, including enrollment growth, expansion into Greene County, four new buildings, endowment growth and a strong focus on student success. Her dawn-to-dusk work day continues into her final year as she is spearheading another construction project that will connect two buildings and house a student success center to positively impact retention and graduation rates."
(See more quotes from community leaders at the end of the news release.)
The college expects to conduct a nationwide search to fill the position.
Rafinski has led Clark State to unprecedented growth and also been an active leader in the Springfield community. Her accomplishments are detailed below.
- During Dr. Rafinski's presidency, Clark State's enrollment has grown from a headcount of 4,139 students in Fall 1997 to 8,564 in Fall 2011, for a growth rate of 63.7 percent.
- During the last ten years, the College's cumulative resource development efforts have reached nearly $100 million, and the College's Foundation ranks first among all Ohio community colleges in its endowment funds per student.
- The College secured funding and constructed the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center to support downtown revitalization efforts.
- The College secured funding and constructed the Sara T. Landess Technology and Learning Center to better serve academic and support services for students.
- To increase college access for students, she expanded online course delivery from four on-line classes in 1997 to more than 130 courses today. Clark State was a leader in online learning and for many years had a greater percentage of its courses delivered online than any other two- or four-year public or private college in Ohio.
- Rafinski nurtured the development and growth of the Champion City Scholars program, which annually identifies 50 low-income students in seventh grade to participate in academic, cultural and mentoring activities, to prepare them to be the first in their families to go to college, with full scholarships awarded by the Clark State Foundation.
- Rafinski has expanded the Performing Arts Center’s hallmark Project Jericho outreach program, which uses the arts to assist at-risk youth and families, including juvenile offenders, to find more positive ways to express themselves and deal with challenges. This hallmark project is operated in a unique partnership with the county’s Department of Job and Family Services, the Juvenile Court system and a local foundation. Project Jericho has won the national 2008 Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities/Kennedy Center for the Arts.
- Rafinski implemented a new internal governance structure to allow for more widespread input into decision-making.
- Established a Diversity Task Force to enhance a welcoming environment for all staff and students, resulting in many unique programs and services.
- 2008 Outstanding Community College President by the Association of Community College Trustees
- 2003 Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction by Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society State
- 2011 Most Powerful and Influential Woman Award by the Ohio Diversity Council
- 2011 Glass Ceiling Award by the Ohio Diversity Council
- 2010 Southwest Region Ohio School Boards Association President's Award for efforts on behalf of public education in Ohio
- 2005 Leader of the Year by Community Leadership Association
- 1999 Equal Opportunity Award by Springfield Urban League
- Board of Directors, Security National Bank
- Board of Directors, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
- Board of Directors, Workforce Investment Act in Clark and Greene counties
- Board Member, Dayton Development Coalition
- Board Member, Community-Mercy Medical Center Foundation
- Board of Directors, Past Chair, Southwest Ohio Colleges of Higher Education (SOCHE)
- Board of Directors, Past Chair, Ohio College Association (OCA)
- Legislative Chair for the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC)
- Past Chair, Board of the Ohio College Association
- Accreditation Review Council Member, Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association
- Past President, Council of North Central Two-Year Colleges
- Numerous local boards and committees including: Junior Achievement, United Way, Center City Association, Tecumseh YMCA Fundraising Committee, Community Planning Oversight Committee, the WIA Board in Greene County and President of Leadership Clark County.
- Between her Clark State presidency and her previous presidencies in Minnesota, Rafinski has spent 26 years in presidencies at three institutions and 41 years in higher education.
- She is proud to have been part of an initial group of women who truly “broke the glass ceiling” in community colleges. During her tenure, eight administrators in her cabinets have gone on to become community college presidents.
- As a young girl, Dr. Rafinski learned to work hard while delivering newspapers and detassling corn. As a high school senior, her high school counselor discouraged her from trying to go to college, but Rafinski was determined.
- Rafinski and her husband John plan to remain in the area but will enjoy traveling after her retirement. Originally from Minnesota, they share humor about their Norwegian heritage, including her list of "You Betcha You’re From Minnesota When..."
Note: For the purpose of searching archives, Rafinski was hired as Karen Nagle; she married John Rafinski in 2001.
Steve Sidlo, chairman of the Board of Directors, Clark State Foundation:
"Karen provides dynamic leadership during a time of tremendous growth and change for Clark State. She is an innovator who is highly regarded in education circles around the country. She oversaw Clark State's establishment of a very successful campus in Greene County is always very supportive of the Clark State Foundation and all of its efforts and programs. Karen should be proud of her achievements. Most important, she can take satisfaction in knowing that there are many people in this community whose lives are much better because of the educational opportunities they had at Clark State."
John Landess, executive director, The Turner Foundation:
"Karen has been a great partner in the community. Her leadership has helped us move the ball forward in both education and economic development. The student body has grown dramatically during her tenure, and the new buildings that have opened over the last decade have changed the face of the campus as well as the community. Karen has developed relationships in Beavercreek and Dayton that will help us for many years to come."
Michael McDorman, president, Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce:
"The Greater Springfield business community and the community at large owe a huge debt of gratitude to President Rafinski for the work she has done to develop our local workforce for the jobs of today and the future. Under her leadership the college has created training programs to prepare students for the highly technical positions at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the companies that provide support for Wright-Patt. She has simultaneously created training programs to create skilled workers for our diverse industry base, from advanced manufacturing to the service and medical industries. Springfield would have not attracted CodeBlue without Karen’s willingness to create a training program specifically for the company resulting in more than 100 new jobs downtown. The flood house created for the CodeBlue training program has now been joined by a firefighter’s training tower and plans to create additional disaster training modules on campus. Her contribution to the chamber board as well as to the Greater Springfield Moving Forward committee has been invaluable. We wish her the best and hope she will continue to be involved in the community."
Kristin Culp, vice president of advancement, Clark State Community College
"The college has been blessed by her leadership, and so have I. She made things happen that I thought were impossible, so I learned to trust her instincts."
Dr. David Devier, vice president, academic and student affairs, Clark State Community College:
"President Karen Rafinski has created a legacy of leadership across her very significant career. Being awarded the Outstanding Community College President honor is the highest collegial recognition a community college leader may receive and stands as the evidence of a life of dedication to the profession. President Rafinski has served as a mentor to many aspiring individuals throughout her career including several who have risen to the level of Presidency. Clark State Community College has experienced significant growth and service to the region under President Rafinski's stellar tutelage."