New CCA President Mordecai Brownlee Formally Introduced to Community at Local Event
A new era was officially ushered in for the Community College of Aurora at the college’s annual Celebrating Connections event Tuesday night, Oct. 19, at the Hyatt Regency Aurora hotel.
With over 150 local business leaders, political officials, school representatives, and other community members in attendance, new CCA President Dr. Mordecai Brownlee was formally introduced to the greater Aurora-Denver community.
Brownlee, whose first day as CCA’s president was Aug. 2, has brought a new energy and excitement to the college. The college can feel it, and those outside it can, too.
“‘This will be the person who will take CCA to places I couldn’t take it,’” Colorado Community College System Chancellor Joe Garcia said Brownlee’s predecessor, Betsy Oudenhoven, told him during the hiring process.
If past is prologue, yes, exciting times are on the horizon for CCA. Immediately prior to coming on board at CCA, Brownlee was vice president for student success at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, where he steered the nation’s only college federally designated as both a historically Black college (HBCU) and a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) to record enrollments and four of the college’s largest degree- and certificate-awarding classes in its 123-year history.
How did he do it? By maintaining a laser focus on student success.
“At St. Philip’s, Dr. Brownlee didn’t just grow enrollment; he increased the success of the students there,” Garcia said as he introduced Brownlee to the attendees. “He’s demonstrated throughout his entire career that he cares deeply about all students, even and maybe especially those who are oftentimes overlooked.”
One student who could’ve fallen into the “overlooked” category—but refused not to—was Rhonda Fields, who, after graduating from high school, “didn’t know what I wanted to do or have the confidence to do it,” she told the Celebrating Connections crowd.
To build her confidence and find her way, Fields attended and graduated from a community college. Then she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree. Then a master’s degree. She even completed some work as part of a doctoral program.
Today, she’s Colorado Senator and Assistant Majority Leader Fields. She’s also a three-term state congresswoman.
In 2014 and 2011, 5280 Magazine ranked Fields 37th on its list of the 50 “most powerful” people in the Denver-metro area. She’s also received a slew of awards, including the Colorado Democratic Party’s 2011 “Rising Star Award,” the African American Voices’ Wilma Webb 2011 “Co-Legislator of the Year Award,” the 2010 “Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award,” and Urban Spectrum’s 2009 “African Americans Who Make a Difference Award,” among a host of others.
But before she rose to political and professional stardom, Fields was a community college student.
“Community college shaped me,” she said. “For me, it all started at a community college.”
At Celebrating Connections, Garcia presented Fields with the Legislator of the Year Award, an award given annually by CCCS to legislators who “make an extra effort to understand and champion our issues,” Garcia wrote in a letter to Fields. In particular, Garcia praised Fields for her work on the Colorado General Assembly’s Capital Development Committee, which during the 2021 legislative session secured $75 million in state funding for capital construction projects and controlled maintenance at CCCS colleges. Some of that money will help fund a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and power mechanics building at CCA, which is scheduled to open in 2023.
“That new building is going to allow us to better serve our students and our community, and that’s what Senator Fields is all about—figuring out ways to better serve our community,” Garcia said as he introduced Fields to the Community Connections attendees.
As she accepted the award, Fields said, “You (CCA) are shaping the minds of the future, and you’re doing it one student at a time, one class at a time. Our workplaces need these students, our society needs them.”
Several CCA students were in attendance at the event. Who knows, maybe a future senator was in the room that night.
Caption for first photo: From left to right, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, CCCS Chancellor Joe Garcia, Colorado State Senator Rhonda Fields, and CCA President Dr. Mordecai Brownlee at Celebrating Connections
Caption for second photo: Caption: CCA President Dr. Mordecai Brownlee met with community members during Celebrating Connections.