Dr. Donna McDaniel, Chief Academic Officer and Vice President of Instruction at Texarkana College, was named the 2019 recipient of the prestigious Carl M. “Cheesie” Nelson Administrative Leadership Award by the Texas Association Community Colleges (TACC). Only one administrator from all 50 Texas community colleges is selected annually to receive the award. The recipient represents the legendary leadership qualities for which Nelson is remembered statewide; the Nelson award celebrates exemplary commitment to Texas students, leadership, professional decorum, collaboration and community engagement. TACC President and CEO Jacob Fraire said – “The genesis of the Nelson award is to foster the spirit of leadership among community college administrators and recognize those who excel. Of all the nominees for this year’s award, Dr. McDaniel scored the highest in all categories.”
McDaniel joined the TC administrative staff in 2013 during a time when the college was just starting to emerge from near financial ruin. Faculty and staff morale was low and student graduation rates were some of the lowest in the state. Smith said that through McDaniel’s leadership, the college began to regain its culture of sustainability and student success.
“When you think about someone who has a true passion for learning and who is able to pass this excitement on to deans, faculty and staff, and ultimately students, you are talking about Dr. McDaniel,” said TC President Dr. Jason Smith. “Through her leadership, she has helped TC students complete at a greater rate than ever before, placing TC as first in the state of Texas for graduation rates twice over the last three years.” Smith said McDaniel retooled the way TC connects with students, both in and out of the classroom.
“Through her leadership and vision, she has worked with faculty and staff to implement strategies that help students enroll and complete more efficiently than ever before. In 2018, these strategies earned TC recognition from the national Achieving the Dream organization and led to TC receiving the prestigious Leah Meyer Austin Award for Student Success.”
“I have to thank former TC president James Henry Russell for bringing me into higher education and empowering me to transform TC,” McDaniel said. “Through his support and encouragement, I am the leader I am today. I also want to thank Dr. Jason Smith. He came in as our new leader in January and first listened to our team. Then he recognized and acknowledged the team’s great work and encouraged us to make TC even better…. The progress and changes made at TC are not mine alone,” said McDaniel. “I am being recognized for this award only because I was able to work with an amazing team of vice presidents, deans, directors, faculty and staff. They make me a better leader.”