ENGLEWOOD — Arshele Stevens, the new president of Kennedy-King College, has ambitious goals for the Englewood school, including everything from starting a hospitality program to boosting graduation rates to helping single parents in their quest for a degree.
The former chief information officer for Chicago Public Schools served as interim president of the school since July before she was made the permanent president this month.
She said a much-needed hospitality program will launch next year and will complement the school's chef-training program.
Besides a hospitality program, Stevens said she also wants to work closely with the community to bring needed resources to Englewood, and possibly with the new Whole Foods scheduled to open there in 2016.
"The Whole Foods store planned for Englewood is a good example of a resource needed in Englewood, which is why we are excited to support it," she added.
Boosting student enrollment is another goal, Stevens said, a Kenwood resident who earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
For the last two years student enrollment has hovered around 12,000, according to Roxanne Brown, a spokeswoman for Kennedy-King. Annual tuition and fees average $3,000 for full-time students living in Chicago. But tuition cost doubles for students if they live outside of Chicago.
Brown said she'd also like to see more neighborhood students: 22 percent of students live in the Englewood and Auburn Gresham communities.
The graduation rate could also improve, she said. The rate last year for Kennedy-King students earning an associate's degree in three years or less was 20 percent, Brown said, and that is something Stevens said she wants to improve.
"In due time that too will change," Stevens said.
The wife and mother of an 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son added she wants to help parents attend school.
"If we want more students to come here we have to be able to meet their needs beyond just academics," Stevens said. "There are a lot of single moms at KKC, so for them child care is one of their needs."
The Child Development Laboratory Center is available to students, faculty and staff with children 3 to 5 years old. Cost is based on ability to pay, Brown said.
Another service that Stevens said makes Kennedy-King a good choice is its veterans center.
"Veterans have different needs than most students and we have a resource center here dedicated to assisting them with their specific needs," Stevens said. "You won't find that at every two-year college."
Stevens said that one challenge she sees is the number of students Kennedy-King receives each year who lack proficiency in math, reading and writing.
"Often times these students must take remedial classes before taking college level classes," Stevens said. "That's why Kennedy-King offers college-level courses to high school students to ensure that they are academically sound."
Stevens said her own background in technology has prepared her for her new leadership post.
"It definitely helped me understand how to introduce new ideas," Stevens said. "A tech person is in a great position to be a college president."
In a statement, Cheryl Hyman, chancellor for the City Colleges of Chicago, praised Stevens for the work she did at the school while serving as interim president.
“Arshele shares our commitment to ensuring that every student who comes to us reaches his or her potential and is fully prepared to hit the ground running in further college or a career,” Hyman said. “Her strong leadership skills and dedication to students, faculty, and staff will allow us to build on the successful reinvention of Kennedy-King College.”