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Kathleen deLaski Innovator Award

Oct 13, 2023

Lee Lambert receives first Kathleen deLaski Innovator Award from Education Design Lab

Education Design Lab (the Lab), a national nonprofit, has given its inaugural Kathleen deLaski Innovator Award to Lee Lambert, longtime community college leader and current chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District in Silicon Valley, Calif.

Lambert accepted his award during the Lab’s 10th Anniversary Celebration on Oct. 12 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

The innovator award recognizes systemic disruptors who bring equity to the pursuit of opportunity and whose efforts show evidence of the shift toward skills-based, learn-and-earn models the Lab seeks to realize.

Lambert was selected because of his courage in elevating workforce development alongside degree programs while chancellor at Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, Ariz. Lambert served as PCC’s chancellor from 2013 until August 2023.

In his remarks after accepting the award, Lambert said he was most proud of “putting the human being at the center of our work” and thanked his design team at Pima, including Ian Roark, Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development & Innovation; Amanda Abens, Dean of Workforce Development & Continuing Education; Dolores Duran-Cerda, Interim Chancellor; and David Doré, who is now chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges.

The award is named in honor of Kathleen deLaski, Education Design Lab’s founder and current board chair.

“I’m so honored to be associated with one of my favorite transformation heroes in higher ed,” said deLaski. “Lee Lambert is one of the community college world’s most effective and optimistic visionaries. He sees the future and doesn’t let tradition keep him and his team from shaping programs that meet students and employers where they are.”

Pima was one of the Lab’s earliest pioneers of micro-pathways — stackable credentials that can be flexibly achieved within less than a year that put learners both on the path to an associate degree or to immediate employment in high-demand fields.

Under Lambert’s leadership, PCC joined the first cohort of the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine initiative, designing eight employer-aligned pathways in the middle of the Covid pandemic. The result is PimaFastTrack, designed for adult learners to learn industry-recognized skills in as little as three to six months.

As PCC launched their first micro-pathways, both Lambert and deLaski realized the design process can be a gateway to greater institutional and system transformation. That insight resulted in a powerful Community College Daily op-ed they co-authored in 2021, Have we found the gateway to transform community colleges?, which has helped the Lab grow the program from nine colleges and systems to over 50 across the country, including a statewide initiative in Montana.

During Lambert’s decade of leadership. Pima was named a Top 150 community college by the Aspen Institute, earned a prestigious Bellwether Award for developmental education programs, and was just named the best university/college employer in the state in Forbes’ annual list of Best Employers To Work For in Arizona, among other recognitions.

Lambert became chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District in Los Altos Hills, Calif., in August 2023. Learn more about Lee Lambert.


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