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Quarles tapped as new president of Kentucky Community & Technical College System

Kentucky Community & Technical College System

After a monthslong national search, Ryan Quarles has been named the fourth president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System by its board of regents.

Quarles – a Kentucky native and former community college student who currently serves as the Bluegrass State’s Commissioner of Agriculture – is eager to begin work in the leadership position.

“I'm humbled and excited to lead what I believe is the most impactful higher education entity in Kentucky. As somebody who once took community college classes while in college, I know that this system is very special – not only to the students whose lives it will change – but [that it] also plays a vital role with our workforce development needs in Kentucky, and I'm excited to get to work.”

Ryan Quarles
Ryan Quarles

Barry Martin chairs the board of regents that governs KCTCS. He said in a release that Quarles’ “proven statewide leadership,” his relationships in Kentucky and in Washington, D.C. and his educational background will be a boon for the system – which houses 16 colleges and more than 70 campuses across the state.

“He’ll be both a tireless advocate and strong communicator to advance our vision to be even more impactful for our students, faculty and staff, workforce partners and communities,” said Martin. “We could not be more pleased.”

The 39-year-old Scott County native unsuccessfully ran for Kentucky governor earlier this year, garnering the second most votes in May’s Republican Primary. Prior to being elected to two terms as Commissioner of Agriculture, Quarles served in the Kentucky House of Representatives. He represented Kentucky House District 62, which includes his home in Georgetown, from 2011 to 2015.

Quarles’ educational background is substantial. His mother was a teacher and he holds seven college degrees – including a doctorate in higher education administration from Vanderbilt University; a master’s degree in higher education from Harvard University; and a juris doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law. He also earned four other degrees – including two master’s degrees – from the University of Kentucky.

As a college student, Quarles was appointed by then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher as the student representative to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the state’s higher education coordinating agency.

The commissioner of agriculture believes his background in public service as an elected official has prepared him to lead KCTCS into the future.

“I've enjoyed the last 13 years as an elected official, but I'm ready to serve Kentucky in a different way. It's still public service,” he said. “My years in the legislature, as well as my doctoral work and life experience, [are] going to help make for a KCTCS system that fits for Kentucky.”

Quarles sees education as “the great equalizer” and hopes that he can increase continuing education opportunities for Kentuckians through his role with KCTCS.

“If you work hard enough – and if you study and apply yourself – you can become just about anything you want in our country. I want to make sure that we have a KCTCS system that focuses on not just affordability but also accessibility [so] that any Kentuckians, regardless of age, regardless of background, can look towards our programs to help better themselves.”

One of Quarles’ early aims is to use his “consensus-building leadership style” to ready the community and technical college system for “the new economy” and playing an active role in economic development as a part of the business recruitment process for the state.

“There's a lot of programs that we need to make sure that our employers are looking towards our community-based colleges as their first call when it comes to employee training,” he said. “We need to make sure that our community and technical colleges have a seat at that table so that we can help recruit new and better jobs to our state as well, which will be a critical role in this position.”

Quarles will fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Paul Czarapata, who held the position for nearly two years before resigning in February.

He was selected from a pool of more than 40 applicants that was whittled down to three finalists – including Dean McCurdy, the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, and Beverly Walker-Griffea, the president of Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.

Copyright 2023 WKMS. To see more, visit WKMS.

Derek Operle

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