MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University welcomed Dr. Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, to campus Feb. 19 and 20 as part of his ongoing statewide listening tour.

Thompson met with University leadership, faculty, staff, students and community members over two days, starting with a general listening session Feb. 19 at Wrather Auditorium, followed by a student-centered session held Feb. 20 in the Curris Center.

The CPE president said his listening tour, which began earlier this month at his eastern Kentucky hometown of Manchester in Clay County, is designed to engage campus communities on how best to move the commonwealth’s universities forward while demonstrating the value of higher education.

“We have all the evidence and research that say with a postsecondary credential, you’re going to do a whole lot better in life,” Thompson said. “Not just economically, but also civically, health-wise, in every kind of category you can name. Higher education is a solution. My job is to find out how we can make this solution a better solution.”

Thompson outlined areas in which the CPE could work with universities, including higher enrollment, retention and graduation totals, addressing disparities with minority and low-income students, working to accommodate nontraditional students and bringing in more out-of-state students. He said while every institution in Kentucky has challenges to face, Murray State possesses several strengths it could double down on.

“I’ll tell you, Murray State has a great academic system here,” Thompson said. “We’re going to be working on that, because students come here for academic programs and for quality of education. You’ve got some of the best academic-focused programs there are, you’ve got alumni that love this place and you’ve got faculty and staff that are unreal.”

Murray State University Interim President Dr. Bob Jackson praised Thompson for his work as head of the CPE.

“I’ve known Aaron for several years and I appreciate him very much,” Jackson said. “This is the right time in the commonwealth for Aaron to be leading the CPE. First and foremost, he’s a Kentuckian. He knows Kentucky east to west. He understands the benefits of education. He’s a first-generation college student and he understands the challenges facing the Commonwealth of Kentucky, but also the opportunities.”

Murray State students Jeremiah Bagley and Cheydan Crump said they enjoyed meeting with Thompson and hearing his vision for Kentucky higher education.

“Murray’s a smaller school, but it’s great to see him come out and talk with us,” said Bagley, a senior from Hickman, Kentucky who will earn his occupational safety and health degree a full semester early thanks to his participation in dual-credit programs while attending Fulton County High School. “I also had the chance to speak with Dr. Jackson about my upcoming internship at Charah Solutions in Louisville.”

“Dr. Thompson is a very good speaker,” said Crump, a freshman nursing major from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. “I like how he addressed the issues. It means a lot. He knows we’re doing very well, but we could be doing even better.”

Photo: Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Dr. Aaron Thompson speaks to a large crowd during a listening session at Wrather Auditorium Feb. 19.

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