In her role as Associate Vice President of Academic Partnerships and Learning Resources at College of DuPage, Cynthia Sims focuses her efforts on strengthening dual-credit partnerships with local high schools and articulation agreements with four-year universities.
Working at the College is a homecoming for Sims. In 2001, she worked as the COD's Service Learning Coordinator where she implemented and organized service learning initiatives throughout the institution.
"I've always wanted to make my way back to COD," she said. "The energy when you walk through the halls is invigorating. It's the same collegiality that I remember. I enjoy my team of staff who makes my job easy with their creativity, commitment, expertise and hard work. And they get my sense of humor. I couldn't have asked to work with a better group of people. To be back here is special."
Sims received her Master of Science degree in public service management from DePaul University, her Master of Arts degree in social work from University of Chicago and her doctorate in education from Northern Illinois University.
The Chicago resident has a passion for student success and saw first-hand how education can transform lives in her role as Associate Dean for Academics and Student Affairs at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where she worked for 14 years.
At Southern, she created a program called "Take Your Mentee to Class Week" to engage local high school students by seeing the buzz of a college campus and to allow college students the opportunity to discuss their field of study.
"Many of those high school students came from families who never went to college and they never saw that as a possibility for themselves," she said. "The rewarding part of my job was seeing many of the students come to Southern for college and becoming campus leaders themselves. It shows you what can happen when you engage students."
At COD, Sims said student success drives every decision she makes.
"Creating policies that streamline practices, helping staff make decisions about service provision, developing plans for program expansion and advocating for resources for students and the staff that serve them are ways that I contribute to students' success," she said.
She recently created a Dual Credit Expansion Plan proposing how the College can increase high school students' enrollment in dual credit courses.
"Understanding what a high school student needs to be successful is key," she said. "If we want our enrollment to increase and we want to ensure future workers, we have to have a strong partnership with local high schools and their teachers. Offering teachers professional development is also preparing their students for work and post-secondary education, so it's mutually beneficial."
In addition to coordinating academic partnerships, Sims manages the College's learning resources, including the Testing Center and the Learning Commons, and oversees the grant process to secure funds for first generation students and students with disabilities.
Sims never considered a college administrative role for her career but seeing other women with diverse backgrounds lead institutions motivated her to seek out leadership opportunities.
"When I meet a female and/or minority college president, provost or chancellor who is brilliant yet down-to-earth, I am inspired," she said. "And I continue to be inspired when I see women who look like me serving their communities through college leadership. I think it's the best way to positively impact thousands of lives and ensure that society has educated, productive citizens and lifelong learners."