Chat and Chew with Dr. Aaron Thompson

08_ThompsonBEREA, KY—Dr. Aaron Thompson, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, met with education professionals and parents from Eastern Kentucky on Thursday to discuss how to improve educational outcomes for youth in the region. Dr. Thompson’s appearance was part of the Chat and Chew series hosted by Partners for Education.

Dr. Thompson prefaced his talk to inform the audience that it would be colloquial in nature and to invite questions and discourse to follow his presentation. He focused on what he deemed the four pillars of success necessary for students to thrive: family, community, institutions, and the student, him or herself.

07_PennyWhen discussing the importance of family, Dr. Thompson drew from memories of his parents and childhood in Clay County. The anecdotes, interspersed with humor, highlighted the different ways Thompson’s parents encouraged him to pursue education. Thompson emphasized that the influence of family is not limited to a student’s parents, but can include anyone that is seriously invested in his or her wellbeing.

Addressing the pillar of community, Dr. Thompson stated, “We need to build role models of people that understand what the essence of education is.” Again sighting his personal experience, Thompson brought attention to the amount of influence peers have on a student with an anecdote, “I found the five people that I thought were going somewhere. I took the same classes they did. I joined the same organizations they did.” 

06_SteveThompson continued on to address the importance of institutions, specifically schools. Thompson charged schools with encouraging every student to tell his or her own story. “Every child has a story…and the more they learn that story and see the importance of that story, the more they’ll want to build on that story in a positive way.” Thompson also stressed that institutions need to focus on the value of education, saying, “We’ve got to figure out how to help kids understand that education leads to something.”

04_ThompsonBefore opening up for discussion, Dr. Thompson stressed the importance of teaching students “to have skin in the game.” Dr. Thompson stated, “We have to figure out how to help kids help themselves.” Thompson also highlighted how important it is for students to cultivate a desire to learn. He said, “I understand when a kid doesn’t know where he’s going. I don’t know where I’m going. But I’m happy wherever I am, because I know I’m still learning.”

In addition to serving as executive vice president and chief academic officer at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, Dr. Thompson has worked on more than 30 publications and taught a variety of subjects at Eastern Kentucky University. For more information on his work, visit:

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