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CPE President Aaron Thompson honored with UK Sociology’s distinguished alumni award

By Jenny Wells-Hosley 

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Aaron Thompson, president of Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education, receives the&nbsp; UK Department of Sociology's Thomas R. Ford Distinguished Alumni Award from Carrie Oser at ceremony on May 5. Photo by Justin Conder.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 9, 2023) — The University of Kentucky Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences has awarded Aaron Thompson, Ph.D., president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, with the Thomas R. Ford Distinguished Alumni Award. The award is given to doctoral alumni who have distinguished themselves in a sociological career.

Thompson was presented with the award during the department’s annual awards ceremony on May 5.

As a first-generation college student from rural Clay County, Kentucky, Thompson experienced firsthand the transformative power of a college credential. As president of the Kentucky council, he works to ensure all Kentuckians have an equal opportunity to improve their lives through postsecondary education.

Thompson received his doctoral degree in sociology from UK, with an emphasis on organizational leadership. He previously earned a master’s degree in industrial sociology from UK and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Eastern Kentucky University.

"Getting my Ph.D. at UK was more than life changing. Getting my Ph.D. in sociology was life affirming,” Thompson said. “Thank you for this award because it represents both."

Before leading the council, Thompson served as interim president of Kentucky State University; council

executive vice president and provost; and faculty member and administrator at Eastern Kentucky University. He has extensive leadership experience within the private and nonprofit sectors and is a highly sought-after national speaker. Thompson has authored or co-authored numerous books and peer-reviewed publications on diversity, cultural competence, first-year experience programs, retention, and student success, among other topics. In 2019, he was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

“Dr. Aaron Thompson is more than deserving of this alumni award,” said Carrie Oser, the Di Silvestro Endowed Professor in the UK Department of Sociology and chair of the award selection committee. “He is an inspirational role model for our sociology students. Our department is grateful for his advocacy for the liberal arts and higher education.”

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.