Meet Sherrill Zimmerman: Q&A with CPE’s new board chair

Glenn Denton and Sherrill Zimmerman
Former CPE Chair Glenn Denton congratulates Sherrill Zimmerman on being elected chair.

Congratulations on your election as chair of the Council on Postsecondary Education. What made you say yes to serving as Council chair?

To be honest, I was encouraged to take the position, but it is a logical next step for me. The overall goal of CPE is to help improve the lives of the people of the commonwealth through education, and that has pretty much been my entire life. I loved my career in education, witnessing firsthand the life-changing impact of education on students’ lives.

In addition, our Council members are such a great group. They come from different areas of business and industry and bring a wealth of insight and experience to their positions. Our leadership bench is deep, and it is this confidence in my colleagues, including President Bob King and his staff, that made my decision easier.

You joined the Council in July 2012 and quickly developed a reputation as a consensus-builder. You have chaired the former Strategic Agenda Work Group and the present Tuition Development Work Group. What motivates you to take on these leadership positions? 

My motivation stems from knowing that raising the educational attainment levels of our citizens is the single most important strategy to move our state forward. It is rewarding to know that our collective efforts will help produce a more skilled and productive workforce, accelerate job creation, and grow Kentucky’s economy. We are making progress so building on this momentum is key.

What is something people may not know about you?

I grew up in a family of teachers. My mother taught at the University of Louisville for 47 years and my uncle was a school administrator. I had plans to go to medical school, but after I received my teaching certification, I just fell in love with teaching. While I did not pursue medicine, I did stay in the STEM field. I taught math and science in middle school and then became an assistant principal and later the director of a math/science/technology magnet program.

Looking ahead, what do you consider the greatest area of focus in the coming year, and what is the greatest challenge?

The greatest area of focus is continuing the implementation of the state’s strategic plan to raise educational attainment to the national average, while implementing a new performance-funding model that will drive these improvements.

The greatest challenge continues to be operating in a fiscally strapped environment, with no growth in state funding while pension costs and fixed costs are significantly increasing for our institutions.

Do you have any closing thoughts?

I am looking forward to working with my fellow Council members, campuses, students and many others to move the needle on our educational goals. The more educated Kentucky people are, the greater the per capita income, and the greater the quality of life for all.