ECMCF Fellow Feature: Dr. Kisha Aites

In September 2022, Advance CTE and ECMC Foundation announced the second cohort of The Postsecondary State Career Technical Education (CTE) Leaders Fellowship at Advance CTE—Sponsored by ECMC Foundation. The Advance CTE — ECMCF Fellows include representation across multiple demographic categories reflecting the Fellowship’s goal of intentionally building a postsecondary leadership pipeline for underserved populations in Career Technical Education (CTE)  that closes racial representation gaps and removes equity barriers to postsecondary leadership advancement. For this first blog in the ECMCF Fellow Feature series, we interviewed  ECMCF Fellow Dr. Kisha Aites (GA)   who discussed her process for designing virtual experiences for learners to receive workplace skills training.

Tell us more about your journey to the Fellowship.

My journey to the Fellowship began while reading through both my Career Tech Update and the ACTE News in early 2022.  As I read through both digital journals, an article titled, “The Impact & Promise of [Comprehensive Local Needs Assessments] CLNAs”, stood out.  I clicked on the link for more information and was intrigued by what I read.  I began to do weekly check-ins on the Advance CTE site and ran across the advertisement for the fellowship.

What are the skills or content areas where you’ve experienced the most growth through your participation in the Fellowship? 

I would have to say data assessment.  In order to be successful, equity-driven, Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders, doing a deep dive, identifying, collecting and accurately analyzing CTE data is paramount.  I have grown immensely in this area.  It has also helped me to determine where programs are, gauge program outcomes and adjust programming to ensure program quality.

Have you been tapped for new or more advanced roles within your organization as a result of your experience in the Fellowship? 

Yes. I was selected to participate in the University System of Georgia (USG) Executive Leadership Institute. The purpose of the Executive Leadership Institute is to build and sustain a culture of leadership excellence by continuously developing talent with the USG. The Executive Leadership Institute is a comprehensive 120-hour development program facilitated by foremost experts in leadership.  Participants in the Institute commit to enhancing their leadership skills to prepare for potential high-level advancement within the University System of Georgia.

The topics and experiences in the Fellowship have greatly helped me reinvest in my CTE background and have reignited my passion for career and technical development and ensuring that my institution is connected and is strengthening the pipeline from high school career pathways, to college degree programs, to careers.  

How has the Fellowship expanded your network? 

I value the collaborations made with other scholars and others in the profession.  New connections haven’t changed my expectations but have allowed me to focus on the perceptions and lived experiences of other CTE professionals.  I have also contributed to a newfound political astuteness that allows one to maneuver through political situations while negotiating and conferring with others to reach an agreement.  This in turn has opened my eyes to future possibilities in a CTE role at the state level.

Tell us about your Real-World Project which focuses on developing and implementing a soft skills training module for a cohort of upperclassmen students at Savannah State University. 

Historically, academic units at universities tended to focus on learners meeting the academic requirements necessary to graduate with a degree; however, recent research suggests learners also need to work toward mastering essential employability skills including social and emotional skills in the workplace known as soft skills, or professional skills.  Graduates at 4-year institutions, particularly HBCUs, need to demonstrate that they are: communicators, thinkers and problem solvers, inquirers, collaborators, adaptable, principled and ethical, responsible and professional, and lifelong learners. The overall goal of the project is to:

  1. Provide virtual simulation opportunities for undergraduate learners to practice, receive feedback on, and reflect on professional workplace practices;
  2. Provide opportunities for learners to practice, receive feedback on, and reflect on adult-to-adult interactions (e.g., with colleagues, parents, community, and in evaluation and coaching situations); and
  3. Provide wraparound workforce development experiences (in partnership with SSU Career Services) for select learners that provide individual and targeted workforce education/professional development.


While it might be early to think about this, what are the ways that your project could be replicated in other institutions/states? 

The mixed reality approach enables each simulation to be hyper-responsive to the unique live performance of each individual learner and fully immerse themselves to produce significant and lasting changes in practice. Amplified by a suite of wrap-around services to include learner support and digital badges, the VR simulations will allow learners to convey aspects of their learning in persuasive ways to educators and employers.  Schools could utilize similar virtual simulations and apply our evidence-based “prescription” of wraparound services that were helpful to our student’s growth and their employer’s satisfaction with their newfound workplace soft skills.

If you have any questions, contact Dr. Kisha Aites by email at

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.