Community Colleges ask Legislators to face the facts & support Community Colleges

JACKSON- In an effort to get the Mississippi Legislature’s attention, Community College presidents, faculty, and students reminded everyone at a Capitol building press conference, community/junior colleges provide a vast array of educational and economic opportunities for everyone. Additionally, the two-year college system also provides a healthy return on every dollar spent on the nation’s oldest community college system. MACJC Legislative Co-chair and Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith encouraged legislators to “face the facts.”

“For every dollar invested in the community college system, the return on the investment is four-dollars and eighty-six cents.  That’s a worthwhile investment if you’re just talking about an investment but what about the people?” asked Smith.

Long lists of facts were shared with the crowd, like Mississippi ranks 4th in the nation in the percentage of students who transfer from community colleges to four-year universities, beating the national average by eight-percent. In 2017, Community/Junior college students earned 20,432 degrees, certificates and awards which is a 42-percent increase over 2011. In regards to economic development, community colleges served 551 companies with workforce training.

“Folks, we have to pay the bill,” said MACJC President and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College president, Dr. Mary Graham. “It’s time Mississippi legislators get some help for our community/junior colleges. People continue to pat community colleges on the back, saying ‘You’re doing a great job’ but continuous pats on the back without financial support begin to feel like kicks in the teeth.”

Northwest Community College’s Adam Conner has experienced similar disappointment when he had to quit college the first time he took classes at Northwest because of difficulties in chemistry. When he tried to return a year later, he learned he was not eligible for the Pell Grant. Conner didn’t feel financially apt as an 18-year-old to take out a loan so he waited until he turned 24 to be eligible for aid as an independent student.

“A quality education provides an array of benefits but there are many barriers to success. Rising tuition, time, and financial aid restrictions keep countless Mississippians from accessing higher education,” explained the Student Government Association president at Northwest. “Every Mississippian is entitled to opportunities for educational and professional growth.”

Without more support for community colleges, Dr. Jim Haffey is concerned more people will be dependent on the state. The MACJC Legislative Co-chair and Holmes Community College president shared his mother’s story. She earned her nursing degree at Hinds Community College after 20-years of raising kids and being a housewife. He calculated a 1,600 percent return on the states’ investment into her education from the state taxes she paid over the 26-years she worked at a rural county hospital. Haffey is challenging legislators to provide support to anyone who wants an education can be served.

“There are hundreds of Mississippians who do not get a chance to enroll at an allied health program every year because we have limitations on our space. We stand poised to help hundreds but we cannot open or expand new programs without a strong commitment from the state. Two years ago, the community colleges were cut 11-percent while the state made other areas a priority. I’m asking the Legislature to restore those cuts immediately and invest in a proven economic development entity, the Mississippi Community Colleges.”

Dr. Andrea Mayfield, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College Board added community colleges are the best value for the taxpayers and individuals seeking an education.

“The community college system does it all while offering affordable college tuition and with every experience, you can find at a university. But, you can also (earn a degree) and begin work without a large debt. The community college’s purpose is to put people to work and it’s the best value to Mississippi’s economy.”

Longtime community college supporter and Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann urged community college leaders to continue to share their “good value” message because two-year colleges make a difference.  While visiting schools across the state, Hosemann said he has met first-generation college graduates and problem solvers thanks to community colleges.

“The first autistic child was diagnosed in 1947 in Mississippi. It’s a growing problem but what are we going to do? How are we going to educate teachers who haven’t been faced with the challenges of teaching an autistic child? We went to the community colleges and they devised a program and it’s taught at Holmes.”

While the successes of community colleges are abundant, administrators are faced with the challenge of funding a system that continually lacks support from legislators. For every dollar spent on education, only seven-cents go to community colleges with 18-cents going to the Institutes for Higher Learning, and 75-cents fund kindergarten through 12th grade. Community college leaders are asking for legislators to spend a dime of every dollar to educate the 100,000 students and the additional 70,024 individuals seeking skilled training.

“We are not just another group of people who want more money,” said Meridian Community College Associate Degree Nursing instructor, Dr. Holly Crane, R.N., CNE. “We, the community colleges are the catalyst that grows this economy and we are simply asking our legislators, our leaders, to invest in us like we invest in our students.”

Jones College’s Dr. Lindsey Keay selected as Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year

ELLISVILLE –Jones College’s music instructor, Dr. Lindsey Keay has been selected as the JC 2018-19 Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year.  She will be honored by the Mississippi Humanities Council and the college on Tuesday, March 5, at 10:30 a.m. in the M.P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium. The public is invited to see Dr. Keay’s free flute performance and presentation, “In the Zone: Flow of Music,” which will explore our intrinsic motivation to function at our finest. Dr. Keay’s fascination with determining what prompts us to succeed with the ultimate desire to find ways to motivate students became the key to earning her doctoral degree.

“My doctoral theses explored the abstract, intangible feeling that drives us to engage in an activity, which often leads to sacrifice, for the sheer joy of doing that activity. It is the balance of what someone is able to do and what they can achieve by practice. It’s also a balance between challenge and skill. I wanted to know what drives musicians to do what they do, which often seems boring to others. However, for musicians ‘in flow,’ achieving that optimal state of joy and satisfaction is what sometimes pushes them to continue,” said Dr. Keay.

“Being in the zone” can apply to all aspects of life, including athletics, video gaming and the medical field. Dr. Keay’s goal as a music instructor is to discover how she can help her students find their motivating factor to put them “in the “zone.”

“Dr. Keay is an invaluable asset to Jones College. Her devotion to academic quality and student achievement is matched by her willingness to always go above and beyond to motivate students to be their best.  She is guided by a sense of purpose that is evident in all she does. She is an inspiration to all of us,” said Jones College Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Jason Dedwylder.

The Mississippi Humanities Council will recognize Dr. Keay as JC’s Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year during this special presentation in Ellisville, and again in Jackson at a banquet where she will receive a cash award and a plaque.

“I am honored and humbled because there are a lot of fantastic faculty members doing a lot of awesome things at Jones.  I’m grateful to be nominated and I am looking forward to sharing some of my research on the psychological theory of ‘flow’ and how it pertains to music,” said Dr. Keay.

Director of Bands at Jones, Dr. Ben Burge said Dr. Keay is very deserving of the recognition from the Mississippi Humanities Council. The former Canadian and Houston, Texas native, Dr. Keay is a blessing to all the band members she is associated with.

“Lindsey is the consummate professional. She is a vital part of every success we have in the band department at Jones.  She provides a wonderful example to our students and she goes above and beyond in her teaching every single day.  She has extraordinary talent and is a remarkable flutist.  Jones College is lucky to have someone of her musical expertise and devotion on staff. I am proud to be her colleague and friend,” said Dr. Burge.

2015 Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year, fine arts department chair and art instructor, Mark Brown, also acknowledges, Dr. Keay is vital to the success of the fine arts division.

“It is evident Dr. Keay cares about her students and takes pride in their achievements while demanding no recognition for herself.  She is a supportive colleague and plays the flute as beautifully as anyone I’ve heard,” said Brown.

Dr. Keay’s responsibilities besides being the assistant band director and flute instructor at Jones include, working with the Maroon Typhoon, Concert Band, JC Pep Band, JC Flute Choir, JC Percussion Ensemble, teaching music appreciation, giving lessons at South Jones High School, and she is a member of the USM Steel Drum Band.  She also is a member of five symphonies in the region in Baton Rouge, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Meridian, Mobile, and Tupelo’s, North Mississippi Symphony. Additionally, she was invited to teach at a South American masterclass and give a symphony performance of a rarely played piece of music on her piccolo for the first time in Cartagena, Colombia, South America as part of the music festival and clinic at the Unibac. The accomplished flutist attributes her introduction to the flute to her mother.

“Shortly after we moved from Calgary, Canada to Houston, my mom encouraged me to join the band as I entered sixth grade. She played the flute so I wanted to play the flute too,” said Dr. Keay.

What began as an introduction to music on the flute has turned into a career in music that has lasted decades. The current Hattiesburg resident is completing her fifth year at Jones College with previous teaching experience at Bedichek Middle School in Austin, Texas, as a graduate assistant at USM, and as an instructor of music education at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana.


Foundation for the Mid South helps Jones College’s Commercial Trucking program go into “overdrive”

ELLISVILLE –The Foundation for the Mid South’s $46,000 grant has helped Jones College’s commercial truck driving program go into “overdrive.”  One of the goals of the Foundation for the Mid South grant is to help fill the demand for more truck drivers.

“According to the Foundation for the Mid South, more than 11,000 truck driver jobs are available in Mississippi. Their intent is to bridge the gap between our programs and the areas of need in the state,” said Jones College’s Grant Coordinator, Dr. Mike Cole.

The majority of the grant has been used to help the Jones commercial truck driving program in various ways said Jones commercial truck driving instructor, Billy Miller.

“This grant has provided much needed maintenance for our aging fleet of trucks, four trailers and a dump truck. Tires alone cost several thousand dollars and we’ve purchased other equipment for the five commercial trucks used to train the regions’ future truckers.”

Jones will also be offering commercial truck driving in all four of the college’s county centers located in Bay Springs, Leakesville, Stonewall and Waynesboro, as well as the main campus in Ellisville. Additionally, some of the grant money will be used to support students and other skills-pathway options for students at Jones.

Jones College’s engineering students tour MSU

 ELLISVILLE – Twenty four of Jones College’s engineering majors toured one of the state’s renowned engineering facilities at Mississippi State University.  In addition to being able to tour the Bagley College of Engineering, students toured the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) and the High  Voltage Lab at MSU.  Exposing students to their future professors and university facilities helps them find the best college to fit their needs.

“This is a great opportunity for students to see the academic setting and the applications of the engineering courses they will take in the future,” said Jones engineering and physics instructor, Mary Boleware. “It is very helpful for the students to ‘see themselves’ at the next level before they transfer.”

This is 19th-year Boleware has taken Jones students to tour the college of engineering at MSU. Students met with faculty and MSU students in various areas of engineering. At the CAVS, they were introduced to areas of research including the Eco Car and the Car of the Future, a 3D metals “printer”, and the virtual reality labs. While at the High Voltage Lab, Jones students enjoyed demonstrations of lightning strikes and other electrical engineering displays.

Cathy Northington shares how Jones College students can be leaders making a difference

ELLISVILLE – Mississippi Economic Council COO, Cathy Northington spent a morning at Jones College recently sharing how Jones College students can be leaders who make a difference as the guest speaker for the college’s annual Black History Leadership program. Despite the many obstacles in her way, like leaving college to have a child and being raised by her grandmother, Northington discovered a way to be a leader in her field.

“I remember complaining to my grandmother, ‘I’m tired and I want to stop working. I don’t feel like my voice is being heard the way I wanted it to be heard,’” explained Northington to Jones students. “My no-nonsense grandma in her meek and mild manner told me, ‘It’s not about you. It’s about what you can do for others.’ That was the gut punch I needed.  At that moment I knew that I needed to lead to make a difference.”

The Jackson native studied marketing at Mississippi College and graduated from the Institute for Organization Management, an intensive four-year nonprofit leadership training program conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the University of Georgia. She was able to rise to the top as Chief Operating Officer of the MEC, Mississippi’s leading and largest broad-based business organization, working part-time before becoming MEC’s Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer and current COO, because of that “defining moment” with her grandmother.  She decided to become a leader who is teachable, compassionate and empathetic. As the, Our Mississippi Magazine’s and the Women’s Fund, 2018 Business Woman of the Year, Northington applied her grandmother’s wisdom to become a successful leader.

“Being a leader is one of the hardest jobs and it’s also one of the most rewarding…. In order to be teachable, you have to understand you’re never too old to learn. You have to care about those that you’re leading to being compassionate. If you are empathetic, it’s not always easy, but you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. To whom much is given, much is required. Serve, even when you’re not getting paid to serve.”

She challenged the audience to consider the “pearls” of wisdom they can leave and collect, as well as what kind of blessings they can leave behind. Coordinator of the event and Jones College’s assistant to the president for corporate training, Dr. Samuel Jones, added we can all learn from each other, but we also have to discover our purpose in life to impact our surroundings.

“There is a purpose for everything. I encourage you students to find the purpose in all of your challenges, in all of your struggles and in everything you face in this thing called life, because this is what leading to make a difference is all about,” said Dr. Jones.

Northington also urged students to get out of their comfort zones and be disciplined to make the soundtrack of their lives what they want it to be; positive or negative.