Friday, July 17, 2015

NEW PRESIDENT EMBARKS ON LISTENING TOUR AT EMCC

New President Thomas Huebner
SCOOBA – Dr. Thomas Huebner is the new president of New East Mississippi Community College. His immediate priority is simple: “Listen.”

Having inherited a strong college with nationally prominent programs from his predecessor, Dr. Rick Young, Dr. Huebner wants to hear from his new team before jumping into any decision-making.

“There’s so much I have to learn. My schedule is already booked full and I’m talking to people from all parts of the campus,” said Dr. Huebner, who took office July 1.


“What I’ve realized in just my first few days is that EMCC has some truly outstanding instructors and I’m impressed by the quality of education students receive. I know all college presidents say that, but that doesn’t make it any less important. EMCC prepares students for their next step, whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution or earning a career-technical certificate or degree and going straight into the workforce.

“In the end, that’s what it’s all about, helping people reach their potential.”

Huebner’s listening list goes on and on: Boards of supervisors from EMCC’s six-county district, K-12 superintendents and principals, civic groups. And he wants to spread the good word about EMCC.

“I enjoy speaking to groups of people. If anyone in the community – civic organizations or schools – wants me to speak to their group, I’d very much enjoy the opportunity. That comes with being a believer in what you do,” he said.

“I like to go to people’s spaces and see where they work instead of have them come to me. That
New Emcc Dorms
keeps a leader in touch on a personal level.”

Dr. Huebner has what he describes as “missionary zeal” for the role of community colleges: “I tell my friends at four-year schools, if you believe education can make a positive change in someone’s life, then why would you want to be anywhere other than right here on the front line?”

A veteran administrator with more than 25 years of experience in education, Huebner previously served as dean of student services at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., interim president at Bevill State Community College in Jasper, Ala., and vice president at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.

“Dr. Huebner has experience in virtually every area of community college administration, including instruction, student life, fund-raising, workforce development, grant-writing, institutional effectiveness, marketing, enrollment, facilities management, athletics and accreditation,” said Kathy Dyess, chair of EMCC’s board of trustees.

While there is still listening and learning to come, Dr. Huebner said, he couldn’t help but identify several obvious strengths and weaknesses as he prepared to apply for the position of president.

The first and most obvious strength is a world-class Workforce Development program at EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus. The program was instrumental in attracting major industries such as PACCAR and Severstal (now Steel Dynamics) to Lowndes County and Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi to Clay County, and has been featured in national media publications and broadcasts.

Huebner said the Workforce program’s success under EMCC’s Manufacturing Technology & Engineering Division and the upcoming construction of a state-of-the-art Center for Manufacturing Technology Excellence (a.k.a. CMTE 2.0, a.k.a. Communiversity) at the Golden Triangle Global Industrial Aerospace Park are evidence of a vibrant and prolific program. One he’d like to see expanded to the southern end of EMCC’s district.

“Having a skilled and trained workforce that attracts industry affects every facet of a community, from the local economy to schools to the real estate market. Having EMCC at the table is an asset to every community we serve,” he said.

“Where I’ve worked in the past, we could only dream about the opportunity to build a facility with the vision and scope of the CMTE 2.0. Extending our reach will be good for EMCC, but also good for the region and even the state.”

Other assets Dr. Huebner highlighted include the Lion football program, which has won three of the last four NJCAA national championships, as well as the construction of a new student union at the Golden Triangle campus scheduled to open in fall 2016.

Student Union
“At a commuter-based campus like our Golden Triangle campus, it’s a challenge to create a sense of community. A facility that fills that need that is very positive,” said Dr. Huebner.

“On the other end of the district, I like that the Scooba campus is its own little community. Students eat here, sleep here and build relationships here.”

To that end, Dr. Huebner said new dorms are a priority at the residential Scooba campus: “Not only do we have a dramatic need to improve the facilities at existing residence halls, but we need more beds. We have a waiting list of more than 100 students but no place to put them.”

Plans for new dorms at the Scooba campus are currently in the design phase.