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Joliet Junior College president looking to lead by example

In her inauguration speech, Joliet Junior College President Dr. Judy Mitchell noted the journey she’d taken to get where she is today.

“There are so many wonderful people that I have met and known over 20 years and recently in the community,” she said. “You have to know that I truly bleed purple and love Joliet Junior College.”

A number of community leaders were on hand for the Feb. 1 presidential inauguration ceremony at Joliet Junior College.

Mitchell gave credit to the institution for helping to shape the professional she is.

“This institution from the start took good care of me as a returning adult student,” she said. “At that point, I hadn’t been in a classroom for over 10 years, let alone a college classroom. When I walk the halls of our campus today and spend time with our students—in those same classrooms, remodeled—my collective thoughts are this, ‘what can I do each and everyday to give back to the institution that gave so much to me?”

Mitchell was appointed to her current position in September 2016, following the departure of Dr. Debra Daniels, who served as the college’s president for four years.

Mitchell said she strongly believes in JJC’s mission to be a student’s first choice and views it as a guiding principle for which she follows.

“What I do every single day through my interactions, through my decisions and through my relationships guide JJC to be the first choice for education, for training, for careers and so much more,” she said. “It is imperative that we have a strong foundation to lead us into the future. We have a proud history at this institution as the first public community college in the nation. It is through this lens of un-parallel innovation in our history of revolutionizing local higher education that I consider the future of Joliet Junior College.”

Mitchell said it’s key that people recognize what she calls JJC’s four pillars to support success, and they include efforts to ensure fiscal responsibility, provide diversity in academic programming, create paths for student success and focus on community and legislative engagement and philanthropic outreach.

JJC President Emeritus J.D. Ross spoke on Mitchell’s behalf commending her effort, saying she serves as a testament to working professionals looking to advance their careers and “shatter the glass ceiling” one building block at a time.

“Your appointment to the presidency speaks highly of your academic preparation and of your job performance in prior positions,” he said. “And let’s be honest, in good organizations internal candidates do not get these appointments without support from the faculty, staff and students, as well as external support, which comes from the community and business leaders. Dr. Mitchell, you had that support, you still have that support and it bodes well for you and your team.”

JJC Alumni Board Interim President Ericka Williams agreed.

“Dr. Mitchell is living proof that access to quality education provides immeasurable opportunities,” she said.

Mitchell earned an associate degree from Joliet Junior College in 1998. Following that, she would go on to earn her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate.

Prior to serving as the college’s president, Mitchell worked as an administrative assistant in the computer informational system department, program manager specialist in adult and family services, assistant to the director of administrative services, just to name a few.

“Throughout those roles, Dr. Mitchell has positively impacted Joliet Junior College in many ways,” Williams said. “For instance, she led the college budgeting process in the state of Illinois fiscal crisis and helped the college reduce its operating costs by over $2 million over four years.”

Under Mitchell’s leadership, the college’s financial team was awarded the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the fiscal year 2016 budget.

Mitchell was also part of the team guiding the college’s development of a 2008-2013 master plan, a plan that encompassed the largest physical change to the college main campus since it was built in 1969. Five new structures and five expansion and renovation projects altered the appearance of the college and provided the space and resources needed as enrollment grew and programs changed to meet labor market demands.

“Educated workers drive employment and economic growth,” Mitchell said. “The college’s partnership with companies to develop curriculum necessary to produce skilled workers for these jobs is imperative.”

Mitchell said she’s proud to serve as JJC’s president.

“I believe together we will build a foundation for a very strong future, one which supports student success and will provide the necessary workforce in our community,” she said. “At JJC, we often talk about being sustainable. Of course, this includes so much more than supporting the sustainability of our environment. It includes sustaining the health of our economy… and our society, too. It is my hope to lead the college into the next chapter advocating for student success, growing access to education for all, cultivating innovation, fostering opportunity and impacting our communities and you in long-lasting meaningful ways

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