By Keith Brown, Interim President
Jefferson State Community College
It’s part of my job to brag about Jefferson State Community College, and it’s by far the easiest part. After all, this is an institution that has been a gateway to prosperity for almost a million people over its 50-year history.
As the current president of Jefferson State, I am always proud to hear from so many who owe their lives and livelihoods to the education and skills our campuses provide.
But my pride in Jefferson State is not just part of the job for me — it’s personal. I am a product of Jefferson State, too. I enrolled here as a student more than 25 years ago and set out on an educational journey that carried me on to complete a four-year degree, then law school. Like so many others, I credit Jefferson State with equipping me for success in education and in life.
As a first-generation college student, I didn’t have the resources, the awareness or the confidence to walk onto a big university campus and succeed. But at Jefferson State, I received the education, the experiences and the relationships that paved the way for me to move forward. My time at Jefferson State opened the door to more opportunities than I could ever have expected. It’s humbling now to serve a great institution that did so much for me – and continues to do so much for people like me.
You might say I’m still a student of Jefferson State. In my time here as Dean and then in the president’s office, I have been amazed to learn the scope of the services Jefferson State provides and the tremendous impact we have on the communities we serve.
Since Jefferson State first opened its doors in September 1965, we have educated students who may have been your nurses (or your doctors) when you were in the hospital, the educators who taught your children, the welders who kept your bridges safe, the chefs who prepared your dinner, the veterinary nurses who took care of your pets and the office assistants who make all of this possible.
Today, we have almost 9,000 students on our campuses in Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Chilton counties. We continue to provide an affordable and accessible way for students to achieve their goals, whether they are looking for a four-year degree, a two-year degree or a workforce skill to get a job. We know our students will compete in a global marketplace, and we are dedicated to ensuring they will have what they need to succeed wherever they are heading next.
We’re also uniquely able to assist students who need a little extra help to succeed because their families are economically disadvantaged or have limited experience with higher education. Community colleges can provide extra attention to our students that will help them succeed in a four-year institution and in the workplace.
For the past 50 years, Jefferson State has improved our communities, by giving almost a million individuals the opportunity for a better, more productive life. It’s a legacy that makes me both proud and humble every day.
Today, we are challenged by rapid technological advances that continually change the way all of us work and sometimes disrupt entire industries. We must work even harder today to adapt to those changes and to anticipate them. If we don’t keep up, our students will be left behind.
But while some of the details may change over time, our mission remains the same. Students are our first priority, and we strive every day to provide them the tools to give them their best chance for success now and into the future. We want their time with us to be an investment that will return dividends over their lifetime.
As we look to the next 50 years, we are proud to continue to open the door of opportunity, knowing the students we educate will improve the communities where we all live – and that will stand as a legacy for generations to come.