By Stacy Butera/Delta Business Journal
A new chapter has begun in the story of Mississippi Delta Community College, and it could be titled “One of Us.” Dr. Larry Nabors took the helm as the eighth President of MDCC on February first, but it certainly wasn’t his first day on a community college campus. Nabors is an excellent example of how far a person can go with a start in community college. As a product of Mississippi’s community college system, Nabors is highly qualified to steer MDCC into the future.
After graduating from Northeast Mississippi Community College with an associate of arts degree, Nabors went on to earn a bachelor of arts in mathematics, a master of science in mathematics, a specialist degree in educational leadership, and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, all from the University of Mississippi.
Nabors returned to his roots at Northeast Mississippi Community College in 1988. After teaching courses in algebra, statistics and calculus for 15 years and serving as dean of instruction for five years, Nabors was promoted to the position of executive vice president in 2008. In his position as executive vice president, Nabors was responsible for the day-to-day operation of the college including the divisions of instruction, student services, facilities and maintenance, workforce training and economic development, public information, computer services, and planning research.
The board of trustees for MDCC initiated a search for a new president following the retirement of Dr. Larry Bailey. Paula Sykes, chair of the board of trustees, is confident in their selection of Nabors to lead MDCC.
“He is a great leader, and he is going to do a great job,” says Sykes. “He’s extremely astute, and very accomplished. His experience and qualifications are impressive.”
From his perspective, the MDCC position appealed to Nabors because of its strong academic reputation.
“With a good foundation like that, you have really got something to build on for the future,” says Nabors. “Also, Mississippi Delta is a good size for me. That’s a plus. It’s the right size to give me a better chance to get to know students, faculty and staff.”
His focus on the students is one of the things about Nabors that impressed the board of trustees during their search. Sykes notes that even while serving in administrative positions at Northeast, Nabors continued to teach.
“He continued to teach math while he was a full-time, busy administrator so he could stay in touch with the students,” says Sykes. “He didn’t want to lose that connection.”
Dr. Nabors is a firm believer in the importance of the community college system in Mississippi. He notes that community colleges serve a group of students that otherwise might not have the chance to get a college education.
“Whether it’s a lower ACT score or a financial issue, I really believe that community colleges give them an opportunity to earn a degree,” says Nabors. Specifically, MDCC is important to the Delta in Nabors’ opinion because of the career and technical programs offered. “Studies show that 60 percent of new jobs over the next 20 years will require more than a high school diploma, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree,” explains Nabors. “MDCC helps fill that need. MDCC can help develop the workforce that is needed in the Delta to attract new industries.”
He also stands behind the quality of the community college system in Mississippi. “We have a very strong network as compared to other states. I have traveled to a lot of other states, and I would put our system against any other.”
Nabors adds that a critical component to the success of our system is the concept of a local governing board. “In other states, they have a state board that directs the colleges. In Mississippi, our local boards really know their community and have a better idea how to utilize the community colleges. They have a better idea of what types of degrees we should offer and how to reach the most students.”
Dr. Nabors’ plans for the future at MDCC include bolstering the career and technical programs as well as continuing to strengthen the partnerships with Mississippi Valley State and Delta State. In addition, he has ideas for facilities improvements on campus. Specifically, he sees a “desperate need” for a new student union. The old student union was torn down, so the campus does not currently have one. Nabors plans to utilize state bonds to fund the facilities initiatives. This spring, MDCC will conduct a strategic planning retreat to outline short term and long term goals for the campus.