Meeks Leaves EGCC After 16 Years as President

STUEBENVILLE, Ohio – Sixteen years have passed since Dr. Laura Meeks arrived in Jefferson County, armed with a checklist of things she wanted to accomplish as President of what is now Eastern Gateway Community College.

As she eases into retirement, Meeks said she’s pleased with all they’ve been able to accomplish.

“We started out with three strategic goals that we articulated to our faculty and students,” she said. “We wanted to increase enrollment, we wanted to create a student-friendly environment and we wanted to have mutual respect on campus. We’ve worked hard to improve in all of those areas and I think we’ve made great strides.”

Meeks said her focus has been people, not buildings.

“On the Jefferson County campus I think we’ve used our resources well by making  the buildings energy efficient, improving the electrical system and the parking lot, replacing the roof and adding the Pugliese Building,” she said.

“We’re trying to make the same kinds of smart decisions at the Valley Center and Warren Center, so we get the most bang for our bang for our bucks and focus on what we need to do to prepare our students to be leaders in the workplace and in their communities.”

A highlight of her tenure came in 2009 when Jefferson Community College and its one-campus system morphed into Eastern Gateway Community College, with sites in Youngstown and Warren as well as Steubenville. As the college’s service base grew, so did its enrollments. In December, Eastern Gateway was named one of the Top 10 fastest growing community colleges of its size in the nation.

“We’ve made student retention a priority,” she said. “It’s not enough to recruit new students; we need to make sure that once someone comes to us to pursue a degree or certificate, we remove the barriers that could prevent them from completing their degree.”

Student satisfaction surveys help gauge the progress they’ve made.

“We’re very focused on how our students do,” she said. “We’ve become very good at identifying problems and working together to find solutions. The goal is not to blame people, it’s to try and fix the problem. It’s not that we weren’t doing that before, but now it’s a high priority.”

On her watch, Eastern Gateway was selected to attend the National Summit on the Redesign of Developmental Education. Meeks also participated in White House College Opportunity events aimed at strengthening college remediation efforts and exploring strategies to improve student success, presented to national and international stakeholders at the Learner Analytics Summit funded by the Kresge Foundation.

In Jefferson County, she’s been active in the Martin Luther King Community Celebration and Steubenville Kiwanis.  She received the president’s award from Progress Alliance in 2010 and was named pacesetter of the year for the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations District 3, and won the empowerment award from the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing our Neighborhoods.

She also received the 2013 Athena Award presented by the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, and served on the Mahoning Valley Economic Competitiveness Committee, Trumbull 100 board, Northeast Ohio Council for Higher Education, the P-16 Partnership and Tech Belt Energy Initiatives executive committees as well as the Trumbull County Workforce Investment Board.

“Area residents rolled out the welcome mat for me 16 years ago, making me feel like one of the family,” she said. “Working with them and for them over the years has truly been an honor.

Dr. Jimmie Bruce, formerly Vice President of Academic Success at Northwest Vista College, succeeds Meeks as president. Bruce, who earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Texas A&M University, his master’s degree in organizational communication and his bachelor’s degree in public relations from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., is just the fourth president since the college’s inception as Jefferson Technical Institute.

“I’ve had a good run,” Meeks said. “So much has changed since I arrived on campus back in 1999. But now it’s time for me to step back and watch as Dr. Bruce takes Eastern Gateway on the next leg of its journey. I’m confident the college will continue to grow and excel with Dr. Bruce at the helm.”

SOURCE: Eastern Gateway Community College.

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