In the First Person
Dr. Jay K. Box (EdD '94), Versailles, KY
“To create a comprehensive community and technical college system recognized as the nation’s best” is the challenging vision statement of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). it was that vision that five years ago convinced me to accept the position of president for hazard community and technical college – one of the 16 comprehensive community colleges within KCTCS – and most recently to accept a promotion to the System office where I serve as vice president for technology solutions.
It was a similar vision that attracted me to enroll in Baylor’s new Collegiate Scholars of Practice doctoral program in 1991. Although there were many higher education doctoral programs across texas from which to choose, none of them professed to provide aspiring community college administrators with a combined theoretical and practical approach to community college leadership. Baylor, however, stepped up to the plate and established an innovative doctoral program for higher education that was built upon their highly successful public school administrators’ program – the Scholars of Practice. The result was a comprehensive leadership training curriculum that has produced some of the nation’s best community college leaders.
It has now been 12 years since I received my Baylor doctoral degree. I believe my Baylor training helped prepare me to excel at each of my positions. But it has been during my last five years in Kentucky that this degree has paid off the most.
When I assumed the presidency of Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) in July 2002, I knew that my number one challenge was to expand access to higher education. That challenge was magnified in Hazard, located in rural eastern Kentucky, high in the Appalachian Mountains. Isolation and poverty have caused this area of the state to lag far behind the state and national average of individuals with high school diplomas, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees.
During my first few months as the HCTC president, I met with community leaders in the four major counties that HCTC serves. I asked what the college should be doing to improve the quality of life in eastern kentucky. “improve access to a four-year degree” was the number one answer. Since no four-year state university campus was closer than a two-hour drive, I began working with area university presidents to find a solution.
The result was the establishment in July 2003 of the University Center of the Mountains (UCM), a consortium of six colleges and universities that provides seamless transfer of coursework earned at HCTC (or other KCTCS colleges) directly into a bachelor’s degree program.
After just three years of existence, the UCM has expanded to offering 20 bachelor’s degrees and seven master’s degrees, and now has over 500 students enrolled. During the same time period, enrollment at HCTC also has grown to nearly 4,000 students. Progress in increasing access to higher education has definitely been made in Hazard and its surrounding communities.
Since January 2007, I have served as a vice president for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. As one of four KCTCS vice presidents, I provide leadership for administrative systems, network operations, distance learning technologies, and visualized learning and innovation. A large part of my job is to help KCTCS expand and enhance access to higher education through the use of technology. Thus, I am most excited about our future work with online learning as we are currently in the design phase of a new virtual learning initiative that we believe will become the nation’s best online delivery of classes and services.
I am forever thankful for the leadership preparation I received through Baylor’s collegiate Scholars of Practice doctoral program. It has truly inspired me to be the best leader I can possibly be.
Jay K. Box
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