Above: front from left, Andrea Janoush, Dr. Keri Cole, Renee Cotton; middle row, Dr. Chad Stocks and Sherry Franklin (on the stairs), Colleen Hartfield, Dr. Victor Parker and Randall Harris (beside the stairs); top row (on the stairs), Marvin Moak and Jackie Granberry.
Titles might change, but hearts and minds tend to stay the same. Changes happening at Hinds this semester have been varied and numerous. But, the faces and experiences of those leading the college efforts for transformation have deep roots and passion for the college.
“The employees of Hinds are the bedrock, the cornerstone, who make it possible for the college to be as good as it is,” said Jackie Granberry, executive director of the Hinds Community College Foundation.
Among the college’s most enduring traits is its ability to attract and retain employees who truly believe in the college’s mission. Those roots run particularly deep among the Executive Leadership Team (ELT). Seven are community college alumni while six of those attended Hinds and are also long-term employees of the college. Two others have spent many years employed at Hinds.
Granberry has the longest tenure of any ELT member. She took summer classes at Hinds in 1974 while enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi. Granberry first came to work at Hinds in fall 1979 as an academic counselor. She has served in a number of leadership positions including vice president of Advancement. Her current role as executive director involves raising private funds and building relationships with the community.
“I absolutely believe in the mission of Hinds. I have a heart for all the students we serve,” she said. “Giving a scholarship helps the donor; receiving a scholarship helps the student. While the financial assistance helps the student, the donor also receives satisfaction in knowing that their gift helps the student receive an education that can help improve their lives and the lives of their family. So many of our donors attended Hinds and have very warm and fond memories of their time. I can’t think of anything better than to help others while supporting something that you believe in as much as I believe in Hinds.”
Grants and Legislative Liaison Colleen Hartfield didn’t have a community college background when she moved to Mississippi from St. Louis with her new husband Rick. She worked for a couple years as a corporate trainer before coming to Hinds in 1984. “Without a doubt, Hinds launched my career in higher education. I’ve worked at Mississippi’s two largest community colleges for about 38 years,” she said. “In my own upbringing and in my community college career, I’ve witnessed the struggles that come when education and money are in short supply.
“Hinds fueled my passion for making higher education accessible to everyone, while also providing the means to overcome non-academic barriers like housing, food, transportation and childcare,” Hartfield said.
Marvin Moak, vice president of Facility Management & Auxiliary Services, came to Hinds in 1993 as a first-generation college student who didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do or even how to do it.
He settled on Electrical Technology “for no other reason than I took it in high school and I did not know anything else, and the thought of (English) Comp I scared me to death.”
Like many other Hinds students, Moak found his calling. He worked in the industry for a few years before applying for an open instructor position. “To be honest, I could not believe I had the privilege to be teaching at a college,” he said. “That opportunity allowed me to not only teach but express a commitment to education for everyone who came into my classroom. The skills I learned through my experiences taking classes and teaching at Hinds are utilized every day, and without them I would not be able to do the things I need to do.”
You might call Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president of Workforce & Community Development, and Randall Harris, vice president of Operations & Student Services, a couple of Hinds babies. Both have close connections to the college going back to their early childhood.
Both of Harris’ parents attended Hinds, as did his sister, and he grew up in Raymond. Harris, a student from 1987-1989, was involved in Hinds Connection, the college’s student recruiting group.
“I was able to have instructors who knew me and took the time to help me academically. From Hinds Connection, I learned how to interact with people and how to serve others. These experiences made the transition to the University of Southern Mississippi, the work world and then to Mississippi College for graduate school much easier,” he said.
“My time as a student at Hinds is something that I consider while doing my job today. I can put myself into students’ shoes and think about how the decisions we make will impact their lives,” said Harris, who began work at Hinds in 2011. “What we do as employees really does matter. We have the ability in our jobs to shape young lives. I was once one of those young lives, and I am honored to be able to give back to this college and our community.”
Stocks was about 5 or 6 when he moved to Raymond when his mother got a job with the college. He always knew he wanted to work at Hinds someday. Beginning in high school, he worked at the college farm that is part of the agricultural program. “I graduated from high school at Cain Hall on a Friday night and started Hinds classes Monday morning. Hinds has always had the reputation as the place to go. That was just part of the plan,” he said.
As a student from 1989-1991, he was president of the Agriculture Club, on the Farm Bureau debate team and served on the state livestock judging team, ranking among the top 10 in the nation, and received the Billie Banes Livestock Judging Award.
After working a couple years as a Mississippi State Extension agent, he came to Hinds as an agriculture instructor and moved up through the ranks over the years.
“Our job is to put people to work – bottom line. Our job is to grow the talent pipeline and connect people with jobs and put them to work. Everything is workforce,” Stocks said.
Dr. Keri Cole, vice president of Instruction, Academic & Transfer, was a Hinds student and cheerleader from 1996-1998. Also during this time, she met her husband in a Hinds government class. She transferred to Mississippi State University for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business. She started working at Hinds in 2005 and received her doctorate from Delta State University.
“At Hinds I was able to be part of a community and begin to build my foundation for my future educational and professional goals. Coming to Hinds provided me the opportunity to transition into a college world I knew nothing about. Not only did it offer ease in transition, it gave me an opportunity to actually excel. I was given opportunities at Hinds to lead and learn that I may not have gotten at a larger college.
“To me, Hinds is about opportunity. There is an opportunity for everyone here. Putting in the work to succeed is on the individual, but Hinds gives students the chance they need to do that. Sometimes that’s all people need, an opportunity, a chance. I feel like I’ve had the chance to contribute back to the community college that helped shaped where I am today,” Cole said.
Chief of Staff Renee Cotton came to work at Hinds in 2016, but, like others, she first knew Hinds as a student.
“Attending Hinds had never been part of my plan, but when I bargained with my parents to allow me to graduate a year early from high school, I agreed to attend for one year. Little did I know that I would find my niche and get started on my professional path,” she said.
Cotton developed a love for marketing thanks to instructors like Mac Baker, Charles Jones, Kyle Mize and Jerry Roberts. In 1985, she represented Hinds at the National Delta Epsilon Chi (DECA) competition in San Francisco. After completing Mississippi State University and a 20-plus year career in healthcare marketing, it was appropriate that she returned the college initially to lead the marketing and community relations efforts of the institution.
“I consider returning to Hinds as an employee one of the highlights of my career. Though there have been many changes since I was a student, I discovered that the qualities that make Hinds a quality institution are deeply rooted in the culture,” Cotton said. “Among them are a commitment to quality, faculty members who are dedicated to helping students achieve their goals and a goal of serving all in our communities.”
Sherry Franklin, vice president of Instruction, Career & Technical Education, didn’t attend Hinds as a student but came in 2004 as the tech-prep coordinator. “My passion comes from providing opportunities to our students, faculty, staff and many stakeholders that allow us to serve them in the community,” Franklin said. “Each position that I have served in at Hinds has prepared me to give back to the institution on a greater scale.”
But for her personally, being the mom of three Hinds alumni makes her proud. Her three children, Sherrod, Devon and Shariel, attended Hinds within the past 10 years.
“This is by far the best position that I have at Hinds – being a Hinds MOM,” she said, recalling the words of a t-shirt she recently purchased in the college bookstore. “Hinds invests in providing opportunities for employees’ children to receive a quality education and an enriching experience. I did not have to sell my children on coming to Hinds. However, Hinds took care of my children when they arrived! I love, love, love Hinds!”
Dr. Victor Parker, vice president of Finance, also didn’t attend Hinds but instead East Central Community College. “As the fourth ranked senior in my high school and a member of the National Honor Society, community college was not my first choice when deciding my future, but I’m glad it turned out that way. First, it’s where I met my wife, and, secondly, East Central allowed me to explore my pathway initially in Engineering to Accounting and eventually completing in Finance. Now as a community college employee, I feel it is my charge to continue those opportunities for the next generation,” he said.
A new member of the Executive Leadership Team came on board in February. Andrea Janoush, vice president of Human Resources, is not a Hinds product but a University of Mississippi graduate who cares about making a difference in the community.
What all of these members of the Executive Leadership Team have in common is a passion for and deep-rooted commitment to students and leading Hinds on the next steps of the journey into the future.