In January 2019 Dr. Michael Heindl, president of Northwest Mississippi Community College, announced the appointment of Dr. Don Jones as the new dean of the Lafayette-Yalobusha Technical Center (LYTC) in Oxford. Jones joined the Northwest family in mid-March.
“Dr. Jones has extensive higher education experience in teaching and providing leadership in student services, enrollment management and campus administration. I am excited about Dr. Jones joining our Northwest family,” Heindl said, in his announcement of Jones’ hiring.
Prior to his appointment at Northwest, Jones served as director of Recruitment and Admissions at Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement (SoPA) campuses in New Orleans and online. He worked for Belhaven University for several years as enrollment manager, director of Enrollment and Student Services, and as assistant vice president of Adult, Graduate and Online Enrollment and Student Services where he oversaw seven campuses in five states.
Jones is excited about his new position at Northwest. “I feel like people are beginning to see the value of the community college and the community partner that we are. Coming to Northwest is an opportunity for me to be a part of that,” Jones said.
Coming from private higher education institutions to Northwest has been a change for Jones. “We don’t make decisions hastily,” Jones said, adding, “and I think that is good. I feel like faculty, staff and all of our stakeholders have a voice. I’ve been impressed with the committees I have been asked to serve on. Even as the new guy, I have a voice here.”
Jones says another thing that has impressed him about Northwest is that he feels like there is a genuine and sincere respect for the student throughout the Northwest culture. “I hear over and over, ‘What’s best for our students?’ in every meeting. Everyone in higher education gives lip service to serving students, but here at Northwest it is a real thing from the top all the way down to our adjunct instructors and staff,” Jones said.
With respect to the Oxford campus, Jones has hopes to expand program offerings, especially the Career-Technical programs. “We are maximizing the use of our facilities and staff. Career-Technical programs are especially poignant to me because they allow students to start their careers quickly in areas that excite them. They can fast-track their careers and move on with their lives,” Jones said. “Plus, students often return for more advanced certifications so they can accelerate their career trajectories. The student who starts in our Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program often returns to pursue Practical Nursing and then RN credentials. It isn’t uncommon to see them go on to become nurse practitioners as their life progresses,” he added. “Seeing someone’s education propel their career like that is exciting.”
Another initiative that Jones is excited about is Northwest’s middle college program, the Scholastic Institute. This program is being piloted with Oxford High School in fall, 2019. High school juniors who enroll in the Scholastic Institute will take a minimum of 15 college hours per semester and will be full- time Northwest students while still in high school. Upon high school graduation, the student would earn both a high school diploma from Oxford High School and an associate degree from Northwest.
Jones said that the motto he tries to live by is simple. “The motto I try to live by is ‘He who is greatest is servant of all.’ If you want to be great, serve others. Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is the example we should follow. Our positions at Northwest are not about us being wonderful or deserving of titles and rewards. Rather, they are opportunities for us to serve our students. They have been put into our care during this part of their academic journey. I take that as a calling,” Jones added.
He said that he is also a believer in strength-based leadership. “We ask ourselves what our strengths are and play to those strengths, but work to strengthen our own weaknesses,” Jones said. He stated that a good leader should recognize that each individual on his team has particular strengths and they might not be the same as the leader’s, but they are valuable. Each person’s strengths are what make the team successful.
Jones also borrowed leadership principles from a former Mississippi State Guard commanding officer, Brigadier General (retired) Benjamin Inman. “Ben Inman had three simple rules for his military units: Courtesy, Cooperation, and Competence. I added ‘Creativity’ because colleges should be havens for creative solutions and out-of-the-box thinking. If we as a team strive to interact according to these rules, we will achieve much and fulfill the Northwest mission,” Jones said.
Before Jones began working in higher education, he spent several years in sales, marketing, and management. Jones served in the Army National Guard and is currently a staff officer in the Mississippi State Guard. He is a Rotarian and was a recipient of the Southeast Shelby County Rotary Community Heroes Award. He is a member of the Horn Lake Lion’s Club, the Phi Delta Kappa Educational Fraternity, Golden Key, the State Guard Association of the U.S., and the Southern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. He has been the recipient of several service awards for his community involvement and military service.
His teaching experience includes learning strategies for adults, business administration, and educational leadership for Belhaven University. He also taught biblical studies and liturgical studies coursework for ministry students in his diocese.
Jones graduated from Horn Lake High School and earned a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management from Bethel University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. He received an Educational Specialist in Community College Teaching from Arkansas State University (ASU) and went on to earn his Doctorate of Education from ASU. He also holds degrees in biblical studies and liturgical worship that prepared him for chaplaincy and pastoral work. He has one daughter (Mary Victoria) who will be a student at Northwest beginning in fall 2019. He is also “Uncle Don” to Chris and Jennifer Evans of Horn Lake.
One of the things that Jones would like to do is to make the Oxford campus a center of community activity. “We are small but we are going to be special. Community outreach is vital to what we are doing,” Jones said. He hopes to partner with churches, civic groups, and businesses.
For more information on Northwest and the Oxford Center, visit the college’s website at northwestms.edu.