By Alison Decker
NASHVILLE, TN — Shanna Jackson is Nashville State’s Community College’s first female African American President, an honor that she has worked hard towards.
She said she saw the power of education and sought out to help students through her journey from teacher to president. Being president entails responsibilities to allocate resources and set education to better serve students, she added, noting students that have support tend to do better in the classroom academically than students that do not.
She answered a paper ad to teach a business class part-time at a Community College in Knoxville in the 90s, leading her to the academic world. “I wanted to help people get into their economic mobility and their career goals, which led me to the pathway of administration from teaching in-between 2003 and 2004,”Jackson said. “Nashville State is about helping people in the community. I always aspired to be a leader; as a little girl I wanted to be the first female Black president and becoming president of Nashville State was like that little girl reaching her dreams. Becoming a president is not about me, though, it’s about the students.”
Jackson previously worked at Volunteer State Community College, Columbia State Community College, and taught Business Administration.
Tennessee Reconnect is a last chance scholarship for adults returning to school that have previously attended before 2011; to qualify you must attend full or part-time and have completed a FAFSA application for the year. This is a program to help students that previously attended school and do not qualify for FAFSA to attend community college for free. FAFSA is a Pell Grant that provides free federal aid for tuition, books and extra education costs such as materials, laptops and online textbooks.
Graduating seniors from high school attending college for the first time qualify for Tennessee Promise, the sister program to Tennessee Reconnect. It pays for tuition for up to five years, which is beneficial for part-time students with a family and working. The Nashville Flex—a national grant for part-time students is a new assistance program for students.
Many high-school graduates and adult students returning to school can feel overwhelmed with the load of course work. The Nashville Grad (Getting Results by Advancing Degrees) program is a sponsor-funded program implemented December 5, 2018 and started for incoming Davidson County students Fall 2019.
The program is operated through their fiscal sponsor the Nashville State Community College Foundation and helps students with costs beyond tuition, including textbooks, transportation, tools and supplies, and industry certification fees.
“Today marks an incredibly important step toward closing equity gaps in our city, increasing economic opportunity, and investing in our workforce through access to quality education,” said Mayor David Briley in an NSCC press release at the time. “We know that obtaining a degree or credential after high school can raise a person’s lifetime income by one-third, and by 2020, 60 percent of jobs will require some type of postsecondary degree. Giving Nashvillians the assistance they need to successfully reach this goal is vital to Nashville’s long-term prosperity.”
“I knew that my journey was non-traditional in becoming a president of a community college and I credit my success to my predecessors and mentors throughout my life. I did not have specific time on when or how I was going to achieve my goals. I drove and commuted to work like many students do while staying in the same house since 2000 while raising my family. I tried to connect myself with people who could help me navigate the right experiences—hard work and trusting God. I didn’t know how I was going to get to where I wanted to be because of my non-traditional path but I knew that I would succeed through perseverance,” Jackson remarked.
Nashville State is a state-supported school using some resources to help students with fees which are very low compared to private four-year and public four-year colleges.
NSCC offers scholarships and the foundation is always fundraising for existing and new programs such as NSCC Wardrobe, which offers clothing for students applying for internships and jobs to have proper attire for their interviews.
Further, NSCC’s healthcare department has plans to expand the number of students it can accept; programs include nursing, occupational therapy, surgical tech and central sterile processing.
NSCC will implement a new Data Analytics program for Fall 2022, Jackson relayed. “COVID slowed down some of our plans to be able to expand and bring in new programs. However, on the non-work side the school has a patient care program with a partnership through HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) that was implemented during the pandemic.”
The point of the program is to get hands-on experience in healthcare so they could grow into a position beyond the PCT (Patient Care Technician) while re-enrolling in a nursing program, she said.
On-ground tutoring is available on campus and in the learning labs. NSCC has been on a journey to provide holistic support for students.
Jackson said, “We are trying to provide non-academic resources for students as well as academics so we can reach barriers beyond the classroom.”
NSCC’s ribbon cutting ceremony for a new Madison campus commended on April 19th at 9 a.m., one of seven campuses of NSCC in Middle Tennessee. The campus will open for the summer semester, where it will host eight classes, ranging from English Composition to Statistics. It will open to full course offerings for the upcoming fall semester, which begins August 22, 2022. Applications are being accepted at nscc.edu. In addition, NSCC has pathways with four-year public schools which means credits from the two-year path at NSCC will transfer to any four-year public in-state college. Advisors and recruiters often come to NSCC’s campus to discuss programs they offer and transfer scholarship opportunities.
Jackson said, “I’m really proud of the transformation that has taken place in setting in who we want to be as a college. Nashville State, upon my arrival, was focused on the enrollment and graduation rate but today we are more focused on student success. We launched our vision 2030 plan and student-ready college. It is our strategic main focus to complete a transition for a college that expects students to be ready, to be a college that can serve the students that come here from all walks of life. We want to be that resource.”