East Mississippi Community College announced Tuesday it has hired Courtney Taylor as its first executive director for the $42 million Communiversity.
Taylor comes to the job with experience in both educational work force training and economic development, a combination of experiences that made her uniquely qualified for the job, EMCC officials said in a statement released Tuesday. The Communiversity, which began classes this fall, is a collaboration among EMCC, Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Development Authority focusing on the advance manufacturing skills required by local industries.
“Courtney brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position,” EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks said. “She understands the integral role community colleges play as intermediaries between local communities, economic developers and area industries.”
Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins applauded the hiring.
“I have no personal knowledge of (Taylor), but Macauley Whitaker, our chief financial officer, was on the search committee,” Higgins said. “Macauley spent an extensive amount of time with her. (Taylor) comes with high recommendations. We think she’ll be a good partner with us on the economic development side.”
Taylor has served in higher education for the last 13 years, most recently as the regional director of workforce and economic development for the Alabama Community College System. Prior to that, she served as the director of the Workforce Solutions department at Calhoun Community College where she managed open-enrollment programs and customized training for local industry. She is a past assistant director at Troy University’s Center for International Business and Economic Development.
The Magnolia Springs, Alabama native holds a bachelors degree from the University of West Alabama, a masters degree from Troy University and earned her Ph.D in Human Capital Development at University of Southern Mississippi.
In her current role, Taylor works with Alabama’s 24 community colleges to develop and align workforce programs to ensure they are current, relevant and meet industry needs.
“I spend a lot of time working with the colleges to identify new educational opportunities and meeting with industry officials to ensure our education programs are cutting edge and address necessary basic needs,” Taylor said. “One of my passions is making sure all stakeholders are on the same page and understand what is going on.”
She is also heavily involved in the Alabama Community College System’s recruitment efforts and has implemented a variety of programs designed to enlighten K-12 students, parents and their teachers about available career options in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.
“I think one of the main reasons more students aren’t coming into community colleges and finding these programs is because they truly have no way to know about the occupations available in their communities and the educational pathways available to those opportunities,” Taylor said. “What we need to let students know is they can come to a community college and obtain training that will allow them to find employment at home while earning a good living, or move on to a four-year degree program.
“One of the things that excites me about the Golden Triangle is you are positioned for growth,” she added. “You have obviously invested heavily in workforce in ways that a lot of places have not.”
In addition to her role at the Communiversity, Taylor will also be in charge of EMCC’s workforce and community services, replacing Raj Shaunak, who is retiring.
Higgins said filling the director’s position at the Communiversity is a major step forward for economic development efforts in the Golden Triangle.
“We want to be joined at the hip,” Higgins said. “We needed somebody we could call at a moment’s notice and say, ‘We have a prospect here and you have 15 minutes to show them what you got, listen to them about what their needs are and make your pitch.'”
Taylor begins her new role on Nov. 11 with a starting salary of $127,500.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]