So far in the 100 days that she’s served as President at NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Dr. Evelyn Jorgenson says that everything has either “lived up to or exceeded” her expectations.
Her first day as the community college’s third president was July 1, 2013, making Oct. 8 her 100th day in office. Jorgenson signed an amendment to her three-year contract on July 1, that includes an annual salary to $182,131 for this fiscal year.
Jorgenson comes to NWACC after serving 17 years as president of Moberly Area Community College where she worked in various capacities since 1986.
“I was ready for one more big adventure,” she said. “NWACC was a good fit. I could see that there were good people here who were so caring and concerned for students.”
Jorgenson said when she first applied for the open position, she had some concerns when she did a search for the college and some of the first results were news articles and inflammatory blogs about financial issues.
“You learned to just take some of that with a grain of salt,” she said. “There were also many complimentary things there too. I knew many people have a great faith towards this institution.”
When she visited the campus and the Northwest Arkansas community, she became “enchanted with NWACC and Northwest Arkansas,” Jorgenson said. “There were things about Northwest Arkansas that just sparkled. This is a special place.”
From the moment she was hired, Jorgenson was determined to not be the type of leader who comes into an organization and starts making lots of changes just for the sake of change. She’s held true to that belief and has gained the reputation so far as a president who is truly interested in what each person has to say, said Steven Hinds, executive director of public relations and marketing.
“From what I’m hearing so far, people say she is very real and they were impressed that she went office to office to meet each person to learn more about what they do in their job,” he said.
Jorgenson has also spent time meeting with leaders from other colleges in the area as well as superintendents from area school districts.
“I want to learn about all the education opportunities in the area and how we fit into that,” she said.
While her goal has been to take a more listening role in the beginning, Jorgenson and the senior leadership team have begun to examine ways to improve on some issues they are hearing about. For example, there are still parts of the enrollment process that need to be tweaked to make things clearer and less cumbersome for students.
Jorgenson said some of the building notations on the schedule have proved to be confusing for students and at least one student somehow managed to get back-to-back classes located in two different cities. Changes are being made in the registration process to help flag when a student registers for classes in that situation, she said.
Other changes are being examined, including looking at some policies that are in place but are not necessarily being followed such as faculty rank, she said.
“If we have a policy, we need to either be following it or change it. No one has the right to ignore policy,” she said.
Jorgenson said that “every institution, no matter how wonderful, can always be better.”
Although her predecessor Dr. Becky Paneitz made strides to improve on some of the financial issues the college faced, there is more to be done. Jorgenson said she feels that the college is moving in the right direction, however.
She also plans to develop stronger recruitment and retention methods within the college, to both attract and keep more students.
Finalizing plans for NWACC to have a permanent presence in Washington County is another goal. Negotiations for a potential purchase on land near Arvest Ballpark in Springdale are still ongoing, but no final decisions have been made. The college plans to hold community forums to help determine both what the needs are and how much the community is willing to support the center.
Listening to the community is vital for the college’s success, according to Jorgenson.
“We are a community college. Our middle name is community,” she said.