By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker named Dr. Kathy L. Murphy President of Gadsden State Community College earlier this week. Murphy, who was appointed after a months-long search by a presidential committee, will begin her appointment on January 1, 2021.
“Dr. Murphy is a visionary educator with a proven record of focusing on all aspects of the student experience, which is the leadership we aim for at every community college in our state,” said Baker. “I am confident that Dr. Murphy’s determination to work alongside the faculty, staff and community at Gadsden State will reap great benefits for the college as they continue to provide the education and skills training needed for Alabama’s workforce.”
Dr. Murphy, who currently serves as Superintendent of Hoover City Schools, has an educational background that spans over 30 years. Prior to her service in Hoover City Schools, she was Superintendent of Monroe County Schools. She served as a principal at Charles Henderson and Greenville high schools and Greenville Middle School, and as a professor at the University of West Georgia and Judson College.
“The opportunity to serve Alabamians in Gadsden, Anniston and Centre in this capacity is a privilege I am honored to pursue,” said Dr. Murphy. “I look forward to working closely with my new colleagues and students to ensure that we are best serving generations of college-and career-bound students who choose Gadsden State as part of their path.”
Dr. Murphy obtained both a Doctor of Education in Physical Education (with an Emphasis in Program Administration and Curriculum Development) and a Master of Education in Physical Education from Auburn University and both a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and an Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Auburn University Montgomery. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Education from Troy University.
“I think the first order of business is to get [to Gadsden State] and be available and visible and accessible to those in the college, and certainly likewise in the community,” said Murphy. “I will be a new face and will look forward to seeing others that I have not been acquainted with. Step one will be getting there and learning people and processes and understanding Gadsden State.”
Murphy noted that following the transition period, one of her main goals is recognizing and maintaining the support of the community to uphold the strong relationship between the college and its affiliates already in place. She seeks to increase enrollment and deliver programs, credentials, degrees and certificates that meet each student’s individualized goals. Understanding the needs of the students and faculty is central before she develops a specific plan.
Former Gadsden State President Dr. Martha Lavender drafted a three-year strategic plan for the college, which Murphy looks forward to examining closer. She will be working on the ASPIRE 2030 Strategic Plan appointed by Chancellor Baker which challenges community college presidents to consider what how their colleges might appear 10 years from now. Murphy is excited to unfold that plan and collaborate with others on what is truly the best approach for GSCC.
“I’m looking forward to learning and embracing and doing this work together,” said Murphy. “My goal is to be the best at everything that I participate in, and to become the very best community college of all community colleges in our state. We’ll aspire big and we’re going to have some stretch goals and some growth goals and we’re going to work hard every day to meet them.”
Murphy commented on the college’s relationship with athletics, a topic of fervent local discussion throughout the past few years. Gadsden State cancelled its baseball and softball programs several years ago.
“My background is in sports and in athletics, so I’m a huge proponent of sports,” said Murphy. “I understand the value of being on a team and I understand the lessons that are learned through athletics that are sometimes not taught to us in other forums. I would be very premature to say we’re going to start X,Y,Z sports again or to put new sports into place. I will say this about sports – they certainly have their place, but it is not the primary focus. Academics will always be our primary focus and preparing people to take their lives to the next level with their careers and learning. But I am also a huge proponent of athletics, and I will certainly entertain any conversations about what athletics we have and what athletics we aspire to put into place. I will have a very listening ear for the things that our community wants.”
Gadsden State is comprised of five campuses and educational centers across Etowah, Calhoun, Cherokee, Cleburne and St. Clair counties. The college offers degrees and certifications across 17 programs of study and is among the latest of Alabama’s community colleges to host the Alabama Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (F.A.M.E.) apprenticeship program with area companies.
“I already know that [the faculty at GSCC] do a terrific job,” said Murphy. “I’ve had an opportunity to take a look at the work Gadsden State is already doing, so the first thing I would say is that I applaud their work and what they’ve done for our students. The second thing I’d say is we’re going to progress together. I look forward to joining hands and walking Gadsden State forward together with those faculty and staff members that are there. I have high expectations. I set high expectations for myself and for those that are around us. But, that’s not difficult. We just need to be on our A-game and bring our skill sets to the table and be ready and willing to work together, and willing and ready to help our students take it to the next level in their own career. I would thank them first of all, because I know they’re doing a great work already. I thank them for working alongside me as we do this work together.”