State of ACCS address given at Gadsden State


Submitted photo: Chancellor Jimmy Baker delivers the State of the Community College System at Gadsden State Community College on Sept. 21. Brett Johnson, chief of staff for Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford, looks on.

Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker stopped at Gadsden State Community College on  September 21 to deliver the State of the Community College System (ACCS).

Gadsden State was the second stop on a tour that takes him to each region in Alabama to deliver the ACCS story.

“The Alabama Community College System is the best instrument in the state to bring communities together to do good work,” Baker said. “We have an opportunity to move forward at a pace we haven’t been used to in the past.”

Dr. Kathy Murphy, president of Gadsden State, welcomed Baker and attendees before announcing that the college hit an enrollment milestone for the fall semester.

“We have 4,736 students at Gadsden State, which is our largest enrollment since 2013,” she said. “We are changing the lives and impacting the lives of 4,736 students for good and forever every day.”

Brett Johnson, chief of staff for Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford, provided greetings on behalf of the mayor, who was unable to attend.

“Mayor Ford has a deep-seeded connection to this college and a great admiration for the college system as a whole,” he said. “We thank Chancellor Baker for supporting Gadsden State and our community.”

Once at the podium, it did not take Baker long to mention the construction of Gadsden State’s Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center on the East Broad Campus. He said when the public announcement was made in July 2022 about the 50,000-square-foot building, he could feel the excitement in the crowd.

“I felt a spirit in Gadsden that I had not felt in many years,” he said. “People were excited. People were seeing progress.”

Baker, who was selected as the ACCS chancellor in 2017, said he is proud of the leaders at each of the community colleges.

“We have seen a great improvement among leadership in the system,” he said. “Kathy Murphy may be small in stature, but she has a lot of power, a lot of heart and a lot of commitment. I need more people like her.”

Baker said community college enrollment has declined across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That is not the case in Alabama,” he said. “We have seen an increase in enrollment every year for the past three years. This year, we’ve increased by almost 10 percent.”

He said over 155,000 students took advantage of programs and courses offered by Alabama’s community colleges during the last academic year.

“That’s more students than all the state-supported colleges combined,” he said.

Despite the positives that have occurred during his tenure, Baker said continuous improvement is important as the Alabama Community College System moves forward.

“We are helping people build a better life,” he said. “We are helping people build a better community. We are making a difference in this state. We have a lot of work to do but it’s rewarding work.”

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