Impacting a community one student at a time

Beverly Walker-Griffea, Ph.D., became the seventh president of Mott Community College (MCC) in 2014. Dr. Beverly, as she prefers to be called, is the first female and first African American president in the Flint, Michigan college’s history. Under her leadership, MCC was once again selected by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program as one of the nation’s top community colleges. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native spoke with Corp! to tell us about the college’s latest accomplishments.

Corp!: What is your guiding principle to live by?
Dr. Beverly: Leading with grace and mercy.

Corp!: Who was your mentor in life?
Dr. B: Carolyn McCollum at Old Dominion University. Watching her taught me how to relate and care about students. She was the best counselor I have ever met. And she did it with a loving heart and had a sense of humor that could motivate the students. I watched her and realized that our students, in order to be successful, need someone to engage them, care about them, have concern for them and have someone behind them.

Corp!: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
Dr. B: I was a volunteer working at Children’s Hospital in Tulsa, helping severely disabled children have physical therapy. I assisted the physical therapist as much as a 14-year-old could. I learned that all people have the ability to be successful if you give them the right tools and right support.

Corp!: You serve as a board member for a number of community organizations. Tell us about the community of Flint right now and what Mott Community College is doing.
Dr. B: The community as a whole is optimistic about where we are going. I believe we have hope. We have to be able to ensure that people know that Flint is a great place to be. There are many different initiatives going on.

As far as Mott, we believe we are an anchor for the county and the region. We are creating new spaces that support the needs for the area.

One is our Culinary Arts Institute, which is relocating into our newly thriving downtown area. We will hopefully be in it by January. We believe that relocating our Culinary Arts program to the heart of downtown Flint will have a positive impact, not only on our students, but on the local economy as well. The restoration of a building into a state-of-the-art Culinary Institute will help create a vibrant destination for all of Flint and Genesee County. We are hoping to double the amount of persons who can go into that program. [According to a college press release, MCC is renovating a 36,000 square-foot former Woolworth Building originally built in 1920, located at 100 W. Second Street.]

We have a new Family Life Center. We remodeled the former Woodside Church building so our students can find services on campus that fit more on the personal side. We have child care housed there. We also have a food pantry that will open there. We are making this building a place for students who need certain resources (food, housing, transportation), to help them keep coming to classes. Our average student age is 28 and our biggest population is age 18-35, so they have families. The center provides extra support to them.

Corp!: You live on campus. How is that helpful in your role?
Dr. B: I think it helps tremendously because I am right here in the
center of things. It helps me have an ear as to what is happening on the campus and it gives me the ability to see what is happening in the surrounding area—the college cultural center area.

Corp!: What is your most recent success story?
Dr. B: I think about graduation that just happened.

We had one student who was a top student and spoke at graduation. She had a disease and was home schooled for most of her life. The family didn’t know how she was going to fare. She did extraordinarily well and was a leader in several of our clubs and organizations. She is now headed to Michigan State University. We had an art student who came to us in her 50s and graduated with honors. She never thought she was college material. Those are the regular kinds of stories of how we affect the community one student at a time.

Corp!: What is the biggest management myth?
Dr. B: That extroverts are better leaders.