Dr. Andrew Kelley has been teaching students and shaping their experience at Jackson State Community College for 28 years and is looking forward to more years of helping students achieve their educational goals.
“I like the challenge and the reward,” the English professor said. “The challenge is working with a diverse group. Our students have different backgrounds and bring different things to the classroom, and we have to accommodate everybody while maintaining world-class standards. The reward is seeing them learn things they did not know and achieve competencies they did not have.”
Kelley, who has won the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Alumni Association, relates to his students as individuals and tailors his courses for specific majors so they can find value in the instruction. In English Composition I, for example, he assigns at least one health-related research paper per semester. Many of his students are on a nursing or other health sciences track, and others benefit by learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“I approach them as human beings who bring their own backgrounds, worldviews, anxieties and learning styles,” Kelley said.
Kelley’s approach is a natural fit for Jackson State – a college that can provide a more personalized environment than a four-year university.
“We do everything we can for our students,” Kelley said. “We provide more student support, and we are more one-on-one. We are concerned about them as individuals, as persons, as family members, as parents.”
Four-year universities are an important part of the education system, but the opportunities a community college can provide are crucial, he said.
“Many people function better in a small community-type environment rather than a university-type environment,” he said. “We do the same thing; it’s just a different atmosphere. We are crucial because of the atmosphere, support and variety of programs we provide.”
With almost three decades on campus, Kelley has seen many changes. The school added new facilities and incorporated new technology to enhance the learning experience while offering new majors. It also serves many more students each year than it did when Kelley first walked on campus in 1988.
“With the expansion in enrollment, we have seen more diversity, which is very good,” he said.
The Student Union building was renovated, and it became an active gathering point for students between classes, making campus more vibrant. The school also opened a one-stop shop in the Student Union that streamlines the registration process and allows faculty to better advise students.
Kelley served as chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages from 1990 until 1997. It was during that time he realized his true love is directly helping students, he said.
“In later years, the college was restructured into divisions rather than departments, and I am especially pleased with the support faculty receive from our deans,” he said. “They do their best to provide whatever we need to educate and train our students and to further develop our professional expertise.”
In addition to changes, Kelley has seen many programs that have made him proud during his tenure at the school.
He created the Student Relief Fund and the Employee Assistance Fund and turned the management of both over to the Jackson State Foundation.
“Employees in general and our Student Government Association, as well as generous patrons, contribute to these funds,” he said. “A most admirable aspect of Jackson State Community College and the people in our service area is the willingness to help neighbors.”
Kelley, along with Associate English Professor Powell Franklin, created a writing competition in the 1990s. Teachers submit outstanding student essays, which are judged by people who do not know who wrote the paper or who made the submission. “It’s completely anonymous,” Kelley said.
Winners get a cash prize, and the students are acknowledged during an honors ceremony at the end of the spring semester.
Other programs that give him pride include the Service Learning program, which provides opportunities for students to become more involved in their communities. Jackson State’ program was created by Vivian Grooms, associate professor of psychology.
The honors Program, initially created by Dr. Lawrence Gundersen and now chaired by Dr. Bob Raines, offers students opportunities for mentored, independent study beyond course requirements. Similarly, Phi Theta Kappa, a national honor society, has a Jackson State chapter sponsored by Dr. Anna Esquivel. Also, he said he promotes the Study Abroad Program, which is offered by the state, in all of his classes.
“Last year two of my students studied abroad during the summer; this year two more participated. The new honors and study abroad programs are changes that I find inspiring.”
Additionally, the Military Students Center is most beneficial to those it serves, he said. “Since I and many of my family are military veterans, I very much appreciate what our Veterans Affairs Coordinator, Lt. Col. Kristine Natukis, does for our military students.”
He said Athletics and Student Services Director Steve Cornelison and Associate Professor Mary Wadley provide important recreational and cultural activities, such as the Welcome Back Bash and musical and dance performances. And from an employee perspective, he said his coworkers in human resources and environmental health and safety training are proactive and supportive.
“I must also mention that our maintenance director, Gerald Batchelor and his crews make the campus grounds and buildings a pleasant work environment,” Kelley said. “And Dana Nails, our director of Information Technology, has a highly competent and helpful staff who diligently support faculty and students with technology in the classroom.”
Each of these programs contributes to an atmosphere that is welcoming for faculty and helps Jackson State’s students succeed. That “crucial” atmosphere is something to which Kelley has devoted his career and helped build during his 28 years on campus. He hopes to continue to build it in the years ahead.
“The students are our reason for being,” he said.
Kelley was selected for a faculty profile after receiving nominations from students and faculty, said John McCommon, director of marketing and public relations at Jackson State.
“His length of service coupled with his reputation with both students and faculty are extraordinary,” McCommon said.