Jeff Lynn wants to make Central Alabama Community College the most innovative facility of its kind in the Southeast, and he wants to do it by returning use of the campus to its middle-namesake.
“Community colleges used to have programs for the community, and that’s something we want to bring back,” Lynn said. “My mom went to community college at night to learn upholstery. I’m not saying we need to do that program, but we need to open our campus to the community.
“I want to find out how the community wants to use the campus. We can do the legwork and provide a great location for them to come and learn.”
His hope is to provide programming and opportunities for local students from kindergarten through 12th grade and beyond, enhancing life in the community for all ages and all walks of life.
“Not to compete but to complement what they’re doing, to supplement it, enhance it,” he explained. “We’re looking for how we can improve what we do for the high schools.”
Lynn is a product of the community college system himself. He attended Southern Union Community College before he transitioned to Auburn University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational management.
“And then, I left the sate for 31 years,” he said. “I started a new workforce development program in Louisiana, and I think it was very helpful to have that experience. It’s good to go and see what is out there. You see the globe in a different way, and you can bring those experiences back with you, where they can enhance what we’re doing here.”
Lynn, who was named interim president of CACC last summer, is focused on listening – to students, nonprofits, business owners, industry leaders, educators, parents, city leaders, seniors, laborers and more – to find out what events, activities, classes, programs and other opportunities they would like to see available to them through CACC. He’s listening for programs that will support quality of life and drive the local economy.
“That means we need strategic planning and advisory groups talking about what the local businesses and industries need, and for that, we need participation and stakeholders. We need to reach out and connect with partners in K-through-12 and create pipelines that lead to jobs and higher education,” Lynn explained. “We are listening to our students, asking what they want in their life on campus, what they want to do on our campus. We want them to see a very polished, clean campus when they return – we’re hoping to have all our students back on campus in January.”
Lynn also hopes to resurrect programs in the arts, including the jazz band, theatrical productions and touring events. He is working with an architectural group to ascertain improvements needed to resurrect student and community use of campus buildings, including the HEA Auditorium.
“We have to look at these buildings as opportunities. These kinds of activities bring some great culture to the campus. Our students need that, and we hope the community would want that as well,” he said. “We are losing a lot of opportunities for not only the community, but also for the students who love the arts.”
Thinking about community college in partnership with the community is part of his DNA, Lynn said.
“When I think about community college, I think about enriching lives. The beauty of community college is that we can reach everyone in the community, from high school through 80 and above. There’s a lot that we could do; a lot that we’re not doing yet.
“When I pull into the office early in the morning, I see about 20 people – community members – walking. They walk on the perimeter street. I want to just get out of my car and start interviewing them. Why do they walk here? What else can we do at the college that they would want to participate in?
“We have tennis courts here, and I see people in the community playing tennis. I’m in the process of updating those courts. I want people to be proud to come here.”
Lynn said he feels a sense of urgency in his push toward becoming the best community college in the area.
“I am not a patient person,” he said. “I don’t like bureaucracy. We need to seize the moment and stay focused. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I don’t mind doing it.
“As interim president of the school, I need to really listen and find out what the community wants and make it happen. I am humbled to be here.”
Funding for improvements could come through the ASPIRE 2030 program, an Alabama Community College System initiative to inspire community-focused strategic planning for capital improvement projects. ACCS Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker encouraged college presidents to “dream big” when developing proposals for ASPIRE 2030 funding.
Baker was named chancellor in the spring of 2017, replacing Mark Heinrich, who was appointed in 2012.
“There has been a lot of change in the mindset at the system level with this chancellor,” Lynn explained. “His mindset is to be fully engaged with the community. That’s what he’s trying to embrace across the state. My role is to embrace the community, not only for the community but also for the students.
“For me, it’s a challenge. I always want to be the best, so I want to beat out the other colleges for this funding. We need the money to get programs that are viable for the community and for students. I want more activity. Come to me and tell me what you’d like to see here. We’ll figure out how to handle it.”
Lynn can be contacted at 256-215-4300 or email him at email@example.com.