By Janice K. Neal-Vincent
Debra Mays-Jackson (Ph.D.), Hinds Community College vice president for the Utica and Vicksburg-Warren campuses since July 2013, is headed to Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention in Nashville which is slated for April 6-8. There she shall receive The Distinguished College Administrator Award granted to college vice presidents, deans or directors who have strongly supported Phi Theta Kappa during their tenure.
Only 24 college administrators nationwide are to be granted such an honor. Mays-Jackson and Vice President Martha Smith of Pearl River Community College are the only Mississippi recipients. Phi Theta Kappa is the international honor society of two-year colleges and academic programs, particularly community colleges and junior colleges.
Headquartered in Jackson, Miss., it has more than two million members in more than 1,250 chapters. Students who earn a cumulative GPA of 3.5 on at least 12 transferable credit hours at Hinds can join Phi Theta Kappa. They must maintain at least a 3.25 GPA to remain members in good standing.
“Phi Theta Kappa was once one of the major student honor societies here. I knew it needed to be stronger for the students,” said Mays-Jackson. “When I first came to Hinds, I attended a convention and saw students who were highlighted. I wanted our students to be highlighted. So Every year we increased our induction number…and now the number has almost tripled,” said Mays-Jackson.
Mays-Jackson noted that students under her leadership have grown significantly in various leadership capacities: “They have been helpful to me in my role to do some things around the campus that are student centered,” she said.
“They started out beautifying the campus. We have a unique STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) program of 50 students who research and travel to JSU. Our students compete in various competitions. They work in various community programs. They are keeping their GPAs up. I’m proud of how far they’ve come in a short period of time.”
Throughout her career Mays-Jackson has demonstrated unwavering dedication to excellence. She makes no exception to her newly specified duties. She operates by her motto, “Whatever it is to make it better than I found it, and to leave it better than I found it.”
Student enrollment has increased on both the Utica campus and the Vicksburg campus since Mays-Jackson has been aboard. The visionary recognizes that making things better involves team effort. “I’ve never been intimidated by people and their knowledge. I want smart people around me. Success is knowing your limitations and surrounding yourself with a wealth of knowledge. I love my alma mater and I want to see it and Vicksburg get stronger,” she stated. She added that that strength lies within her team because they work with her for the good of the students.
Tracie Jefferson, administrative assistant, said Dr. Mays-Jackson is a great leader. “She has innovative ideas. I feel like she’s committed to the mission, growth and longevity of Hinds Community College. She’s proven to be a change agent that causes a shift for the greater good for all stakeholders. She’s a forward thinker that fosters new ways of thinking and working that are for the betterment of this institution.”
“I believe she is very deserving of the Phi Theta Kappa award. She is passionate about the advancement and growth of the Utica campus. She’s a product. The changes she has made have been impeccable and the majority of the things have been accomplished. She’s compassionate about students. Her main thing is to bring out the best in others and she pushes them to reach their potential,” said Kenisha Shelton, dean of Career and Technical Education.
Mays-Jackson received her doctorate in education administration and supervision from Mississippi State University. She received her specialist in educational administration and supervision from Jackson State University. She served as a principal and executive director of high schools where she lead high schools to success from low performing within one school year, sustained success status for four years, and was School District Administrator of the Year.