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Heroes & Friends - Dr. Rod Mabry Part 2

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A few weeks ago, my good friend Dr. Mike Metke said he was going to begin a series of articles called TJC Heroes and Friends. He asked me, “Rod, is there anything you would like to say about TJC or the value of junior colleges— would you want to write one of these articles, too?” I jumped at the chance.

First, I want to repeat something I have said before, that Tyler Junior College is truly outstanding. It is among the elite community colleges in the nation. I am pleased to say that the more than 850 transfer students we get from TJC annually comprise the largest single component of new students admitted to The University of Texas at Tyler each year, and we welcome them.

TJC’s transfer students are excellent. UT Tyler is designed for high-ability students. We provide all our students—incoming freshmen and transfers alike—with rigorous academic programs that add real value and challenge our students within a positive, caring environment. And, TJC students thrive here. We are proud to have them.

Let me add that we are fortunate to have several quality junior colleges in our area and we are pleased to be able to work with their students. They prove the reliability and value of the 2+2 option for obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

Second, I want you to know that I speak about what junior colleges can offer, not only from an educator’s viewpoint, but also from personal experience. I began my own college career at a junior college. Although my sights were set on going to the University of Kentucky in the fall (of some ancient year before men walked on the moon), I took four courses at Paducah Junior College in the summer.

I took the two standard English Composition courses at PJC, one after the other, in the two summer sessions. I liked English, but my real purpose was to get a leg up on my fellow students by getting those two courses out of the way.

I also took two beginning accounting courses. I had no clue if I would like accounting, but I knew those two courses were required in UK’s business school. In this case, my purpose was to try out some business courses to see if I really wanted to be a business major. I had already chosen, in my mind (as unbelievable as it may sound), to be an economist. My backup plan was to take political science, then law and follow a path to work in the U. S. State Department.

I tell you this only to remind you how an 18-year-old prospective college student thinks. Some really know what they want to do. Some have an inkling of two or three things they might want to do, but no realistic plans. Some have a wild idea or two. Some really have no idea at all. I believe that beginning at a junior college offers many students a great opportunity to consider a wide variety of possible vocations and professions.

However, let me note with caution the one danger in the 2+2 path that I see: some students might shoot too low. We need to find good ways to increase the probability that those students who can go on to be engineers, chemists and poets will do so.

TJC does an excellent job of helping students reach their potential, and we at UT Tyler are glad to partner with them as well as other junior colleges across our region. Think of us as the second runner in the relay race. Like transferring batons, we are proud to take these students from TJC in a seamless way and carry them on to their next destination, whether that is the world of work or further graduate education to be a research scientist, doctor, lawyer, minister or business leader. With TJC, we have a great and worthy partnership.

Although far from heroes, Merle and I do fit the friend category—we already count you as very good friends, Mike and Donna. Thanks for being in Tyler and for being the forward-thinking leaders that you are. The entire community is blessed.

TJC Hero and Friend Dr. Rod Mabry has been UT Tyler’s president since 1998. Under his leadership, enrollment has nearly doubled to more than 6,000 high-ability students. The University has been recognized for its nursing, engineering and education programs, in which the students lead the state in pass rates on licensure exams. Continuing to meet the needs of the East Texas region by addressing the nursing shortage, UT Tyler implemented its first Ph.D. program this past fall in nursing