Taylor takes leadership of Communiversity

Courtney Taylor
Daily Times Leader

Since Nov. 11, there has been a new face at the helm of the Communiversity.

Courtney Taylor was announced as the $42 million institution’s director on Oct. 29, and now has been leading the Communiversity and East Mississippi Community College’s other career and technical programs. Taylor comes to EMCC from the Alabama Community College System, where she served as director of workforce and economic development. She also served as director of the Workforce Solutions Department at Calhoun Community College and as assistant director of the Troy University Center for Business and Economic Development. In total, she has spent 13 years working in higher education. She replaces retiring EMCC Vice President of Workforce and Community Services Raj Shaunak.

In an interview with the SDN on Friday, Taylor said her top priority was understanding the area and its people.

“For me to do my job, I have to know that,” Taylor said. “That will take a little bit of time, but interspersed in there, we are going to be working on recruiting, enhancing some of the bigger things that have already been started before I got there.”

She also listed creating partnerships with industry as a priority.

“I’ve had some conversations with a few of our partners,” Taylor said. “I’ve been around to a few of them close by for different reasons,” Taylor said.

She said she would attend more formal meetings with industry partners in December.

She emphasized the importance of increasing enrollment at the Communiversity. EMCC has met its first-year goal of 200 students at the facility, but the figure must be doubled to meet demands of local industry. EMCC is grappling with declining enrollment system wide, with a 10th day headcount for this year at 3,382, in comparison to last year’s headcount of 4,082. Several Mississippi community colleges are facing similar enrollment issues.

“Recruiting’s a big deal,” Taylor said. “It’s just one of those things that takes time. The good thing though, is we have the jobs on the back side of us, so to speak.”

She said the Communiversity would also host field trips and other events to show middle and high school aged students from the area what options were available through EMCC workforce and career technical programs. She emphasized the importance of making sure information on the facility and programs was easily available.

“Even today, you’d think with all the information that we have available, you’d think people would understand the options in their community, but they don’t because the information isn’t given to them in a way that they can understand it.”

She said her first few weeks at the Communiversity had been a success.

“I’ve got a great team to work with, so I’m fortunate in that respect,” Taylor said. “The community has really rallied around to try to help make things a little bit easier. Transition’s never fun for anybody, but we have a great community in the region.”

“Dr. Raj and his team, my team now, has a great reputation, and have done great work, so I knew it was something I could come in and build on,” Taylor added. “They are just golden in what they do.”

She said the position would allow her to plug in some of her own expertise with the strengths of the current workforce team.

“The biggest thing for me was kind of serving as an intermediary and helping to connect those dots where they needed to be connected,” Taylor said.

She further discussed the Communiversity’s role in helping EMCC recover from its enrollment and financial woes. Currently, the college is dipping into its reserves to the tune of approximately $1.8 million to fund the facility. However, EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks said the college’s fund balance would make up for the shortfall.

“This is not unique to us, but I know there are some challenges, and I think we’re working to correct those, and we are certainly going to do what we can in workforce services and manufacturing to bring more students in, but also to make sure people understand that sometimes you hit a rough spot, and we’re going to work through that, and we’re going to protect our resources.”

Taylor holds a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of West Alabama, a master’s in human resources development from Troy University and a doctorate in human capital development from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is a native of Magnolia Springs, Alabama.