JJC announced that President Judy Mitchell will be stepping down as president effective Dec. 31, 2021. She will retire after five years as the ninth president and 25 as an employee of the college.
Mitchell was appointed as interim in March 2016 and became permanent in August.
When asked about her most memorable moments at JJC, Mitchell said she could fill a book with her answers. Her opportunities and experiences have changed her life and impacted her career for the better.
“I am a people person and so what I have really loved about this role is the ability I have to connect directly with students, employees and be out in the community representing JJC,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell recalls an unforgettable memory from the start of her presidency. She wanted to switch things up for the new semester (the fall 2016 term), so she formulated a plan to do something fun.
“I had an idea to create a welcome back dance video to the Justin Timberlake song ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling,’” Mitchell said. “Let’s just say that it was totally outside of my comfort zone, but I had so much fun… many employees and students joined me.”
To Mitchell, moments mean the most to her when they were shared with others. They pushed her to try new things and explore new sides of herself.
“Prior to COVID-19, some of my best times with our students was becoming ‘Student for the Day’ or holding conversations during ‘Pizza with the Prez’ or ‘Donuts with the Doc’ and getting to hear directly from students what their challenges were, or what their questions were,” Mitchell said.
These conversations were informative and gave Mitchell insight into the mind of a student. People can best help others when they truly understand them.
“I may be a little biased but our students are the best! They are open, honest, and also share in my humor,” Mitchell said. “All feedback received was always taken back to my Cabinet members for discussion, to identify how to make improvements or to share in success stories I received as well.”
Mitchell also praises her community outreach, as JJC is fortunate enough to have so many partners in the community to endlessly support the students and institution.
“In every community or board meeting I attend, I continue to share our success stories and talk about the accomplishments of our students, which couldn’t happen without great faculty and staff support too!” Mitchell said.
Other fond memories for Mitchell include JJC’s fall and spring opening sessions with faculty and staff, times for celebration and discussions about accomplishments and the future direction of the institution.
However, Mitchell’s favorite memory of all is commencement.
“This is what it truly is all about, our students’ success, the culmination of everyone’s hard work,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is honored to follow students along their college journey and overcome many obstacles along the way.
“Having the honor and privilege to see your faces, recognize your accomplishments and shake your hand as you walk across the stage to receive your diploma,” Mitchell said. “This is the greatest reward a president could receive and know that I will cherish every moment this spring.”
On a personal level, Mitchell is proud of her own academic accomplishments as well.
“My commitment to academic excellence is not only founded by the support I received as a returning adult student at JJC, but from the many leaders and supervisors I have worked for throughout the years who encouraged me to be the best I could be,” Mitchell said.
Over the past five years as president, Mitchell has worked closely alongside her Cabinet members and JJC to carefully construct a vision for the future of the institution.
“We completed the construction of our new City Center Campus, the Romeoville Campus Expansion and our beautiful Event Center,” Mitchell said. “We have weathered the storms of state budget crises and continue to present a balanced budget each year.”
Mitchell continues to work with her team to identify measures to ensure access and affordability for every student to attend JJC, as it remains a top priority.
“In my first year as president, I reestablished and streamlined the college’s diversity efforts to become the President’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council,” Mitchell said.
To support this critical priority, Mitchell hired a compliance officer position to create a proactive campus culture related to institutional compliance and accountability. She recently hired an executive director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and compliance and created an office to support the new addition.
“We institutionalized the Guided Academic Pathways model to help students streamline their decision-making process and choose a major based on their interests and strengths,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is always thinking about the student body of JJC and encourages them to think about where they see themselves in life, their future, and how they plan to get there.
“You may encounter stumbling blocks along the way but stay the course, work hard, and find a way to make it happen! Follow your dreams and always remember to take time to appreciate your journey along the way,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell will now be taking her own advice and appreciating all that she has done for JJC. It is her time to celebrate and relax knowing she has served the college well, with the student’s best interest always top of mind.
She plans on enjoying her family most of all, spending time with grandchildren, and playing lots of fun games!
“Maybe catch up on reading or binge watch Netflix shows, and finish some promised knitting projects. I do enjoy golfing so that’s a plan for warmer weather for sure,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell always encourages others to follow their dreams, and this is what she will do too, when she meets the next phase of her life.
“Goals for the future? I can tell you there will be a next chapter in my life but still in draft form, stay tuned!” Mitchell said.