“I was just absolutely thrilled to be named as the sixth president of Lorain County Community College,” said Dr. Marcia Ballinger, the newly minted president of the institution. “I’m just honored that the Board of Trustees of the college have put their faith in my leadership and moving our college forward.”
In April, Ballinger was selected to follow Dr. Roy Church, who retired from the post after nearly 30 years, and has been on the job since July 1. The college’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously for Church’s successor.
Although in her new role for only a few short months, Ballinger has taken strides to implement her own policies and philosophies.
“First and foremost, driving student completion and academic success,” Ballinger said of her goals and expectations for her first year as president. “That has really been an area that we have been focused very deeply on to ensure that we have the right programs and delivery and wrap-around systems and services so that every student is successful here.”
One of Ballinger’s own personal philosophies plays into this goal of student success. “Every student’s dream matters, and I firmly believe that it is about how Lorain County Community College can be student-ready.”
Ballinger believes that too often colleges ask if their students are prepared for college, but she has taken a different approach due to LCCC’s diverse enrollment. “We’ve tended to think about how students are college-ready,” Ballinger said. “We serve everyone, whether that’s someone who is directly out of high school, in high school, an adult who has come back for additional education or who is coming to college for the first time. We serve so many different populations,” she stated. “I firmly believe it’s about how can we, as your community college, really provide the greatest resources and understanding of what student needs are today.”
Ballinger said one of her other goals is to impact the local economy so the community can be successful. “The programs that we have, the work that we do in the economic development space, is really creating that environment so that students, graduates can thrive in this community and have very meaningful employment and that it contributes to the overall growth of the community,” Ballinger said. “We’re a catalyst for that.”
Ballinger also believes that the college needs to be an active participant in the community.
“You can’t help lead a community that you don’t know, and you can’t love a community that you don’t know,” Ballinger said. “Really being a part of helping to drive the direction and immersing myself in the community is huge.”
According to Dr. Ballinger, community colleges have an important role in higher education, and the presidents of those community colleges have a unique leadership opportunity.
“Community colleges today, I think, are the driving forces of higher education and the economy,” Ballinger said. “Being in the leadership role for this most innovative catalyst for economies and communities is probably one of the most unique opportunities for leadership in America today. We’re at a very pivotal moment,” Ballinger continued, “in that higher education is transforming. When community colleges were created 50-plus years ago, the purpose is still the same, serving the unique needs of that local community. But that catalytic role of really driving change, innovation, being flexible, agile, and helping to create that qualified workforce for the key driving industries of the community, can’t be overstated,” she explained. “We’re in a very unique position.”
Dr. Ballinger is at the beginning of her 26th year on campus, having started in marketing and media relations in 1991. Since then, Ballinger has served as vice president for strategic and institutional development from 2002-2011, and most recently, as provost and vice president of academic and learner services from 2011.
As the sixth president of the college, Ballinger is the first woman to serve.
“As a female [I understand]what it’s like to be that working mom who went back to school,” Ballinger commented.
Ballinger is motivated by the tough socioeconomic circumstances for single mothers, and hopes the college can move them out of those situations and out of the lower echelons of the community.
“To be in this role as the first female president and to help motivate and encourage others to achieve all that they believe is possible – I want to bring that to life for everyone,” she said.
“A hallmark of this college has always been one of innovation, has always been one of community,” Ballinger said. “I think we will continue to be, not only at the forefront of helping shape higher education, but to be a model of what’s going to advance our community and region. And that’s what we’ve always been about,” Ballinger continued. “I hope that my leadership creates the next generation of leaders. Our students are our leaders, current leaders and future leaders. The empowered and thriving community is what this college is about, and I want to see that perpetuated into the future.”