Joliet Junior College announced their the college’s ninth president, Dr. Judy Mitchell, Feb. 1. Read more about her incredible rise through the ranks.
The following story appeared in the Joliet Herald News Oct. 6, 2016:
JOLIET – Judy Mitchell, Joliet Junior College’s newest president, said people are the college’s greatest assets.
“We need to embrace each and every individual for what they bring to the college,” she said. “I don’t care what your role is, what your position is at the college. We are all important. We all contribute to student success.”
Since Mitchell started working at the college 20 years ago, she said that the people of the school invested in her as an asset, and she rose through the ranks to become, as of last month, the ninth president of JJC.
She’s been seen by some at the college as someone who will bring stability in leadership, especially as the institution goes through tough times with state financial support and prepares to open more facilities.
Mitchell credits her success to past supervisors and colleagues who supported her, and continues to be humbled by the opportunity to lead JJC.
“I am humbled, honored, excited – it’s just unbelievable,” she said. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself. It’s surreal. Here, thinking back 20 years ago, ‘What am I going to do?’ And here I am 20 years later as the president.”
Mitchell’s professional time at JJC began before she started in 1996 working as an administrative assistant in the Computer Information and Office Systems department.
After being a stay-at-home mom, she started taking an accounting class as a returning adult student and eventually earned two associate degrees in computer programming and microcomputers for business.
Mitchell was encouraged at JJC to continue her education. She went to Governors State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business and technology in 2001 and a master’s degree in business administration in 2005.
Also in 2001, Mitchell took a new job at JJC as program management specialist in the Adult and Family Services Department, before going on to work as assistant to the director of Administrative Services in 2002, interim director of Administrative Services in 2004 and then director of Business and Auxiliary Services in 2005.
Mitchell recalled people such as Dianne Schmitt, who served in various administrative roles at JJC; Ram Raghuraman, CIOS department chairman; and David Agazzi, former vice president of Administrative Services, who supported her career.
“Throughout my different careers at the college, my supervisors have been very supportive, which was very nice. I think it was a reflection of my work and my work ethic and everything I was doing to contribute to the school,” she said.
Mitchell’s interests have varied from computers and technology – she can take apart and build a computer – to business and planning.
She described her work philosophy as one based in building camaraderie and consensus. She said she views herself as “another one of the team,” and even when she was a stay-at-home mom, she worked different part-time jobs.
“All of that kind of plays into who I am and what makes me where I am today,” she said.
After Mitchell earned a doctorate in community college leadership from National-Louis University in June 2012, she was appointed to the role of administrative services vice president in September of that year. She served in that role until the abrupt resignation in March of former JJC President Debra Daniels – after which Mitchell was soon made interim president.
Some on the JJC Board of Trustees argued about whether to make Mitchell the permanent president or conduct a national search, but board President Robert Wunderlich said it was a “no-brainer” to pick her after seeing how much she accomplished in roughly six months.
Wunderlich said that the last time the college did a national search – one that led to Daniels’ hiring – the college not only spent upward of $30,000 for assistance from the Association of Community College Trustees, but also spent money on advertising and flight and hotel costs, bringing the total closer to an estimated $80,000.
Wunderlich said he thought Trustee Maureen Broderick was right when she mentioned the cost of a national search today would be between $100,000 and $150,000.
“With the times of the state and everybody having a hard time with money, we tried to do the best we could with our money,” he said.
Wunderlich said he received 25 to 30 unsolicited letters endorsing Mitchell as president.
One letter was from JJC professor Bill Johnson, who, along with JJC Faculty Union President Robert Marcink, compared her to J.D. Ross, a popular past president who, like Mitchell, was a longtime employee and was hired without a search process.
Ross said he was happy with the decision for Mitchell to become president, as she is a “prime example of what can happen with community colleges.” Although he heard she has “big shoes to fill,” he said that all she needs to do is be herself.
“She is her own person,” he said. “She is good at that and I think she will remain successful if she is true to herself.”
Mitchell said 20 years ago that she didn’t think she would work at JJC longer than five years, but since then, she said she has been with wonderful people who were truly invested in her.
“I feel that the college had invested so much in me and it’s just been such a wonderful experience for 20 years that I knew I wasn’t going to leave,” she said. “I was going to stay here until the day I retired and give back to all those that supported me.”