Spotlight On: Shanna Jackson, President, Nashville State Community College

Spotlight On: Shanna Jackson, President, Nashville State Community College

2021-10-27T16:09:46+00:00October 27th, 2021|Education, Nashville, Spotlight On|

Shanna Jackson, President, Nashville State Community College2 min read October 2021 — Nashville State Community College is a public community college operated by the Tennessee Board of Regents and shares a 109-acre White Bridge campus with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Nashville. In an interview with Invest:, President Shanna Jackson discussed what differentiates Nashville State Community College, shifts in demand, the main challenges for higher education and her outlook for the education sector.

What differentiates Nashville State Community College?

We are the most diverse community college in the state. Our student population reflects Nashville, our demographic makeup is 51% white, around 27% African American and we have a growing Latino population. We are a global community. Being in an urban environment poses more challenges for our students in comparison with other community colleges, where there are more traditional students. Our students are coming to Nashville State to change their lives; many of them are adults and over 57% of the total enrollment is in part-time education. We’re a workforce solution partner. In fact, we’re doing a workforce viability study to make sure that we have a system in place to meet the existing and emerging needs of the communities we serve and get students on the pathway of economic mobility.

How has demand for your programs shifted due to the pandemic? 

Overall enrollment has declined. Traditionally when the economy takes a downturn, community colleges grow; however, with COVID this has not been the case throughout Tennessee. We realized that the pandemic had a different impact and basic needs had to be met. During the pandemic, we transitioned to a virtual environment and have been working to improve the student experience in the classroom and with new or strengthened support programs, such as an online food pantry, a Career Closet to obtain professional attire for interviews and jobs, and providing free laptops and hotspots to name a few. We believe that the implementation of hybrid options for learning will positively impact persistence and completion in the long run as it gives more flexibility to our students.

As Nashville bounces back, we will continue to evaluate where the jobs are by listening to students and employers. To meet increases in demand within the healthcare career field, we worked with HCA to create a Patient Care Technician program based on the outcomes the employer needed and we were able to add it to our curriculum in a short period of time. We’ve established a pipeline with Tractor Supply Company, where students get hands-on experience while earning their IT degree. To also meet demand in tech, which has seen exponential growth, we’ve established two coding bootcamps and a competency-based educational IT programming certificate to the college’s bevy of tech programs. Our Workforce Development department is partnering with global and local industry and organizations to provide industrial readiness training in the manufacturing field. We will continue to partner with the workforce to develop unique programs that meet their needs.  

What are the most pressing challenges that Nashville State Community College and higher education are facing?

We are working toward having the ability to serve students holistically and take their needs into account. One of the ways we’ve accelerated this work is through our partnership with the city of Nashville, where they made an initial investment of $1 million to launch our Nashville GRAD program, which is available to Davidson County residents. Several key private and non-profit organizations have also stepped up. GRAD is an adaptation of the CUNY ASAP program, for which we have an advising model with a 1:150 ratio that also provides students with technology, textbook and transit assistance, a monthly stipend and mentoring opportunities. Early data shows GRAD is working. From fall 2020 to spring 2021, the persistence rate for GRAD students was 84% compared to 68% for non-GRAD students. We recognize we must serve the students’ overall needs that go beyond their education, addressing food security, childcare and financial aid.

What do you hope to accomplish with Vision 2030?

Vision 2030: A Student-Ready College, is our new college strategic plan. We are transforming our culture because we realize colleges expect students to be academically prepared and ready to navigate the educational system. However, we understand that it is not the students who have to be ready for the college, it’s the college that must be ready for the student. With this vision, we are looking to individualize the experience to increase our students’ educational attainment and provide a pathway to economic mobility.

What is your outlook for Nashville State Community College and the higher education sector?

There is new leadership in most higher education institutions in Nashville, and, with that, we are developing new opportunities. There is an openness and willingness to partner to support the needs of our students and make it easier for companies to recruit them. There is a true commitment to closing equity gaps; we are all here to serve and be a resource for business and industry in our community.

Nashville State’s vision is to become a national leader in achieving equitable outcomes for our diverse community. That’s important for us because the region is competing nationally. To achieve this and be a successful region, we must create strategies that nurture talent. There’s an energy for us to work together and that makes everything very exciting. We’re still in this period of transformation and I think we’re coming out on top.

What is an example of a recent partnership for Nashville State Community College?

We’ve entered a joint-venture called Better Together with Metro Nashville Public Schools to improve college and career readiness, increase post-secondary enrollment and completion. One recent example of our joint efforts is the development of an Early College program on the campus of Whites Creek High School in North Nashville (an Early College program also exists on the White Bridge campus)  This program allows high school students to work toward an associate degree while earning their high school diploma. The Early College at Whites Creek was established due to a strategic investment of  $306,000 from the PNC Foundation. Additionally, we have partnered with the Clarksville Montgomery County School System and Austin Peay State University to create a career track for future educators via the Teacher Residency program. 

For more information, visit: