Dr. Mary S. Graham of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has been named chair-elect of the Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The national organization, which represents more than 1,200 two-year colleges and their more than 13 million students, is governed by the 32-member board of directors.

There has not been an AACC chair from Mississippi since 1957.

“This is an incredible opportunity for MGCCC and for Mississippi as community colleges have been in the forefront nationally as our our best chance to prepare individuals for tomorrow’s jobs,” said Graham. “As board chair, I look forward to collaborating with the board to strategically plan for the future of our nation’s community colleges and work alongside AACC president and CEO, Dr. Walter Bumphus, by sharing our mission to build a nation of learners through the advancement of America’s community colleges.”

Graham, who has served on the board of directors since 2013, was certified during AACC’s annual convention in Chicago this week and will officially take office as chair of the board on July 1, 2017. The AACC board governs association policy and helps guide strategic direction for national advocacy and other key functions of the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Bumphus said, “Over the last three years, Dr. Graham has demonstrated exemplary leadership on the AACC Board that has prepared her to assume this position in 2017. She has a proven track record of promoting innovation and collaboration on a national level, which is critical to the role of board chair, and she is highly respected by her colleagues on the board and by the many CEOs across the country.” He added, “AACC has had a history of ethical and insightful leaders to serve successfully as chair of our board, and I believe, Dr. Graham is well positioned to follow in their footsteps.”

Graham served previously on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors as chair of the Committee on Public Policy and Government Relations and is currently serving as chair of the Commission on College Readiness. She also serves on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Board of Directors and is president-elect of COMBASE, an organization dedicated to community engagement for community colleges.

Dr. Tony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community College and past AACC chair, said that Graham’s experience working in communities and forging partnerships is important to the future of America’s community colleges. “Dr. Graham is the perfect person to be chairing our national association board as we navigate our way through the new priorities of student and community success,” he said. “Her experience in both arenas is superb.”

Graham was named the 12th president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2011.  The 105-year-old, institution serves more than 30,000 with more than 1,000 full- and part-time employees at 9 locations in its service district. A tenth center for nursing and simulation is currently being constructed on Highway 67 in Tradition. A native of Mississippi, Graham earned her doctorate in Higher Education Administration from The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and her master’s and bachelor’s degrees at USM as well.  As an MGCCC graduate and alumna, she embraces the philosophy of the community college and the rich tradition of excellence in education.

“Dr. Mary Graham is an outstanding community college professional,” said Dr. Barry L. Mellinger, former MGCCC president. “She has obtained appropriate academic credentials, has a comprehensive background of professional experience, and possesses unique personal attributes which translate into the excellent leadership skills she exhibits. She is a great asset to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and she will make a superb chair of the AACC Board!”

Headquartered in the National Center for Higher Education in Washington, D.C., AACC is the primary advocacy organization for community colleges at the national level and works closely with directors of state offices to inform and affect state policy. In addition, AACC is a member of “The Six” large, presidentially based associations and collaborates with a wide range of entities within the higher education community to monitor and influence federal policy and to collaborate on issues of common interest. The association has ongoing interaction with key federal departments and agencies including the U.S. departments of Labor, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, and Commerce, and the National Science Foundation.

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