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New president no stranger to Moraine Valley

Dr. SylviJenkins is new president Moraine Valley Community College pictured Wednesday November 28 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Dr. Sylvia Jenkins is the new president of Moraine Valley Community College, pictured on Wednesday, November 28, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 11, 2013 6:06AM



The new president of Moraine Valley Community College is no stranger to the campus.

Sylvia Jenkins has spent the past 25 years working in various jobs at Moraine Valley, 9000 W. College Parkway, Palos Hills.

With her master’s degree in library science, she worked in the college library for 14 years, helping upgrade it with each advance in technology.

She later became an assistant dean and, most recently, was the vice president of academic affairs before moving into the president’s office in July.

Working at the same college for a quarter-century “helps tremendously,” she said, and enables Jenkins to “understand the culture of Moraine Valley.”

“So many times, people want to make things the way they want it without understanding the culture of a place. We have a very good culture here. The culture here is one of support, where people enjoy helping each other. Not only faculty helping faculty, but helping all people,” Jenkins said.

She recalled a fundraiser at a local bar and restaurant for a teacher facing large medical bills with a child who is seriously ill.

“That’s the culture of Moraine. We step in where there’s need. It’s not always that extreme. It could be a student who doesn’t have a textbook. So we think of ways to help that student. Help comes in a lot of different ways,” Jenkins said.

Working in the library allowed her to meet many members of the college community, “but I really got to learn more about the college by volunteering and serving on committees,” she said.

One of those was the faculty development committee.

“I was able to meet faculty from across the campus, able to get to know more administrators, and work closely with the deans and vice presidents,” she said.

As president, her top priority is making sure Moraine Valley is seen “in the best light,” she said.

She said she also wants to “make sure everyone in our district feels comfortable coming here.” Moraine Valley serves 26 communities in the Southland.

While the college is in good fiscal shape and in 2011 opened a campus in Tinley Park, there “are some areas that can use some improvement,” she said.

One area is student development.

“We have a lot of students who come to us that are not college ready, and we have to put them in developmental classes, which more or less are high school classes. It’s a national phenomenon, It’s not unique to Moraine Valley,” Jenkins said.

Math is the biggest problem area.

“It’s not that they aren’t capable, but some high schools don’t require four years of math. They may take a placement test their senior year and not do well,” she said.

Jenkins hopes to devote more resources to developmental classes “to give students the support they need to get out of those classes and get into college-level classes more quickly,” she said.

If not, those students may become frustrated and drop out of college, “and we don’t want to see that happen,” Jenkins said.

A long-term goal is opening a satellite campus near Midway Airport, she said.

Another challenge she faces is an old one, convincing some potential students that there’s no shame in attending a two-year college to meet basic requirements before they transfer to a four-year college or university.

“When I started here, there were jokes about the college. Our former president, Dr. (Vernon) Crawley, spent a great amount of time developing a culture that people would realize this is a quality institution of higher education,” she said.

One way she hopes to reach out to students is by urging faculty to share their own personal stories.

“Students don’t know we weren’t always here. I was where they were at one point. Growing up, we never considered ourselves poor because we had food to eat and clothes to wear. My parents were teachers. Together, their paychecks came to $500 a month, but they raised six kids and sent them all to college,” said Jenkins, who grew up in Opelousas, La., a small town west of Baton Rouge.

She and her husband, Craig Jenkins, are longtime residents of Chicago’s Beverly community. They have four grown daughters and five grandchildren, with a sixth due any day.



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