Waco Chat

Dr. Johnette McKown

By Kevin Tankersley

President of McLennan Community College

“It opens the door so that they can stay here and do that, because we have a unique partnership with our University Center partners.”

We have a lot of ways that students can go through and get a four-year degree without debt because of our University Center partnerships with Texas Tech and Tarleton [State University.] It’s a game changer for our students who are place-bound. We have many students in our community — some of them come from very low income, and some of them even if it’s middle income — they can stay here and get a great education from two quality institutions.

It opens the door so that they can stay here and do that, because we have a unique partnership with our University Center partners, in that we treat them just like our own students. We don’t charge them extra to use the Counseling Center, even to use the tutoring services that we pay for. They can join the clubs that we have. It’s not exactly like a four-year university, but it has a lot of feel like that, except that they’re commuter students. And we have more than 40 degree options.

Something new we’ve been working on that’s kind of exciting, when Amazon was coming to town, we signed on to be their preferred partner and we brought Texas Tech and Tarleton with us. We’re now working with Amazon and other businesses where the businesses will have a lot of tuition reimbursement or pay tuition right up front. And so, that gives us an opportunity to be an easy access point that [employees] can be working fulltime at Amazon, and Amazon is paying for their education.

We’ve had continuing education for a long time. Most people think of us as community programs because we do horseback riding classes at the Highlander Ranch. We always have a waiting list for that, or they’ll think of hobbies or swimming. But on the other hand, we’re teaching people, in many cases, to change careers. We have our certified nurse aide program. There are a lot of our courses like that. Even our cake decorating class can lead to a degree in cake decorating. We have a lot of leisure things, but we also have a lot of workforce training.

In our corporate training area, we’ve helped a lot of employees get a skills development grant for the state, which is a pretty big deal. We help them train their employees. And we’ve partnered with a lot of the health care providers and with other businesses around town, which is a help to them as well. There are many kinds of things we do. It’s really a very flourishing department.

Dr. Johnette McKown has been president of McLennan Community College since Sept. 1, 2009. She’s just the third president of the institution, which was established in 1966, following Dr. Wilbur Ball, who was president from 1966 until 1988; and Dr. Dennis Michaelis, who held the office from 1988 until 2009. McKown joined MCC in January 1989.

“I don’t have any plans to retire,” she said. “I will at some point, but not today.”

McKown has an associate’s degree from Paris Junior College; a bachelor’s in English from Louisiana College; and a master’s in reading and community college education and an Ed.D. in higher education curriculum and instruction, both from Texas A&M University-Commerce. She was also the valedictorian of her graduating class at Farmerville High School in Farmerville, Louisiana.