The story of College of Coastal Georgia quickly drew Michelle Johnston’s attention.
Johnston, who recently began in her new role as CCGA president, said Wednesday she was drawn to the position when she learned about the fast-paced growth and collaborative environment that exists at the college.
“When I saw what was going on here at the College of Coastal Georgia, it was really unthinkable and unimaginable what had happened,” she said. “… In the last 10 years, transitioning to a four year institution, doing it that fast, that’s unheard of. And to do it with the grace and the finesse and the quality that’s been done here, those are really, really impressive things.”
Johnston looks forward to now having a chance to play a role in that story.
She officially started in the new position July 23, and her first few weeks have been focused on meeting people, learning and listening.
Earlier in the summer, she took part in the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce’s annual leadership retreat, at which she said she quickly saw how well the community’s leaders work together.
“I’ve been to a lot of chamber events in my day, in a lot of different communities, and one thing that was really distinctive about this one was just a real deep sense of shared purpose,” Johnston said.
Johnston had served as the president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College in Ohio since 2014. Her career in higher education includes decades of work as both a faculty member and as an administrator.
She’s worked at University of Montevallo, University of Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State University and Wood College.
Johnston holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama, a master’s degree from Louisiana State University, a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Mississippi State University and a post-doctorate in marketing and management from the University of Florida.
Like at her previous college, she said there’s a strong focus at CCGA on the success of students.
“There’s a lot of good customer service going on here and sensitivity to what students need,” Johnston said.
As she’s prepared for her new role as CCGA president, she said it’s been abundantly clear that the college is supported not only by a strong team on campus and healthy community partnerships, but also by its Foundation and by the University System of Georgia.
“It just is remarkable what has happened here,” she said. “For this institution to have done all that and to have been ranked ninth in the country as the most affordable college … How do you do all that? … You don’t do it alone.”
Partnerships are crucial to continuing the momentum of growth, Johnston said.
“I want to be the better partner, because if we’re trying to be the better partner then we’re giving it our all and that’s what I want to see us do,” she said.
CCGA’s campus is made up of a dedicated and talented team of faculty and staff, she said, who have been the driving factor in the college’s success story.
“That’s what makes a place — it’s the people,” she said.
She hopes to continue building on that success.
“If the chancellor has me on speed dial and is calling to see what Coastal Georgia did about something, as an example for everyone else, that’s what I want,” she said. “If we can be that kind of example and we can set the stage for things that people want to emulate, we’re doing good things.”