Barbara Jones performing community service at Northeast Elementary School in Lauderdale County.
MERIDIAN – A lifelong Meridian resident who was the first member of her family to attend college rose to become vice president of operations at Meridian Community College.
Barbara Jones, who retired in 2017 from the position and now works as the director of the MCC Foundation, earned an associate’s of arts degree from Meridian Community College, formerly known as Meridian Junior College. She then transferred to Delta State University, earning an English degree with a minor in library science. She later returned to college to earn a master’s degree in education.
After gaining experience by teaching at rural high schools and Delta State University, Jones returned to Meridian. In 1983, she began teaching at Lauderdale County High School while teaching night classes at Meridian Community College.
Teaching the night class at Meridian Community College marked the beginning of Jones’ dedicated service to MCC. In 1992, she accepted a full-time English teaching position and became the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society advisor at MCC. This job would later propel Jones into administration at MCC.
Jones rose from English professor to language and literature division chair, then dean of academic affairs, and finally vice president of operations at Meridian Community College. In addition to performing all the roles expected of her, Jones also became involved in many other organizations at MCC, including the Phil Hardin Foundation Honor Society.
After years of research and collecting data from other college honors programs, Jones and MCC President Scott Elliott established the Phil Hardin Foundation Honors College at Meridian Community College. Jones became co-director of the Phil Hardin Foundation Honors College, and said it was “one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at MCC.”
“The Honors College has grown from 15 or 16 students the first year it opened to having over 70 this year,” said Jones, whose hard work and dedication was essential to the Honor’s College and MCC’s success.
The current academic dean at MCC, Michael Thompson, describes Jones as the hardest working person he knows. “Her dedication to MCC is demonstrated through her servant leadership as she consistently places the needs of others above her own,” he said.
Soraya Welden, MCC dean of students, has worked with Jones for years. “When I think of working with Barbara Jones, two phrases come to mind – supportive listener and intelligent decision maker,” she said.
Welden said Jones is a positive, encouraging supervisor. “She was understanding of the issues I faced within my job and provided helpful advice in working through difficult situations,” she said. “She also provided praise, thank yous, and recognized hard work.”
Jones offered the following advice:
- Be still and listen: “Before you start making major decisions or changes, be open-minded to people who may have good ideas. Don’t just jump up and do something without your ‘team’ providing some suggestions.”
- Be diligent in words and actions: “Being diligent means ‘make it like a habit.’ Set a good example, and don’t seem to have different characteristics each day.”
- As a teacher, put your focus on the students and not yourself: “Teachers need to know that they are not ‘guest speakers or presenters.’ If you are concerned more about the students, then you will be even happier when the students are very successful.”
- As administrators, be open-minded to those you trust to make good decisions: “As a vice president, I made sure that I would ask for advice on decisions, changes, etc. If they are leaders at the college, they gain their provisions and guidelines because they are more mobile in their areas than others. They see the good and bad each day, while a top administrator may be tied up in other activities.”
- Do not focus on the possibility of failure: “Being positive and feeling complacent is much better than sitting around and saying, ‘Oh, woe is me.’ Especially leaders or administrators of any kind should focus on the good things that are going on instead of ‘what might happen.’ Sometimes failure is due to lack of confidence.”
- Leadership requires great accountability: “When you accept a leadership position, you must understand that the pointed finger will go to you first if there is a failure. A leader is usually offered a job or position instead of being TOLD they are going to be a leader. A leader can find accountability by following the mission that they had at the beginning of their job. Not only are they held accountable, but at times, those under their position are blamed as well, and that should not happen.”
- Do your job well, but…: “Focusing only on your job and nothing else, such as family, church, and the community can bring sadness in the future. Your family came way before you had a specific job. Most of the time your family supports you, and spending some time with them is a good way to recognize the blessings you have, especially when some bad things come at work.”
In the summer of 2017, Jones retired as the vice president of operations at Meridian Community College. She did not stay away from MCC long, and now serves as director of the MCC Foundation. She also serves on the Lauderdale County Board of Education.
Welden said she has missed working with Jones since her retirement. “I am fortunate that we are still able to talk often,” she said. “I have tremendous respect for her.”
Jones could not bear to part from MCC because of the role it has played in her life. “MCC has been a vital part of my life, and my grandson will graduate in May as the fourth generation of my family to attend MCC.”