Shawnee’s new president excited about job
Dr. Peggy Bradford is returning to her roots in Southern Illinois as the new president of Shawnee Community College.
The search for a new president took place after the retirement announcement of former SCC president, Tim Bellamy.
Bradford was raised in the small town of Pulaski and graduated from Meridian High School in Mounds. There, she was a cheerleader and played trumpet in the band, also playing with local group Soul Phonics, who performed at proms and prisons for the holidays.
She also was involved in Beta Club and was an escrow student, taking college level courses while still in high school.
She said that since coming back to the area, several of her teachers, who still live in the area, have reached out to her to wish her well.
Bradford is a Shawnee College alumna, graduating with an associate of arts degree.
While a student at Shawnee, she worked at the student newspaper and was a student worker. She said she liked the small classes and could interact with the instructors while getting to know them and they got to know her.
Bradford said that she sees Shawnee Community College as a “jewel,” adding that “students and families need to rediscover this in our district.”
Bradford earned her Ed.D. in higher education administration from Northern Illinois University, a juris doctorate degree in corporate and business planning law from the University of Iowa College of Law, a master of science degree in administration and community development from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and bachelor of science degree in counseling and administration from SIUC.
Both of her parents were elementary school teachers and education was very important to them. She and three other siblings graduated from Shawnee Community College.
Bradford previously served as the provost and vice president of academic affairs at State University of New York Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y.
Bradford said she’s excited to come back to Southern Illinois, since much of her family still resides here. Bradford visited the area frequently while she lived elsewhere.
During her visits, Bradford said that she has noticed a critical change in the area.
“Over the years, I’ve seen such a decline in the area in terms of boarded up buildings,” she said.
Bradford said while talking to some of the young students about their hopes and dreams, some of them said “I’m from Southern Illinois, I’ll probably just end up staying here.”
“They aren’t understanding that there’s a whole wealth of possibilities within Southern Illinois. It shouldn’t be ‘I’m stuck in Southern Illinois,’ it should be that ‘we are excited about being from Southern Illinois,’” she said.
Bradford said some things about the area have remained the same, including a sense that students who earn associate degrees should be encouraged to continue their education to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Another shared goal is having training and education available so that people can go directly into the workforce.
Bradford said she’s also seen a different picture when it comes to the kinds, and numbers, of jobs which are available in the area.
“I’m seeing that the population is declining and that those jobs have moved on, and so there’s a different type of training and education that we need to do to be able to reach out and connect more with the community,” she said.
Bradford said that when she saw the changes, like graduation rates and the number of students who were continuing their education at Shawnee, “I felt like, this is an area I love. This is where my family is from. I’ve been fortunate to pick up experiences in other areas. The timing was right. It fell into place.”
Since coming back to Southern Illinois, Bradford has been very busy trying to reconnect with different institutions in the area and meeting people in the community.
Bradford said that she is “trying to learn what the needs are. What are some of the dreams, the aspirations,” she said.
The new Shawnee Community College president said she also is “trying to learn about the situation in Cairo. People have reached out because the college has a center there and a presence and we are looking to see how we can best serve their community.”
Hundreds of families in Cairo have been displaced as the result of the closing of public housing facilities in the area. Some families are being forced to move out of the area, due to the lack of affordable housing.
Bradford said the college is looking at several buildings in the Cairo area which potentially could be utilized to offer adult basic education courses, training and regular college level courses.
“We need to locate an appropriate site that would be centrally located in Cairo where the individuals can come and participate,” Bradford said.
As the new president of Shawnee Community College, Bradford said that one of her goals is to listen to the community, students and staff to figure out what it is that they would like to see in their community college.
“It should be a place where the community comes for their training and education – and they think of it as number one – and it should be a resource for everybody within all the counties in our district to see as a place for events and always a place of education and refuge,” she said.
Bradford said she would like to see student enrollment grow. She would like to see high school students graduating with their high school diploma and an associate degree or one year certificate.
“I’d like to see the college be utilized more by the community and business leaders. This is a great place to hold their training, business and social events,” she said.
She also wants the college to be an advocate for the surrounding communities. She said the college can be a resource to help to teach people in area communities about how to advocate and address some of the social, political and economic issues they face.
“I’m excited to be here. I really enjoy the college. There are a lot of wonderful employees here.” Bradford said.
Shawnee Community College is planning to celebrate its 50th anniversary on Sept. 22 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the main campus in Ullin.
The new president’s inauguration is scheduled Oct. 13 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.