Dr. Guillory aims to assist in student success

By Izzy Anderson - Staff Reporter



Dr. Justin Guillory wants to help students succeed if he becomes Highline's next president.

Dr. Guillory is a finalist for Highline president, and expressed his want to listen and work together with students during his on-campus visit last Tuesday.

Former Highline President Dr. Jack Bermingham announced his retirement in July 2017, after more than a decade working at Highline.

Dr. Jeff Wagnitz has since stepped up as the interim president, and will continue in this position until a new president is hired.

After Dr. Bermingham retired, the Board of Trustees arranged together a search subcommittee of faculty, staff and community members. The committee sifted through two dozen applicants before interviewing seven finalists, and then recommended three finalists for the board.

These top three candidates, Dr. Justin Guillory, Dr. Lisa Avery, and Dr. John Mosby, were each given an on-campus day for open forums on May 14, 15, and 16. Dr. Avery had hers on May 14, Dr. Guillory had May 15, and Dr. Mosby had May 16.

These forums were to answer questions any staff, faculty or students had, as well as to allow the campus to meet their potential college presidents.

Dr. Guillory has been working as the president of the Northwest Indian College in Bellingham since 2012. He previously served at this college as the dean of academics and distance learning, and dean of extended campus.

"I was hired up from within. It was tempting to say 'Oh, yeah I know this place,' but I chose to come into it with a new, start-over outlook, and I'm so glad that I did that," he said.

Before living in Ferndale, Dr. Guillory lived on the Nez Perce Indian reservation in Idaho until he was 15 years old.

He came to Highline on May 15 and answered questions and concerns during community, student, and employee forums throughout the day.

During this, Dr. Guillory addressed inquiries regarding a variety of topics.

These included subjects like employee wages, student involvement, campus diversity, staff utilization, on-campus program funding, outreach to veteran students, and many more.

Regarding the utilization of funds and how that connects to campus resources and appreciation of staff and faculty, Dr. Guillory explained that priorities can often be seen in not just where a college spends its money, but what it pours its time into.

"When we talk about priorities at our institution, we should look at our plan… how we spend our time," Dr. Guillory said. "If we're really, truly dedicated to unity and inclusion.… If there's a way to allocate more resources, that's certainly worth looking into."

He expressed his interest in helping to serve not only students, but also the staff and faculty.

Dr. Guillory said that for a college to work well, it needs to have a faculty and staff that feel supported, appreciated, and properly utilized.

"We want to make sure that for one, you're appreciated, and two, that your voices are heard," he said.

But ultimately, he said that the students are always top priority.

"I would humbly say, that the end should be about the students," Dr. Guillory said. "In the center of our work is the students."

Dr. Guillory explained that if you're genuine, driven and hard-working, people will note that you're doing good work.

"I think if [you] listen, show that you're working on it… and have a plan, I think people respect that," he said.

Dr. Guillory also addressed what drew him to the open position at Highline.

"To be honest, a trusted colleague of mine told me about this open vacancy at Highline… When I looked at Highline, two things that attracted me were access to education, and the access to all groups, the high number of diversity," he said. "It means a lot to me because I've seen what promoting education through motivation, support, and community [does].

"I want to be part of an institution that's really creating a positive influence in people's lives," Dr. Guillory said. "[And] you can help provide access to students who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to pursue their education."

"How many of your students, relatives… of you, wouldn't have pursued higher education if it wasn't for community colleges?" He asked.

At two of the forums, Dr. Guillary was asked questions about funding programs and scholarships at Highline that aren't meeting all the needs of the students.

"Funding is one of the main barriers to access to education… your access becomes limited," Dr. Guillory said. "Coming from outside of this system allows me to come in with a pair of fresh eyes."

When it comes to better funding programs, Dr. Guillory said that "the best advocacy, I've learned, is to show that you're part of the solution."

While this is just one part of a solution, it can help show others the importance of these programs for the students involved, he said.

He expressed the need to give students the chances they need to, to speak up and bring forward anything they believe can be improved.

"My job is to create a platform for you, the students, to tell [your] stories," Dr. Guillory said. "My first phase would be to ask, and listen, and learn."

"At NWIC, I meet with our students quarterly at the presidential luncheon, we encourage and invite students to come to these," he said. "Students bring up… all kinds of things to these… I don't create an agenda for [the luncheons], the agenda is to listen."

Dr. Guillory pointed out the need to allow any grievances and worries to happen, regarding the change to a new president.

"[There is] understanding that during change, there is a loss. There is a grieving, there is a mourning… it's just change. The neutral zone though, is a time to create new opportunities, to listen," he said. "It is hard, but… I'd like to say that I'd like to walk in step with you."

He stressed the importance of unity in a college, and the need to be on the same wave length.

"I'm not one to say, 'OK, we're going this way.' We're all walking together, shoulder-to-shoulder. Walking arm-in-arm, we're doing this together."

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