PERKINSTON, MS (WLOX) - Dr. Mary Graham was greeted with smiles from a group of students Friday. She is a familiar face at the Perkinston campus.
"Some of them don't even know I'm the new president," Graham said. "They just know that's that lady that works at Perk, you know."
Graham practically grew up at Perk. She held various administrative positions, including 14-years as Vice-President of Perk, before being named the 12th president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. She is also the first woman to ever hold that position.
"I was honored to be named. It's very significant," said Graham.
Graham takes over the leadership role at a time when MGCCC is seeing strong enrollment and enjoying national recognition.
"My greatest challenge and I should say my greatest opportunity is to ensure that momentum continues, because we just came on the heels of a perfect SACS accreditation visit, which is unheard of," said Graham.
Other challenges include funding, keeping up with the rapidly changing technology, and making sure the college provides the academic programs and training to meet the needs of the future workforce.
One example, is the Hospitality and Resort Management building going up at the Jeff Davis campus in Gulfport.
"There'll be a lot of growth there, culinary arts, and all those things associated with the industry on the coast, the casino industry and the tourism industry," said Graham.
And at the Jackson County campus, she sees the possibility of another partnership with local universities.
"USM certainly and the opportunity is still there for South Alabama," said Graham. "They'll need to make that decision, but I feel that USM has an interest in being strong on the coast."
Graham is also helping to craft a vision for the college over the next ten years.
"One of my goals is to establish that strategic plan, because we really need a road map," she said.
It's a road map that could lead the school toward becoming the largest community college in the state once again. Graham said that 2020 Strategic Plan will be unveiled January, 2012.