Metke reflects on 10 years at TJC

Nov 07, 2017 by
Dr. Mike Metke

Dr. Mike Metke

Asked about his first impression of Tyler Junior College when he stepped on campus as president in 2007, and Dr. Mike Metke’s eyes twinkle and a smile crosses his face.

“My wife Donna and I still remark about how unprepared we were for what a wonderful, special place TJC is,” Metke said. “There’s a good will here and a reservoir of positive feelings unlike anywhere we had ever been before.

“Part of it is, anywhere you go in the community, pretty much everyone in the room has some attachment to TJC: They’ve attended classes here, they discovered who they were and who they could become. They met their spouses and their friends for life, and it put them in a position to be successful.”

Metke is celebrating his 10th year as president of what he terms as The College of East Texas.

And while he is known for always pressing forward – whether it involves climbing the nearest available mountain or persuading state legislators that TJC should be the first two-year college in Texas to offer a Bachelor of Science degree – with a milestone anniversary comes a certain amount of looking back on where
he’s been.

The past decade under the Metke regime has been a busy one, as the TJC Board of Trustees and his employees can attest.

“I hear people use the term ‘change agent.’ I had never known a change agent until I met Mike Metke,” said TJC trustee David Hudson, who was board president when Metke was hired in 2007.

Metke sees many highlights among his lengthy list of projects.

Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences Center

Following Metke’s initial, massive overhaul of TJC’s infrastructure, a strategic plan was created for TJC’s nursing and health sciences programs and filling the ever-increasing workforce needs of the area’s vibrant health care industry.

The Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences Center opened its doors in early 2015.

At approximately 150,000 square feet, the Rogers building allowed for the expansion of the associate degree nursing and dental hygiene programs. Plus, it created space for new programs, including: occupational therapy assistant, wellness and exercise specialist, physical therapist assistant, dental assisting, community health worker and polysomnography.

TJC Presidential Honors Program

The TJC Presidential Honors Program is an elite community designed for the high-achieving student. It’s a small and focused academic program with specialized coursework, dedicated honors faculty, individual advising and reserved housing.

“These are the overachievers, and having 300 of those top students in honors has had a huge impact.”

Protecting ‘our competitive advantage’: the TJC employees

“I have long maintained that our employees are our greatest asset,” Metke said. “They are our single most important competitive advantage; and when you’re out in the community, people talk about the teacher or the advisor or the person who touched their lives.”

During the Great Recession, he said, there were TJC employees who needed to retire, but the safety net (Social Security eligibility for state employees) that was removed in the 1970s hampered their ability to retire comfortably.

In addition to TRS, the state retirement plan, TJC employees are now also part of a supplemental plan that Metke said, “helps restore that safety net and helps us attract and retain great employees. I’m glad we were able to take care of our dedicated employees.”

Legislative matters

Metke also found the relationship between state legislators and community colleges to be lacking, and he set about making improvements.

“We realized we hadn’t responded to changes in the legislature in terms of our (Texas Association of Community Colleges) personnel,” he said. “We brought in a new team, and the legislators responded positively.”

With the transformation to a more conservative, Republican Texas legislature, community colleges are a natural fit,
he said.

“Community colleges respond quickly. We’re cost effective. We have local participation. The state provides less than 20 percent of our operations costs, and look what they get in return,” he said.

“We were able to explain the importance of a statewide network of community colleges, and I think they saw the value of maintaining a healthy, strong community college system for the state.”

TJC’s first baccalaureate program

Metke said the improved relationship with state legislators helped TJC get its first baccalaureate degree, a Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene.

He sees the possibility for more bachelor’s degrees being offered at TJC as the skills demands increase in those fields.

TJC is working on its second baccalaureate degree, a Bachelor of Applied Technology in healthcare technologies and medical systems, set for the fall 2018 semester.

The TJC Promise

Recognizing the need to build a college-going culture that will strengthen the East Texas workforce of the future, TJC announced its most ambitious initiative during its 90th anniversary year: The TJC Promise. (See related article on Page 16.)

The community’s college

“When I got here in 2007, we were focused on being a junior college only,” he said, “but you can be a great junior college that is a comprehensive community college as well.

“We’ve transformed from that pure junior college to where more than half of our students are in career and technical programs, workforce programs.”

Metke said that change was a gradual one.

The new baccalaureate degree in dental hygiene was a direct response to those workforce efforts, he said.

“Mike Metke has made TJC a better place by working with dedication and diligence to ensure the future of the school and the success of the students,” said Ann W. Brookshire, TJC board president.

A new golden era

When he first arrived in 2007, Metke said he was inundated with alumni, employees and friends of the College sharing their stories about TJC and what it has meant to them over the years.

“Hearing how TJC impacted their lives and how much they treasure this college affected me,” he said. “It was like being entrusted with the keys to a Rolls Royce. I wanted to make sure TJC’s glory years weren’t only in the rear-view mirror but also ahead of us.

“Considering all we’ve accomplished together over the past 10 years, those things have all aligned and clearly we are in a new golden era at TJC.”


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On Campus, Summer 2017

About the author

Elise Mullinix is Tyler Junior College's Editorial Manager. She can be reached at 903-510-2370 or at emul2@tjc.edu.