New presidents named at two TN community colleges

Press release from Tennessee Board of Regents

The Tennessee Board of Regents today (Wednesday) appointed Dr. Shanna L. Jackson as the next president of Nashville State Community College and Dr. Michael L. Torrence as the next president of Motlow State Community College.

Torrence will assume office at Motlow on May 1 and Jackson will begin her leadership of Nashville State on June 1.

The Board of Regents met in a special session today to receive and act on TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings’ recommendations for the two presidencies. The chancellor chose Jackson and Torrence for recommendation from among four finalists for each presidency selected by separate search committees appointed by the Board last fall. Both committees were composed of four to five Board members plus representatives of the faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community from the two colleges.

Jackson is currently an associate vice president and chief operating officer of Columbia State Community College’s Williamson Campus in Franklin. She has more than 20 years of experience in higher education administration and nearly 12 years of full- and part-time teaching experience. She earned a doctor of education degree in administration and supervision at Tennessee State University, and a master in business administration and a bachelor of science in business administration, both from Florida A&M University.

Torrence is currently assistant vice president of academic affairs at Volunteer State Community College. He has 11 years of experience in higher education administration and nearly 23 years of full- and part-time teaching experience.  He earned a doctor of philosophy degree, with a major in exceptional learning, at Tennessee Tech University, and master of arts and bachelor of arts degrees at South Dakota State University, both with a major in English. Torrence is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, serving as a senior airman from 1992 to 1996.

After thanking members of the search committees for their time and work, Tydings cited the importance of both colleges to their communities and said she’s confident that both candidates will continue the colleges’ progress and focus on student success.

The Board voted unanimously on separate motions to appoint both Jackson and Torrence.

Jackson told the Board that higher education has been a labor of love and a pathway she decided to pursue in 2004 while “teaching and meeting students who had barriers outside of the classroom that were preventing them from being successful – and wanting to really make a difference in their lives and to contribute in a significant way. And when I started my community college journey at Volunteer State Community College, it really was one of those life-changing moments where you realize the power that community colleges have” to transform lives.” She said that her goals include closing equity gaps among students.

Both new presidents cited the Board of Regents’ partnerships for student success and workforce development between its technical and community colleges, and between the colleges and business and industry.

“We know we need a regional approach,” Jackson said. “Our industries and our students don’t care about service-area lines, so we will be partners together to serve this great state and our students and really make a difference. I am grateful and excited about the future, not just for Nashville State but for Middle Tennessee and our state.”

Torrence agreed. “I am overwhelmed and appreciative of the opportunity to stand up Motlow and connect in ways that perhaps we haven’t done yet but we will. I want support for student success and completion and workforce development. That ties directly into the governor’s initiatives – the Drive to 55, Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise. We understand the importance of making sure that we collaborate and have programs that are designed in ways that meets the needs of the community. I look forward to making that happen and to success for our students and our communities.

“I am looking at regional partnerships between not just the community colleges and four-year institutions but definitely with our sister institutions, the colleges of applied technology. I believe in the power of partnerships,” he said.

Regent Tom Griscom chaired the Motlow search committee, which received 57 applicants for the presidency, and Regent Joey Hatch chaired the Nashville committee, which received 66. Both committees began their work in October, reviewing the candidates’ qualifications and backgrounds and interviewing them before nominating four finalists each in late January. The finalists participated in meetings with faculty, staff and students and public forums on the campuses. Tydings then reviewed input gathered at the meetings and forums and interview all the finalists before deciding on her recommendations to the Board.

Regent Barbara Prescott noted that both new presidents are alumni of the Board of Regents’ Maxine Smith Fellows program, created to enlarge the pool of underrepresented groups within the faculty and administrations of the system’s colleges through leadership training. The program was established 15 years ago in honor of the late Maxine Smith of Memphis, a former Board of Regents member and civil rights and education activist.

“I’d like to congratulate the Maxine Smith Fellows program, named after a person who was a dear friend of both Regent Greg Duckett and mine and a mentor to me,” Prescott said. “We know we have presidential openings often and to know that we are training and really nurturing and bringing up the people that do legitimately rise to the top is a compliment to our system.

Full resumes of the new presidents are available on the Tennessee Board of Regents website at

At Motlow, Torrence will succeed Dr. Anthony G. Kinkel, who resigned last June, and Interim President Hilda Tunstill, Motlow’s vice president of finance and administration.

Jackson will succeed Dr. George Van Allen, who retired as president of Nashville State in December, and the interim president, Dr. Kim McCormick, vice chancellor for external affairs at the Board of Regents.

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 100,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Note: Both new appointees succeed presidents who resigned amid considerable controversy. Previous post on the departure of Motlow State President Kinkel HERE; on the exit of Nashville State President Van Allen HERE.

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