Isothermal Community College has served Rutherford and Polk Counties for more than 50 years. This service has endured through good and bad times, most of which have been foreseen or at least, anticipated. Yet how quickly things can change as we see with COVID-19. The necessity for adaptation and change has never been brought about so quickly, at least in my career, and we are still right in the middle of a period of uncertainty for our students, community and employees. So, what do we do? How do we handle questions coming at a pace sufficient to make heads spin? How do we help our community persist toward fulfilling their dreams and accomplishing their goals? How do we bring certainty to employees who are now faced with full-time jobs and full-time responsibilities at home with their children? The questions go on and on and on. 

Over the course of my time with the College, I have heard it said and said it myself, our Community College System was designed to adapt to the changing needs of our communities, students, and businesses. We are ready to meet the challenge of change, regardless of its cause and necessity. Change has certainly been provoked by factors such as time, innovations and technological developments, political and economic environments and even the changing goals and preferences naturally occurring by generational differences. During normal transitions and times of change, we are able to forecast, plan, prepare and ready ourselves. We do so in the sense of readying curriculum and continuing education programs, purposing classrooms and facilities, working with faculty and staff to seek professional development opportunities. We work with our Board of Trustees, industry partners, leaders in local government and school system to align resources and vision. We work diligently to deliver excellence for our students and community. There are countless processes taking place every day to insure we fulfill our mission at Isothermal Community College. Thinking through what I have just described provokes the next question: Why Change?

The uncertainties forced on us all by the suddenness of the COVID-19 pandemic may cause the “how we do business” to change, but I am certain it does not change the “why we do business”. Times like these are what the Community Colleges are designed for and no other community college is better than Isothermal Community College to quickly transition because our employees, both faculty and staff, are who make the difference. We believe in our mission and our people have demonstrated their commitment to serving the students and community. We have taken our experience and put it to work in order to remain focused on the necessity to continue to deliver excellence to our students and community. During this time of transitioning the how, we have moved to online delivery of instruction. We have made determinations regarding ongoing services and asked all employees do what is best during this unprecedented circumstance. Many will juggle the balance between family and work, take care of school age children, telework, and continue to provide on-campus services, exercise creativity as never before, and all for a common purpose, to improve the lives of Rutherford and Polk County citizens. 

Regardless of circumstances and uncertainties imposed on all of us as a society, Isothermal Community College stands ready and willing to meet the challenges ahead. Support from the County Manager, elected Commissioners and other critical partners will continue to allow the College to provide essential services much needed during this critical time. Most of all, the committed employees of Isothermal Community College are what will continue to make a difference for our students. I am convinced there will continue to be more questions in the days ahead and we will continue to answer as many as we can but I say with great confidence, Isothermal Community College understands why we are here and collectively, although, very differently, we will continue to serve and fulfill the mission and purpose with certainty.  

STEPHEN MATHENY, Chief Operating Officer and VP of Administrative Services

Stephen Matheny is Isothermal’s chief operating officer and vice president of Administrative Services. Reach him via email at [email protected]