Jul. 18—ANDERSON — Mia Johnson's vision for Ivy Tech's local campuses is a simple one: Money should not be a concern for anyone when it comes to furthering their education.
Academic and civic leaders alike need to "make sure that the community is educated, that we have jobs, and that when jobs come in, we have folks ready, educated to fill them," Johnson said during a reception in her honor at the community college's 60th Street campus.
A Muncie native, Johnson served as interim chancellor after James Willey retired in June 2020. She was named permanent chancellor in November.
"Mia was the clear, most exceptional candidate" during a national search, Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann said. "I certainly don't have any second thoughts on the decision that the community affirmed. She's doing a great job."
Johnson has worked at Ivy Tech for 13 years, including as a testing associate in the East Central region, which includes Anderson, and as vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Muncie campus.
Johnson said she views the college's mission in Madison County as transformative and vital in preparing the local workforce to be qualified for an increasing variety of jobs that economic development officials hope to bring to the area. Emerging from the pandemic and tailoring the school's academic offerings to meet the demands of a diverse student body are the biggest challenges she's encountered so far.
"I fell in love as soon as I got over here," she said. "I love the folks in this community. I love the folks on this campus, so I knew it was for me."
Ellspermann noted Johnson's work during the pandemic with Learn Anywhere, a new Ivy Tech program designed to provide students with week-to-week scheduling flexibility and options for attending classes in person or virtually.
"We're all feeling our way through to what will our students need and want going forward," Ellspermann said. "During the pandemic, we evolved and Mia was at the front of that new modality."
Johnson also made the college's relationship with Anderson Community Schools a priority. She recently met with assistant superintendent Eric Davis and Anderson Career Center director Jason Neal to discuss adding certifications to the partnership's list of dual credit programs.
"Because of that partnership, even if students don't obtain dual credits, they're able to earn different certifications through Ivy Tech while they're in high school," Davis said. "It's been very beneficial to the corporation."
Johnson's vision for "making sure anyone who wants an education from Ivy Tech can get an education from Ivy Tech" encouraged many of those who attended the reception. Although graduation rates in school districts throughout Madison County have steadily increased in recent years, "many of our youth and families can't afford to send their children to further their education besides high school," said Betty Williams, public relations director for the Anderson Madison County Black Chamber of Commerce.
"We need to try to keep everybody in school because as the economy grows and the jobs are needing education with bachelor's and master's degrees, that's a great opportunity that (Johnson) has opened up," she added. "It's great to say that finances hopefully will not be a problem and that the struggles for families will hopefully be helped."
Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.