President Of South Suburban College Reflects On Her Career And Colleges Evolution

Dr. Lynette Stokes has been the President of South Suburban College since 2018. Prior to that she was the Vice President of Academic Services. PHOTO PROVIDED BY SOUTH SUBURBAN COLLEGE.
Dr. Lynette Stokes has been the President of South Suburban College since 2018. Prior to that she was the Vice President of Academic Services. PHOTO PROVIDED BY SOUTH SUBURBAN COLLEGE.

President Of South Suburban College Reflects On Her Career And Colleges Evolution

By Tia Carol Jones

Dr. Lynette Stokes has served as the President of South Suburban College since 2018. Prior to being appointed to the college, Stokes served as Vice President of Academic Services.

Stokes began in education as a substitute teacher with Chicago Public Schools. In 2000, she started working at Harold Washington College, then moved to Malcolm X College. She was hired at South Suburban College in 2013 as the Vice President of Academic Services. Eighteen years later, she became the President of South Suburban College. Coming from the academic and non-academic side of higher education enabled her to standout in her role as President of South Suburban College.

“Along that 18-year journey, everything I’ve done has prepared me, I believe, for this seat. Whether it’s credit or non-credit programs, being able to understand assessments at the classroom level, as well as co-curricular activities … Everything in this journey has prepared me to ascend to this level,” she said.

Stokes’ safe haven growing up was school. It was where she was comfortable, it was where her friends were. It was a constant in her life. Coming up in the foster care system, she knew education would help her do better and change the trajectory of her life. She knew higher education was where she could make the most impact on changing policy and ensuring students had an accessible, quality education. Because it is more personal to her, she has a unique level of passion for higher education.

As the first African American woman President of South Suburban College, she acknowledges that being the first of anything comes with a heightened level of responsibility. She wants the role to be organic, while being intentional, deliberate and ensuring she makes a positive impact.

“Part of the role and the responsibility I have is not only to my students, but I have a responsibility, in my opinion, to chart a path here at the institution whereby I might be the first, but I won’t be the last,” she said.

Stokes believes the inclusion of Black women in higher education is crucial to diversity, equity and inclusion; continuing with the intellectual vibrancy in the academic community. In her time at South Suburban College, she is most proud of the way the institution has come through adversity such as COVID and a cyberattack. She is also proud of the creation of a diverse, equitable and inclusive task force.   The school is working on a strategic plan around DEI, ensuring it is intentionally threaded throughout the college, from curriculum to hiring.

Two years ago, South Suburban College secured $15 million capital funding for construction of an Allied Health Nursing Center. It is something Stokes is very excited about. A groundbreaking is set for September, with an anticipated construction completion date of 2027. Last year in partnership with Cook County, the college opened its Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHARM) Center.

For the last three years, South Suburban College has submitted a balanced budget. When Stokes was appointed in 2018, the college had a $4.8 million budget deficit. It was cut in half during Stokes’ first year and by the third year of her tenure, the college had a balanced budget. While these things happened during Stokes’ administration, it was a collective effort with intentional strategies. She credits her strong administrative team, along with the faith of the Board.

South Suburban College is approved to offer online degrees with four different tracks to offer to students. The nursing program also has received accreditation, which further validates the program. Stokes said the pass rate for the nursing program is 100%, which allows those students to go right into the workforce and start their careers as nurses.

Stokes said it is has been a goal of the administration to ensure there is strong collaboration and partnership between the faculty and academic services. It includes securing business partnerships for internships to simulated skills labs. It is important that they have a robust pool of advisory board members with industry professionals who make sure the curriculum that the school is offering is relevant to current day needs.

“When our students come out of the program, they are going right out into the workforce and will be  as competitive as any other student from any other institution,” she said.

South Suburban College is located at 15800 State St., in South Holland, Illinois.   For more information about South Suburban College, visit www.ssc.edu, or call 708-596-2000.


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