Thomas Hueber was appointed acting president of Bevill State Community College April 14 and comes to Bevill from Shelton State Community College, where he served as dean of student services. During his career in postsecondary education, Huebner has served as professor of communication studies, director of intercollegiate speech and debate, dean of admissions, and vice president of student affairs, enrollment management and strategic planning. Additionally, he was instrumental in the formation of the partnership between Shelton State and Mercedes-Benz.
Huebner earned a bachelor of arts degree with majors in communication and English from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. He received his master of arts in communications from the University of Georgia and his Ph.D. in communication, with a doctoral minor in research methods, from the University of Southern Mississippi.
He was recently honored by Pi Kappa Delta, the nation's oldest and largest intercollegiate speech and debate organization, with the John Shields Award for Outstanding Contribution to the organization. He currently serves on the governor's Black Belt Committee for Workforce Development and is actively involved in a variety of national, state and local educational committees and volunteer organizations.
He is married to Mindy Huebner and has four children ranging in age from 10 to 24. Huebner is currently commuting from Tuscaloosa to Jasper.
Q: Even though you are currently serving as acting president of Bevill State, do you have hopes of being given the job permanently?
Huebner: “If Bevill State’s presidency was open tomorrow, I’d be the first applicant because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being here and meeting people. It has been fun for me to be in this role, meaning I enjoy what I get to do here in the way I get to do it. In other words, I enjoy the small community. I enjoy the small college feel. I enjoy the relational nature of this job. ... I don’t know when this position will be posted for full-time and certainly when that happens, I will be subject to all the policies and procedures that any candidate would have to go through, so as much as I’m thinking, ‘This would be perfect for me,’ I have to think of myself as needing to take advantage of the opportunities I have today to help lead the institution to be prepared for whatever’s next. I figure that if we are keeping our priorities straight with the decisions that we make that regardless of what happens next, they’ll be the right decisions; we will have made the right decisions, whether that be me or some other leader.”
Q: What are you goals for Bevill State?
Huebner: “Certainly, one of the things that I’m wanting to do is establish strong relationships with people in our community. ... I serve, in some ways, as the community’s face for the institution, which means they have to trust me, they have to know me, they have to believe that I can lead the school, and that includes the people who work here as well. They have to have that same kind of trust in me, and that’s sacred to me. I work hard to build trust and that means I have to be places, I have to talk to people, I have to come out of my office, I have to travel, I have to do all of these things so that people can begin to trust me.
“... I want to be in the schools. I want to talk to the superintendents. I want to talk to the principals and the teachers and the guidance counselors, and I’ve done some of that already. If you don’t get your energy out of creating an opportunity for a student, then you should not be in this business, and I know that creating an opportunity for a student also means we’re creating an opportunity for a family. ... We invest ourselves in this community by investing ourselves in our students.
“In terms of looking for opportunities for our students, we are already looking at the possibility of formulating some transfer agreements. I’m hoping we can carry through in a process that was started before I got here ... which is looking at that student experience in terms of advising and the support we give that student in order to help that student in the decision making that he or she needs to get the degree they need or want and to either transfer or find their way to the workforce.
“We are needing to look at the challenges associated with underprepared students, and that is widespread across the state and even the United States. We are taking a hard look at those students and what we can do differently or better to help those students be better prepared to get where they want to go.”
Q: What ideas do you have to boost enrollment?
Huebner: “One of the things is building relationships and trust. The great thing is we have great instruction, great instructors. We have students who come here and excel in life. Second is having a good plan for recruiting, a good plan for getting the students here and keeping them here to partner with the excellent instruction that we have. Committed instructors and faculty members, it’s that relational nature. ... It’s about good processes, good strategies and good relationships. We need to look at programs that will help grow the institution. We can’t be afraid of trying some new things. The great thing here is that there is a spirit of willingness.”
Q: What is the possibility of bringing back athletic programs?
Huebner: “It will take some time to look at that process, but I am certainly willing to put that on the table. ... At some point, I will begin the process of looking at trying to learn what I need to learn to even answer that question. The answer is that if it’s the sort of thing that becomes beneficial for the institution and the community, I certainly think that’s something we would entertain. But, there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be known and decided and learned before we can even go in that direction. ... It’s a lot more than what people think, but knowing that there is strong support in the community is a plus.”
Q: What plans are you looking into with the process of dual enrollment?
Huebner: “This is a high priority for the chancellor, for the governor, for our legislators, for Dr. Bice in the K-12 system, to be able to partner the business and industry in the community, the K-12 systems and the community colleges to provide opportunities for our students. Some of the recent legislation allows, for example, business and industry to be able to donate money for dual enrollment scholarships and to be able to write part of it off. ... So, starting this fall, we’re going to have at our business incubator classes in machine tool technology and a newly renovated machine tool lab where students from the city and county schools will be able to come and take classes that will be available for dual enrollment and hope that it will transition into the degree programs we have at Bevill State.”
Q: What is one of the most important roles as the president of a college to you?
Huebner: “I think the president of a college needs to be an excellent listener and needs to not just be a listener, but also be one who acts, who is willing to do the right thing for the right reasons. It’s hard for a person to know what those things are if one isn’t being a good listener. So, I have to be sensitive to what’s going on around me and the challenges people are facing, not only here, not only our students, faculty and staff, but people in the community and throughout.
“... I’m proud for the opportunity, and I’m impressed by the people here and in our communities at large. I just have a feeling that we are on the verge of some really great things.”