It’s only been a little more than a week, but for Kirk Nooks, Lee’s Summit already feels like home.
Nooks, the new president of Metropolitan Community College-Longview, officially took office July 1, and in that time has come to familiarize himself with not only the school, but with the Lee’s Summit community itself.
Well, as much as one can in a span of a week-and-a-half.
“The first day was definitely an exciting day,” Nooks said July 8 from inside his office at MCC-Longview. “It was wonderful being able to get out and shake the hands of some of the staff members, meet with some of the students who were walking across the campus and to get a feel of what this Longview family would be like.”
Nooks, who replaced the retired Fred Grogan, said his predecessor left the school in great shape. Grogan officially retired June 30 after 15 years as president at Longview.
“This is the type of leadership transition you want,” Nooks said. “You want to be following someone who was a great leader, who was very inspirational, who was tied into the community. Dr. Grogan has been very, very helpful to me during this transition. He was one of the first people to call and reach out to me after the announcement was made. He’s left the institution in great shape. I look to build upon that legacy he left for me.
The process of replacing Grogan is not a daunting one for Nooks, who came to MCC-Longview from Georgia Highlands College, where he served as both campus dean for the college’s Marietta campus and executive liaison for diversity initiatives. He was at GHC for four years, during which time campus enrollment increased by more than 35 percent.
Before GHC, Nooks served in various leadership roles at Northern Virginia Community College, including dean of student services and assistant professor. Previously, he was director of the office of institutional initiatives and governance at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland.
“I was quite happy in Georgia,” Nooks said. “That’s where the majority of my family are located. There was a mentor that said, ‘hey Kirk I want you to start looking at some opportunities and I think Metropolitan Community College has put out an opportunity and I think you ought to consider it.’
“I thought, ‘well, I know the state of Missouri has a number of qualified individuals who would probably go for it. Being an outsider, I may not have a shot.’ We tend to look locally first. I decided to put my materials forth and I received a call one day for an interview. After each opportunity that I had to speak with faculty and staff and administrators, and meet with the students, I felt this was the place to be. I brought my family with me to the interview and they fell in love with area, so here we are.”
Nooks outlined his style as a strategic visionary.
“What I’ve come to be known for is…helping institutions realize the opportunities that are available and trying to create a blueprint or a cookie crumb trail to get to those larger goals,” Nooks said. “To take the opportunities available to Longview and Metropolitan Community College and figure out how do we get there. Not only that, but figure out how do we advance this completion and student success agenda; especially for a growing institution like Metropolitan Community College. I had success like that in the past at Northern Virginia Community College.
“Being involved in the ‘Achieving the Dream’ student success initiative, and also in Georgia being involved in those same types of student success initiatives, that’s something I would like to bring here. MCC is already doing a lot of that, but I think there is room in the conversation to talk about how do we do that with a demographic that is going to be changing between now and 2020.”
The former engineer also laid out what he plans to do in his first 90 days at MCC-Longview.
“Beyond finding out where the classrooms are and the restrooms, we’re taking a step to do what we call listening sessions,” he said. “I am going to assemble a presidential task force. Those individuals will host listening sessions. They will host these sessions not only on campus but out the community.
“We are going to be looking for our community partners to help us facilitate some of those conversations. I really want to listen. After listening for the first 60 days, we’ll come together the last 30 and start to identify our themes and common threads so that way we can have some form of a plan to put in place by January of next year.”
As for the feeling of home, Nooks said he noticed the welcoming vibe of Lee’s Summit immediately.
“We purchased a home in the northeast area (of Lee’s Summit),” he said. “We’re over by the Legacy Park area. We’re just delighted to be here – myself, my wife and our three children. I couldn’t have asked to be at a better place. I know all of my colleagues love the area they are in, and they love their campuses, but you can’t get a better combination of K-12 and higher education and Lee’s Summit has it all. Everyone has been so welcoming and gracious. I’ve gone out to a couple of stores so far and everyone has been completely welcoming.”