With her goal for Motlow College students to live healthy and satisfied lives, Dr. MaryLou Apple will leave behind that legacy when she retires from the helm of the university where she has served as president since 2006.
“I think we have made a great transition since 2006,” Dr. Apple told members of McMinnville’s Noon Rotary Club on Thursday, noting giant steps forward for the college in Mechatronics and nursing.
Dr. Apple arrived at Motlow through nontraditional means, moving from a career as a military flight nurse to high-level education administrator. She leaves the college rated in the top 50 community colleges in the nation as ranked by Community College Week. Motlow State Community College also boasts a 92 percent placement rate and has 4,800 students on its four campuses.
While looking back on the achievements at Motlow under her leadership, Dr. Apple was quick to recognize many in McMinnville, and Noon Rotary in particular, who got behind the college despite the lean years of the recession.
“You stepped out of your comfort zone and pushed,” Dr. Apple said of several businesspeople who invested and helped raise money for improvements in areas like Mechatronics. The result of that investment during the recession is Warren County is leading the nation in Mechatronics.
“They (Mechatronics students) are courted for jobs from the moment they begin classes,” Dr. Apple pointed out, noting the community should continue to be on the cutting edge when it comes to figuring out what will be needed next. “We need to hear about what you need in business so we can take steps to fill those positions.”
Dr. Apple said Tennessee Promise will likely mean a surge in new students at colleges across the state. Tennessee Promise offers two years of tuition-free college education for high school graduates. She said the latest numbers indicate there are 37,000 applications through Tennessee Promise. However, despite the numbers heading to college, Dr. Apple said there will still be issues.
“One of the problems I see is many students haven’t thought about a career,” Dr. Apple noted, adding students who have a vision of where they want to be after college have an advantage since businesses are wanting graduates who are already trained to do specific jobs. “Businesses can’t afford to completely train new employees now. They want them ready when they are hired and need minimal on-the-day training.”
Dr. Apple said the insurgence of college freshmen will also press community college for space, meaning classes will have to expand outside the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. desired zone that most college students want.