President's View: Take Control of your Future at JJC

A message from Joliet Junior College President Dr. Judy Mitchell

On the day Joliet Junior College would have celebrated hundreds of students and their academic achievements at our 104th spring 2020 commencement ceremony, I instead did something I could have never predicted: I participated in a press conference hosted by the City of Joliet, focused on the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact to local education.

With commencement postponed, students taking coursework online, and faculty and staff working remotely from home, JJC has been proactive in its response to these unprecedented challenges. In the true spirit of the community college model, we have continued to do what we do best: We adapt, we flex, and we respond to the constantly evolving needs of our students, business and industry.

Dr. Mitchell
JJC President Dr. Judy Mitchell

It is important to us to remain proactive, decisive, and thoughtful in our plans to help our future and current students plan their semesters. That is why we announced on May 15 that all Fall 2020 lecture courses will be delivered online. Courses scheduled with a combination of lecture and lab will be delivered in a hybrid format—lecture online and lab face-to-face. The face-to-face component would be contingent upon the State’s Restore Illinois plan and achievement of the Phase 4 standard. Until this standard is met, online lab simulations will be used in lieu of face-to-face labs.  

While not ideal, we hope this early decision will help many of our current students and prospective students make a decision and take control of their future—at JJC. While so much is unpredictable, I am encouraging our community to take control of the future and invest in reskilling or staying locally to take general education courses to transfer for a bachelor’s degree. The college offers a strong option to move forward, especially for many students already enrolled at four-year institutions who may be faced with online coursework at their current universities at a higher cost.

Summer classes will be offered online, and we have a full suite of support service easily available from our website. In our continuing education area, we have customized training and upskilling, including free classes for local businesses during this time. We also launched a laptop rental program for students at the start of the pandemic so they could continue with their courses if technology is a barrier.  

JJC is also continuing development on a new program announced last year, Respiratory Therapy, in our allied health division. I cannot think of a more essential program to add to the college’s allied health programs and certificates.

We have many students eligible to receive emergency funds for the spring semester from the federal stimulus package. So far, we have received over 600 applications for access to these funds. We anticipate $2.7 million of the federal stimulus funds we receive will support students directly in the form of grants for their college-related expenses. Additionally, donations to the JJC Student Emergency Fund total nearly $147,000, which the JJC Foundation distributes to students in need. Annually, our Foundation generously provides nearly $800,000 in scholarship money to students.

During these times of uncertainty, some students look to us for support with food and household items, technology to finish remote classes this semester, and even tuition assistance. Many students' jobs are affected by this crisis, creating unforeseen challenges that affect their academic goals.  

As one student who recently received these funds shared, the pandemic has impacted their ability to afford groceries. We are doing everything we can to ensure our prospective students and current students have access to the resources they need to take control of their future and move forward.  

JJC is the first community college in the nation—we have weathered many storms in our 120-year history, and we will weather this one. We have continued to drive innovation in the classroom and in our support services. We do not rest in tradition or history, we drive innovation and support your success. 

- Dr. Judy Mitchell, Joliet Junior College president