At his final meeting as Southwestern Michigan College’s longest-serving president, Dr. David Mathews Dec. 16 reviewed 2019.
Mathews, who retires Dec. 31 after 18 ½ years as president, covered the year’s highlights chronologically for the Board of Trustees, which voted during the meeting to extend him the honorary title of President Emeritus.
January: “We opened the $9.6-million Nursing and Health Education Building,” Mathews said. “That has been a wonderful facility for our nursing and health programs. (Dean) Dr. (Melissa) Kennedy was saying just the other day that the simulation environment is being used more than ever before. Students are gathering and studying. In fact, the only problem is it has become such a hub that we need to put sound baffles in the ceilings to hold down noise from students actively studying, which is exactly what we wanted.”
Crowe, a nationally-recognized accounting firm, offered eight students paid internships on the Dowagiac campus, putting SMC alongside Ohio State University, the University of Kentucky, Florida A&M, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC).
May: “The first Early Middle College class from Dowagiac Union High School graduated,” Mathews said of the five-year high school program where they graduate from SMC a month before graduating from high school.
Summer: SMC students “went off to topflight internship opportunities,” Mathews said. “We had a student go to the Yale Young Global Scholars. We had a student doing undergraduate research at the University of Michigan. Another student interned with the Disney College Program.”
August: SMC’s seventh president announced his retirement. “It’s worth mentioning because we don’t change presidents very often,” Mathews said. “David Briegel served 17 years, Russ Owen, 10. Also in August, Dr. Kennedy was named dean of the School of Nursing and Health Services. What’s remarkable about that is she got her associate degree from SMC and has now come back to lead that entire school.”
September: New paralegal and entrepreneurship programs debuted.
October: SMC’s Criminal Justice program captured seven trophies at their first American Criminal Justice Association-Lambda Alpha Epsilon conference in Minnesota. Region 6 encompasses Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Iowa.
November: “Dr. (Joseph) Odenwald was named the eighth president,” Mathews said, “and we brought to conclusion the faculty master agreement, so for the next 3 ½ years that issue is settled and we are on to the business of everybody putting 110 percent of their effort fulltime into our mission.”
Odenwald offered trustees a preview of what’s ahead.
“Jan. 9-10 we’ll have three open sessions for employees to provide input on the strategic plan,” he said, “two on this campus and one on the Niles Campus. The goal is to have a July 1, 2020-June 30, 2023, draft with measurable goals and objectives for the board to use at our annual strategic planning session in March.”
Odenwald has been Vice President of Student Services since 2017. “My area is nine functional units, so we sat down the day after your vote and got input. We’ve created two smaller units from one big division. We’re going to have a dean of student development. That’s going to be comprised of five areas — testing, records, First Year Experience, Academic Advising and Resource Center (AARC) and TRIO Student Support Services. Campus Life will have an executive director and include theatre operations, the Student Activity Center, residence life and student engagement. I told you during the interviews that lieutenant depth is one of our strengths, so we are able to continue our great service to students during and beyond this transition.”