OC official to receive top Phi Theta Kappa honor

Odessa College’s Vice President for Instruction Valerie Jones will receive the 2017 Distinguished College Administrator Award, presented by Phi Theta Kappa during the PTK Catalyst, the society’s annual convention April 6 through April 8 in Nashville, Tenn.
Jones also is being inducted into the Texas hall of fame for PTK at the regional conference the week of March 13. Phi Theta Kappa is an international organization that is the honors program for two-year colleges. Students can also get scholarships through the organization.
Laura Clark, recording officer of the Eta Tau chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, said 10 administrators are selected for the 2017 Texas Hall of Honor for Distinguished College Administrators every year. Then, 24 administrators are chosen yearly for the Distinguished College Administrator Award.
Clark said Jones was nominated because she has been “an amazing liaison” between PTK and the administration. “She makes sure that everybody that can be from administration is there for our inductions and project presentation; she helps the officers and our advisors, as well,” Clark said.
She added that Jones has an open-door policy.
“She’s very patient and understanding with us and she makes us think. She guides us on how to problem solve,” Clark said.
Jones said she felt touched that the students thought enough of her to nominate her for the Distinguished College Administrator award because with people’s busy schedules, it’s hard for people to stop and craft a nomination.
Just knowing someone – or someones – did that on her behalf goes a long way, Jones said.
“I did not realize until the board meeting that there were only 24 administrators around the country who had gotten this recognition, so when I first received the notification I was very humbled and very honored and that was increased when I realized it’s a very limited recognition,” Jones said.
Jones joined OC about three and a half years ago. She is responsible for all the instructional and academic aspects of the college, including continuing education, credit, transfer programs, teaching and learning, which is the professional support for the full-time and adjunct faculty, as well as student learning resources.
“It does not matter where those courses are delivered, so it extends throughout our service area which includes Andrews, Seminole and Monahans where we have facilities, as well as our dual credit that extends to the borders of our service area,” Jones said. She added that it also includes online courses.
Her instructional leadership team includes 12 people. However, the instructional division has more than 150 full-time employees, plus a few hundred adjunct employees in continuing education and credit courses, Jones said.
What she finds most satisfying about her job is seeing students walk across the stage at commencement time.
“I’m very passionate about the community college role and intentionally chose that for my career path,” Jones said. “… I really enjoy being part of the team that helps them get across that stage. It takes every instructor; it takes every success coach; it takes every person in financial aid; it takes the whole college to make it happen. And being able to know that for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that was able to come to fruition is really, really exciting.”
Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness Don Wood said Jones is a “very special individual.”
“She’s incredibly talented. She makes a very positive difference at Odessa College, not only for students because she’s head of instruction. She’s a very valued member of our administrative team and her insights and her thoughts are important to all of us as we consider how to do better for our students,” Wood said.
Jones was born in England and grew up in St. Louis, Mo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a specific focus on English from Indiana University in Bloomington and a master’s degree in multicultural literature with a minor in gender studies from East Carolina University in Greenville.
Having been in higher education for 17 or 18 years, Jones said she has tackled everything from being an adjunct instructor and writing center tutor through faculty at universities and community colleges. For the past several years, she has been an administrator at community colleges.
Jones’ mother was a career educator, but Jones was convinced she was going to become a doctor, probably a pediatrician. But her life didn’t go that way and she said she’s thrilled with her vocation.
“I’m very happy running instruction,” Jones said. “I like working with every aspect of the instructional component and I like partnering with all of the other players. It would have to take a significant evolution to choose a very drastically different role and I enjoy what I do too much. I also really like the scale of this size of school.”
“The opportunities here I think are much more prolific than they may be at other institutions of higher education because we have such an emphasis on engagement and participation in student events,” she added.