Gordon State College President Prepares to Conclude Five-Year Tenure

By Karolina Philmon, Marketing Manager

Gordon State College President Dr. Kirk A. Nooks announced his departure after fulfilling five years in his current role as the institution’s president to serve as the President and CEO of the Council on Occupational Education.

President Nooks has demonstrated remarkable leadership at GSC in a time of tremendous uncertainty. He displayed dedication to a collaborative campus culture, student success and community engagement. He shared a vision of the future of GSC as he worked closely with the campus community to innovate new ways to fulfill GSC’s five-year strategic plan, “Building the Power of WE.” President Nooks continually provided stewardship that empowered regional development and fostered innovative strategies.

In his role as president, Nooks was responsible for a campus of over 3,100 students with a mission of being a catalyst for exceptional and accessible education, and a vision to elevate the region’s economic prosperity. During his tenure, the institution has been able to make significant strides that include increasing student success indicators such as enrollment, retention and degrees conferred while also realizing an increase in need-based scholarships and foundation assets. Additionally, the institution added new academic and club sport programs while completing capital improvement projects.

During President Nooks’ tenure, GSC was one of only eight USG institutions to have an enrollment increase in fall of 2022. In spring of 2023, GSC ranked at No. 1 among all 26 institutions for a percentage increase in enrollment according to USG reports. This accomplishment extended the institution’s streak for having four consecutive semesters of enrollment growth. In addition, GSC has been ranked either No.1 or No.2 within the state college sector for having the highest number of dual-enrollment students over the last few semesters. Overall, there have been 2,482 degrees conferred to 2,117 students from summer of 2018 to fall of 2022. The institution is currently on track to award 224 degrees to 220 students at spring commencement in May 2023.

New academic programs were launched to include a baccalaureate in health and wellness, an e-major in criminal justice and an academic program track in agribusiness. The college’s first Nexus degree in film production has also been developed and launched. The college successfully completed all required accreditation processes for nursing, teacher education and its SACS-COC Fifth Year Interim report.

Partnerships were the hallmark of this administration as communicated through the Power of WE approach. Six academic program advisory boards launched that include business and civic leaders from around the region. Likewise, K-12 superintendents were key partners in the creation of the Education Ecosystem. This unique partnership with 12 school districts and over 80 participants within the 14-county primary service region focused on increasing the college-going rate and resulted in GSC’s regional market share increasing from 5% to 11%.

Student Life was expanded and club sports were added with football, golf and volleyball. By the third year, the Club Football Highlanders were named 2022 National Club Football Association (NCFA) National Champions after a 35-15 defeat over Ohio State University Buckeyes. Greek Life will also be added in fall of 2023.

GSC expanded its marketing and communication efforts to include a website launch, mascot/wordmark rebranding and a digital outreach plan. From the beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 21 to the end of FY23, Gordon State's social media following across all channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) has increased 31% with a total following of over 21K. In addition to that, GSC has had many mentions in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Under Nooks’ leadership, the current five-year strategic plan and the foundation strategic plan were launched. The plans called for a variety of goals which included campus upgrades. During the plan, the Student Services Building was added to campus, renovations were made to the Academic Building and upgrades were made to Smith Hall and the Fine and Performing Arts Building.

The strategic plan titled, “Building the Power of WE” also advanced the philanthropic aspirations of the college. The annual Day of Giving was initiated and there was $207,244.52 raised while attracting 134 donors in its first three years. Foundation assets increased from over $10.4 million to an all-time high of over $16.7 million. The Foundation granted GSC $300K over two years to support college priorities and included establishing the college’s first-ever endowment for need-based gap funding.

Ultimately, the first ever Gordon State College Foundation Capital Campaign was launched in May of 2022.

Three of the largest gifts/pledges in the history of the Foundation were acknowledged. Moreover, the Henry County Community Innovation Partnership Program was established and a gift of $100K was contributed by the physicians of Piedmont Henry Hospital to support this program.

The Gordon State College Foundation Board of Trustee members achieved 100% giving participation over two years. During the GSC faculty and staff campaign, the giving participation rate reached record highs over the past four years and increased from over 30% in 2018 to over 83% in 2022, scoring another all-time high record.

Within five years, a total of over $2.1 million was raised through the Gordon State College Foundation.

A Brooklyn, New York native, President Nooks was appointed to serve as the president of GSC effective on June 1, 2018. His career spans both the private and public sector which leverages over 25 years of education and engineering experience. President Nooks was previously the president at Metropolitan Community College (MCC)-Longview in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. For five years prior to joining MCC-Longview, President Nooks served as both campus dean and executive liaison for diversity at Georgia Highlands College. Under his leadership, the campus expanded academic and student services. Before transitioning to a career in higher education, President Nooks worked as an engineering project manager at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center and as an account executive with a health benefits consulting company.

President Nooks serves on national and local boards that includes The Chair Academy and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He has been recognized with several awards including making the Georgia Trend’s Top 500 Influential Leaders list in 2022. As an author and presenter, he continues to stay active on topics that include college and university leadership, strategic planning, and the learning college. President Nooks most recently received the CASE District III Chief Executive Leadership Award at the most recent Southeastern Conference in front of 700+ attendees.

A farewell reception will be held on May 15, 2023, at 3 p.m. at the Barnesville campus. The community is invited, and individuals can RSVP.

President Nooks will conclude his term on May 19, 2023, after his final commencement ceremony. Dr. Donald Green has been approved as the interim president following President Nooks’ departure.