A Q&A with MTCC President John Gossett on the past, present and future of McDowell Tech

President Dr. John Gossett

Reporter: What does reaching the 50-year milestone mean to McDowell Tech, the faculty, staff and students?

Gossett: I’m pleasantly surprised with the pride that our faculty and staff have about celebrating 50 years. In any industry, you lose track of why it is you are here doing what you are doing, and being able to step back and celebrate 50 years has really brought that into focus for the faculty and staff of why we do what we do. Our faculty and staff have been here a long time. We have a long tenure with our faculty and staff which is a good thing. They are enjoying seeing their students do great things and giving people hope for a better future. We have seen where we come from and where we are going. The pride in being here for 50 years is a wonderful thing to see.

We celebrated at our professional development day and had a big ol’ cake. The city and county had proclamations at our graduation, and we are very thankful for that. We are going to have our Fall Fling in October bringing the 60s back. We put up a 50th logo and sign, and we are going to be using that all year long. We have a Chamber after Hours event in November at Universal, and we are doing a lot on social media with “Throwback Thursday” on our Facebook page.

Reporter: So you have been president now for a year. How has that year been for you?

Gossett: It has been wonderful. I love McDowell County and what I like about the place, and what I think is really important, is that it doesn’t seem like an awful lot of people trying to gain all of the attention and all of the credit. There are plenty of wonderful things going on, enough credit to go around and we are all working together to make it a better place. Universal is a great example of that. When I give tours and talk about it, the magic is not in the building, but how the county saw the potential and bought the building. Then, the city donated some property so we could do a greenway. We’ve got (others) joining in on our mission so we can renovate a small portion of that building. We all came together to make it happen. None of us could do it on our own. That’s the best part about being in McDowell County.

Reporter: How important are the community relationships to McDowell Tech?

Gossett: Invaluable. We meet monthly with the Manufacturers Pipeline Committee. The HR directors and plant managers work on how we can improve the workforce, and get people from a state of unemployment to employment. McDowell Tech was there at the table, and we came up with a six-week employability skills program like making eye contact, having a firm handshake, going to work every day and how we can help you become a better employee. We wouldn’t have had that program if our business partners weren’t telling us what they needed. Without communication, we are not being as effective as we can be.

Reporter: How important is it to have an education post high school?

Gossett: We are in real interesting times. The history and culture of McDowell County has been hard-working folk; good people who want to do good work for their boss. But manufacturing has changed and the mechanisms of manufacturing have changed, so you have to be savvy with mathematics. You have to be able to work in groups and teams, and be able to communicate effectively. Manufacturers want employees ready to work with a certain skill set. I’m not hearing them talk about “Bring me bodies, I’ll teach them what they need to know.” They need to have a skill set based around mathematics for these high-tech machines. If you want to have a certain lifestyle, you are going to have to work for it. There are wonderful opportunities right here. Great jobs and great careers to be had right here.

Reporter: What is in the works for the future of MTCC?

Gossett: In the spring of 2016 voters of N.C. approved the NC Connect Bond. We will get $4.5 million from that which is wonderful. We have already used some of it for our Vicky Hogan Simulation Lab. All of our nursing programs will have access to it. Eventually we will have the tail end of an ambulance. Right now, we have to use decommissioned ambulances. We won’t have to do that anymore because we can simulate that now. We have simulation robots that will talk to you. It will be as realistic as possible. And students will be able to do things that they can’t do in the hospital. Their level of experience will go up with these mannequins.

The biggest chunk of the grant will go toward our cosmetology program. We have some space issues with cosmetology that we need to correct. We are meeting to begin planning our building and we hope to expect a barbering school soon. To my knowledge there is nothing between Knoxille and Charlotte for people who want to be barbers. If we can have that here within commuting distance for a lot of people, it will be huge.

Reporter: Talk about the importance of mentors. Do you believe they are important, and did you have one?

I have had so many people along my career who have helped me along the way. As I look back, I see all the vice presidents and presidents that I worked for. And, all along my career I’ve tried to help somebody get better. Giving back to people is the most important thing and helping people get to a better spot.

Reporter: What kind of legacy do you want to leave at MTCC?

I don’t think about leaving a legacy because I watched my dad work for the University of Tennessee and retired as the VP of Agriculture. In our family that was a big deal. He’s been retired about 20 years, and some of those people still remember him, but his cohorts have moved on. He was great in his time. There are going to be smart people in right behind me, and they are going to do wonderful things. I know that I worked for a good president. Bryan Wilson was a good president. He loves this school and still does. He prepared me well, and I hope that whoever takes my spot, I hope I prepare them well, and if I they come from the outside I hope I leave them with a really good school. That’s my legacy. You want to leave it better than what you found it, and I found it in a pretty good spot.

Reporter: What do you think the next 50 years will look like for MTCC?

Gossett: Dallas Herring invented the community college system in North Carolina. There was a vision once upon a time to have a community college in all 100 counties. We are close with 58 colleges. Not every state has that. The pride of our system is that every citizen is within a 30 minute commute to a community college campus. That says a lot about what those people envisioned. Who knows what it look like in the next 50 years, but I hope we are still here serving the needs of the community. I expect we will be.

Get the daily newsletter in your inbox each morning with today's top stories.

Recommended for you