NWCC keeps bright future through its services, campus investments

Published 7:30 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

Profile 2024: NWCC keeps bright future through its services, campus investments

By Angela Cutrer
Photos by Joey Brent and Bruce Newman

Dr. Don Jones is known as the kind of man who can make you laugh, and that’s even when he’s being serious. He can’t help it: He enjoys making others feel better. It’s evident he’s sharing his joie de vivre with anyone he meets to spread a bit of sunshine, even on a drab day.

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The serious side of Jones can also focus on one of the loves of his life: Northwest Mississippi Community College. But you can still hear a happy, positive lilt in his voice when this man, who serves as dean of Oxford Center, speaks about the school.

“Don’t have a high school diploma? We can help you with that,” Jones started off. “Need a job? We have a WIN Job Service branch on campus. Want to be in the medical field or trade? We can take the unskilled person to certification. We have a great nursing program and we can help students with what they need, whether it’s nursing or front office. We also have a very robust cosmetology program.”

There is a reason NWCC has so many programs to offer. The college, an open-access, public two-year institution, belongs in the Mississippi cohort of community colleges, helping to provide sources toward developing job skills in hopes of better security. 

Northwest Mississippi Community College, founded in 1928, is one of 15 state community and junior colleges in Mississippi. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to award the associate of arts and associate of applied science degrees, as well as professional career certificates. 

NWCC, in particular, covers Tate, Desoto, Marshall, Benton, Tunica, Panola, Lafayette, Yalobusha, Quitman and Calhoun counties in northwest Mississippi.

All of these stats reveal just how important NWCC is to Oxford, to Lafayette County and to every community and county that surrounds it. Its vision statement explains: “Northwest Mississippi Community College transforms our students’ lives, enriches our communities, and strives for excellence in our educational programs and services.”

Jones described why: “NWCC fills the gaps,” he said. “Sure, there is a very large flagship university here in Oxford, but there is a place for a community college also. Both [contribute to] drive the economy …” and each has specific ways to provide its students with measures they need to become who they want to be.

Locally, NWCC has 450 students registered on the Oxford campus, 50 on the Water Valley campus and 85 on the Batesville campus. Jones said the college’s cheer and dance teams are national champions and  “our students have one of the highest GPAs of any community college. Our athletes are scholars. They have to excel in the classroom before they can play on the fields,” he said.

Jones said that for every 45 applications they receive, 15 get in. “We have to ensure we have the staff and facilities to do the best for those students,” he said. “That’s why we have cohorts limited to only 15.”

Dr. Andrew Dale, NWCC associate vice president of community relations, explained how the many differing programs and the well-run leadership structure helps keep each NWCC campus connected. He said many of the successes of the system rely on the opportunities offered – including student housing, the cost and the transitional programs – that help bring NWCC to the forefront when thinking of which school to attend.

“Collegewide growth is happening in Senatobia with a new men’s dorm with an additional 100 beds this fall, and the new building in Oxford to bring a RN program to DeSoto County for the first time ever,” Dale said. He mentioned that there is also the current construction of a baseball and softball hitting facility and indoor athletic facility in Senatobia occurring, as well as renovations to one of the historic college libraries as well. 

“The college has had $100 million worth of new construction or renovations in the past five years and we have much more work to do keeping our footprint positioned for safe student instruction and wrap-around services,” Dale added.


According to historical records, the seeds of the NWCC college system first sprung from Tate County Agricultural High School in 1915. By 1928, support from Tate and Quitman counties and the Mississippi Junior College Commission helped open the doors of a now-college with President Porter Walker Berry at the helm. SACS gave accreditation to Northwest in 1953 and the institution changed its name from Northwest Mississippi Junior College to Northwest Mississippi Community College in the 1980s.

Northwest now has three campus locations within the 11-county district it serves, as well as four off-campus sites that provide career-technical educational opportunities for area residents. It also has an eLearning “campus” for online learning through the Mississippi Virtual Community College System.

The DeSoto Center has full-service opportunities at the Southaven location and an off-campus site in Olive Branch. Programs include aviation maintenance technology, commercial truck driving and utility line worker training. The Benton County Career-Technical Center partners with Benton County Schools and provides career and technical programs, cosmetology and practical nursing. 

Northwest offers residents in the Yalobusha County area educational opportunities in Water Valley at Everest as an incubator for technology skills training. Programs offered include coding technology and health care assistant, phlebotomy certification and various workforce training offerings.

The Lafayette-Yalobusha Technical Center, located near Baptist Hospital, is a commuter campus that sits on approximately 18 acres of land, totaling 69,000 square feet. It offers both academic and career-technical programs. A recent campus beautification project offers updated outdoor and interior spaces. 

Panola County collaborated with the city of Batesville to create the Panola Partnership. Local industry and Northwest converted a 138,000-square-foot former factory outlet mall into a workforce training and off-campus college-credit instructional site. Common spaces for students include the Ranger Café, the WIN Job Center, adult education classrooms, a proctored HSE testing center, instructional classrooms, technical lab spaces and a 10-bay shop for a diesel technology program. The Senatobia campus serves as Northwest’s main campus and is the hub of administrative, athletic and performance activities at the college. It features nine residence halls, a Student Union, a fine arts auditorium and a conference center/cafeteria as well as numerous educational and administrative facilities.

The campus at the DeSoto Center encompasses a full-service center location in Southaven as well as an off-campus site in Olive Branch.  

The ability to learn from any location means students have more choices than ever. In fact, whether on campus or online, students of all ages can now work on most any type of degree.

For example, just this year, 20 students who are juniors at Oxford High School are enrolled at NWCC Oxford as freshmen. “When they graduate from OHS, they’ll also graduate from NWCC with an associate degree,” Jones explained.

Therefore, those students already have not only a foot in the business-of-tomorrow’s door, but a degree to speak of and back up whatever they choose to do next.

“We can help those students who need help with getting that GPA up so they can transfer to Ole Miss, [as well as the student who just doesn’t want to go to school for four years,]” Jones said. “And we can help them without them ever leaving Oxford.”