ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – On Thursday, Dr. Nerita Hughes was officially inaugurated as the sixth president of Bay College.
The Bay community welcomed Dr. Hughes into office at her Presidential Ceremony, which began with a performance by the choir from her church in her home state of Minnesota.
Bay College administrators then recapped Dr. Hughes’ busy first 100 days on the job, during which she conducted a listening tour, met with community workforce partners, and discussed the future of the college with legislators—including Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Senator Gary Peters.
“Dr. Hughes welcomed [Senator Peters] to campus and quickly began advocating for funding sources to support our desperate need for student housing on campus to support our students,” recalled Cindy Gallagher, Vice President of Business, Technology, Allied Health & Workforce Development at Bay College. “Dr. Hughes, you were meant to be here at Bay College at this moment in time to lead us forward.”
Dr. Hughes’ eldest daughter, Courtney Byrd, moved to the Upper Peninsula with her. Byrd spoke about her mother’s achievements, as well as the challenges she has overcome as an African American woman in the field of higher education.
“In 2009, 25% of total degree-conferring people graduated with their master’s in business,” Byrd said. “Of that 25%, only 13% of them were black. Of that 13%, only 8% were Black women. Between the years of 2021 and 2022, 77.2% of college and university presidents were white. She is not another statistic, but shattering another glass ceiling.”
Pastor David Keaton, founder of Kingdom Life Church in Minneapolis, spoke highly of Dr. Hughes.
“To 12,000 constituents, she would declare that not only the college, but every household, every family, and every person she feels responsible for,” he said. “I thank God that she’s here, and I want you to know that you have the jewel of the Twin City area here as your president.”
Bay College Board of Trustees Chair Joy Hopkins presented Dr. Hughes with a presidential medal. Then, Dr. Hughes approached the podium to address attendees herself.
Dr. Hughes thanked the community for its warm welcome and support as she assumed the role of president. She then outlined some of her goals for Bay College, like ensuring it is a welcoming place for every student seeking an education.
“We want to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion and have it embedded within and throughout our practices and educational pedagogy,” Dr. Hughes said. “We want to create a sense of belonging for all.”
She is also focused on increasing enrollment and strengthening the local workforce by cultivating relationships with businesses and community organizations.
“I am often asked, ‘Are your students ready for the workforce?'” said Dr. Hughes. “I always respond, ‘Is your workforce ready for our students?'”
On Friday, November 3, Dr. Hughes will meet with community members in Iron Mountain for a Presidential Luncheon at Bay College West.
To view the full Presidential Ceremony, click here.