IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WZMQ) – Dr. Nerita Hughes, the newly inaugurated 6th President of Bay College, was warmly welcomed by Bay College West staff, community leaders, her family, and extended family from Minnesota at a reception held at Bay West Campus.
In an interview with WZMQ, Dr. Hughes discussed her vision for Bay College’s future. She emphasized the goal of “one Bay with multiple campuses,” particularly focusing on workforce development in manufacturing, and collaboration with local businesses like Boss Snowplow, Loadmaster, and Systems Control.
Dr. Hughes also praised Bay West Campus’s recent “manufacturing day” initiative, which involved over 300 local high school freshmen gaining hands-on experience in Bay West campus classrooms with leaders in manufacturing. She suggested expanding it into a week-long program to expose students to various manufacturing facilities.
“Instead of doing a day of manufacturing, how do we turn this into a week of manufacturing? And so it gives opportunities for students to not only experience manufacturing here on campus, but can we set it up so that maybe we’re doing a tour,” explained Dr. Hughes, adding, “and they can go to the various manufacturing plants so that they can really see that manufacturing is not what it used to be which is that down dirty grungy. It’s actually rather clean, and so how do we show them that as we look at what the high-growth and in-demand fields are.”
She emphasized the importance of individual development in preparing the local workforce. Dr. Hughes mentioned competency-based education (CBE) and credit for prior learning as essential components of this approach. She encouraged representation for women in manufacturing career fields thought to be dominated by men, and men in healthcare fields that are more traditionally pursued by women, as a strategy for developing individualized workforce talents.
Dr. Hughes stated, “Let [students] see what their interests are, and then how can they maybe look at those pieces and then say ‘OK I want to do that’, or ‘I want to be a welder, a CNC machinist’, and now they can actually see it visually. Sometimes you have to see it, and even see representation, so more women, getting them into the field that has been predominantly, more male dominated, and then also looking at it from the Healthcare side of things, more men that are engaged into health care where it is predominantly female dominated industry, so really looking at those high-growth in-demand fields and saying ‘how do we align our students’, so they also can be part of the workforce.”
Expressing her excitement for the community’s future, Dr. Hughes outlined three pillars of focus for Bay College: becoming a student-centered institution, fostering academic and workplace partnerships, and enhancing workplace engagement and environment.
The reception included an invocation prayer from leaders of the Kingdom of Life Church of Minneapolis, as well as musical selections performed by the church choir. Speeches were given by Eric Lundin, Bay College Board Secretary, and Dr. John Fornetti of The John Fornetti Dental Center, who shared the history of the land on which Bay College West Campus now stands.
Dr. Fornetti’s speech touched on his family’s legacy and their hope that the campus would be a place of opportunity and hope for the community. He passed the torch of hope to Dr. Hughes, symbolizing the continued positive impact the campus would have on the region.
Dr. Hughes’ son, Kyle Hughes, delivered a heartfelt speech, recognizing his mother’s exceptional leadership and commitment to family and community. He praised her as a consistent giver and dedicated mother.
The reception concluded with a presentation by Joy Hopkins, the board chair, and a Presidential address by Dr. Hughes herself. The event was a celebration of the new era of leadership and opportunity that Dr. Hughes brings to Bay College, and the Iron Mountain community.
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