In our 2020 issue, we’re shining the light on some outstanding leading ladies for all their accomplishments and contributions to society.
EVELYN E. JORGENSON, PH.D.
President, NorthWest Arkansas Community College
Evelyn and her husband moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2013 after she accepted the position of President at NorthWest Arkansas Community College, which she began on July 1 of that year. She served as president of Moberly Area Community College in Moberly, Missouri, for 17 years before accepting the position of president of NWACC. Raised in Missouri, she also began her career in higher education in the ‘80s. She and her husband have two grown children and two grandchildren.
Ph.D. Higher & Adult Education Administration, University of Missouri
M.Ed. Higher & Adult Education Administration, University of Missouri
B.F.A. Fine Arts with emphasis in painting and mixed-media, Columbia College
A.A. transfer degree/arts, State Fair Community College
Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I was a child in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Little girls were told they had about three options in life, outside of being a stay-at-home mom, and those were: a nurse, a teacher or a secretary. I didn’t know I wanted to be a college president until much later. I always enjoyed learning, helping and teaching my younger sister and brothers. I was drawn to teaching, but didn’t grow to realize the leadership opportunities until later on.
Best part of your job:
The best part of my job is always working with the people — the faculty, staff and the students — in order to plan, organize, problem-solve and continuously work to make this community college the very best that it can be. Everything we do is for the benefit of the students and their education. With that as the starting point, we can determine what facilities, equipment, faculty, staffing, policies, etc. are needed.
First big break:
When I was offered the position of Assistant to the President at Moberly Area Community College. The president at that time gave me the opportunity to work, watch, listen and learn about the tremendous responsibilities of the president of a college. He served as my mentor.
Quality you admire most in women:
Tenacity, respect and civility. I believe women should be tenacious, hard workers, but they should demonstrate respect and civility as they work with others to accomplish their goals in life.
What nonprofits are you involved with, and why?
I serve on the board of the NWA Food Bank, because the need is great and individuals in our society who are hungry have little opportunity to reach their full potential if they are barely able to feed themselves or their families. I also serve on the board of the Literacy Council of Benton County. It’s important work to help people reach a literacy level that allows them opportunities to advance in society.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My father, who himself was not well-educated but always encouraged me and valued higher education, inspired me. In addition to him, I am always inspired by strong, confident women.
Be thoughtful, be strong … then act with respect and civility toward all.
Advice you’d give to other working women/moms:
Take time to enjoy life, laugh at the craziness of it all, prioritize what needs to be done and don’t ever underestimate the importance and value to your life and to society by being a good parent.
How are you practicing self-care?
For me, it helps to prioritize, make lists that I can check off and know what I’ve accomplished that day … then do something that I enjoy — paint, sew, read a good book, take a nature-walk, enjoy a glass of wine, practice “dirt- therapy” in my flowerbeds, or visit with my children and grandchildren.
Do you still seek out mentors or mentees?
I am happy to serve as a mentor to anyone who thinks I have something of value to offer. I have lots of experiences that some may find helpful. I share thoughts and listen and discuss ideas a lot. Listening is what I’m best at.
How do you stay motivated?
I’ve never had any trouble staying motivated. Life is truly an adventure and I’ve said since I was in my 20s that I would never live long enough to do all the things I want to do! That still holds true today. Life is a crazy, fascinating, rich, colorful, sometimes painful, always surprising, adventure — but we have to go for it! It’s important to enjoy the ride.