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Established in 1927, Bishop State Community College has a long tradition of preparing its students for work and/or career advancement. Changing with a growing community has been a staple of the college, along with offering courses for students looking for specialized study.
Bishop State has a new president who is energized and ready to make the most of what the Mobile area has to offer his students. Olivier Charles says he is ready to build on the established relationships the college already has with the community and continue to help students become gainfully employed.
“We are always prepared to pivot and meet the challenges of a changing workforce and for the sake of what the community needs,” he said.
Bishop State’s current courses of study include aviation and advanced manufacturing; a highway construction plan working with ALDOT; and a construction management program working with the city as a partner.
“We have to meet our partners where they are and be prepared to meet their needs,” said Charles.
He grew up in Mobile, where he remembers learning life lessons as a child.
“I grew up in Mobile and attended Calloway-Smith Middle School, so I walked through this campus every day on my way to school,” he said. “Mobile was good to me growing up, and now I have the opportunity to pay it forward. It’s one of the highest honors for me to give to this community that was so good to me.”
After attending Murphy High School, Charles went on to further his education by earning a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in college student development from the University of West Alabama.
After graduation, Charles went to work for the University of West Alabama, Auburn University at Montgomery and Enterprise State Community College. During these years, Charles served in higher education leadership in recruitment, advising, admissions, athletics, registration, financial aid, marketing and more.
“I think these different roles I worked in have been building me up to reach where I am today,” said Charles. “I love students and being around them and their eagerness to learn. Working in education administration, I think, has prepared me for this role, and has been a step in the right direction to lead me here. And I get to come home.”
Taking over Bishop State as its leader and looking at where the college is, Charles says the partnerships the college has with local industry leaders are extremely important. Alabama Power, the City of Mobile and Airbus have afforded many opportunities for Bishop State students.
“But I want people to know that we don’t just work with big industries,” added Charles. “We work with businesses of all sizes to help them with workforce needs.”
While Bishop State has a strong foothold in workforce partnerships, Charles thinks the college can do more for the local economy and for Bishop State students. He says dual enrollment classes for K-12 students are key to a student’s success, and Charles is working to increase the number of Mobile County high schoolers who take advantage of Bishop State’s dual enrollment program.
Charles explains that when a student enrolls at Bishop State, they meet with instructors and are given direction based on what they want to do. If they are looking to simply receive a specialized certification, then they are shown what they need to do to get it. If they want a degree in nursing, they are shown the path and how to get there.
“We prep students to work towards where they want to go, and we help make a path specific to them no matter the direction,” said Charles. “We want to make sure our students are prepared to enter the world, and we want them to learn here and stay here. Mobile is exploding with industry and opportunity, and more jobs means there’s a need for more skilled labor. We want to help the economic engine propel Mobile’s economic development forward.”
“Who else if not us?” asked Charles. “We want students who have a desire to learn no matter their age, race, background – we want them all. Bishop State is willing to do what it takes for all to succeed.”
For Bishop State, Charles believes the future is bright.
Charles says his first order of business as the president is to listen to Bishop State employees, students and the community.
“I am committed to being here,” said Charles. “I want to be in this community to raise my family and give back to the place that gave me so much. Bishop State remains committed to the community and to being a vessel that propels its people forward. We are a part of this community and are responsible for this community, and we are here to support economic development.”
Click here to read the Business View – November 2022
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