The Muse Presidency, Part 4: Technology and Globalization, 2001-2007


Part 10 of 10

Hinds Community College in the Modern Era

     As Hinds Community College entered the 21st century, two factors combined to revolutionize education: the application of computer and other electronic technology to education and the evolution of a more global society.
Hinds was actively involved in both.

     Hinds entered the computer age in January 1963 with the arrival of four IBM instructional machines used in courses in the first data processing major offered by a Mississippi junior college. A few months later Hinds purchased an IBM 1620 computer for $98,000 to be used for college record-keeping and other business purposes. According to various sources, the 1620's nickname was CADET, an acronym for Can't Add Doesn't Even Try. In 1970 Hinds replaced the 1620 with its first mainframe, an IBM System/3 with a 1-megabyte removable hard drive, 1-megabyte fixed hard drive and 64 kilobytes of RAM. The machine took all night to process data from each day of registration. (In comparison, the modest computer on the author's office desk has 30,000 times the storage capacity and 8,000 times the memory of the 1970 mainframe.)

     From those humble beginnings, Hinds progressed through a series of mainframes until the acquisition of an IBM pP505 in 2005, a machine with capabilities undreamt of a mere generation earlier. Personnel now engaged in associated information technology include 20 full-time and seven part-time employees.

     In the meantime, Hinds applied electronic technology to classroom instruction. Under the aggressive leadership of Academic Dean Dr. Floyd Elkins, Hinds became the first Mississippi junior college to open an electronic media center in 1968. That same year Hinds students could take telecourses in basic engineering from the University of Mississippi. (On a lower technological level, 11 telephones were available to more than 800 dorm students.)

     At the direction of President Clyde Muse, through the 1980s and 1990s Hinds invested heavily in technology, with actual implementation often in the hands of Dr. David Durham, a Hinds employee since 1970. In 1989 the Hinds library became the state's first academic repository to inaugurate a fully automated library system, including a public access catalog. By 2005 Durham had overseen the installation of a district-wide communications network that linked every office at every location to the central system. Desktop computers with Internet access were available in every office and in numerous classrooms.

Hinds ventured further into technology in 2000 by offering classes through the Mississippi Virtual Community College Network. The network, a consortium of 14 community colleges, enabled students to take college classes via Internet, replacing the video-conferencing "distance learning" efforts of the 1990s.

     Hinds' first forays into globalization began in the early 1990s with the creation of an International Trade Center component within the Resource and Coordinating Unit for Economic Development (RCU, covered in the November issue of On Campus) and participation in a British Studies consortium with the University of Southern Mississippi. The latter enabled Hinds students and faculty to take summer courses at prestigious British colleges and to engage in various cultural activities.

     An unexpected British connection began in 1995 when two instructors from Bridgwater College, Somerset County, England, were visiting the United States. While driving on Interstate 20, they saw a Hinds Community College sign and, on the spur of the moment, decided to pay a visit. Conversations with Muse and RCU Director Robert Mullins led to a lively exchange program, beginning in 1996. Since that date, groups of Hinds faculty and students have traveled to Bridgwater yearly, studying the British educational system and experiencing the rich cultural life of the country. (Hinds provides airfare, while participants cover other expenses and stay in the homes of Bridgwater instructors.) Hinds' Bridgwater counterparts reciprocate on at least an annual basis.

     Much farther afield, in 1996 Hinds joined Community Colleges for International Development (CCID), with Muse serving on the board of directors. That year Muse was one of 10 American community college presidents invited by CCID to visit Russia to assess possibilities for future business and educational exchange programs. This resulted in an exchange program between Hinds and Adler College in Sochi, Russia, a resort area on the Black Sea and future host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

     In concluding this series of articles, the author wishes to briefly compare the institution that first opened its doors to students in fall 1917 to the one that now functions, 90 years later. From an original Hinds County Agricultural High School enrollment of 117 in 1917, Hinds Community College in 2006-2007 served some 17,716 students in a myriad of programs including academic, technical, career, workforce and secondary offerings.

The original Raymond campus of 45 acres and four buildings valued at $75,000 has seen phenomenal growth to 177 buildings, 1,700 acres and other major facilities located in Jackson, Rankin County, Utica and Vicksburg. The college budget exceeds $98,000,000.

Despite its impressive growth and diversification, the college remains true to its original functions: to make education accessible and affordable to the common citizen. Relying on this fundamental formula, Hinds can look forward to further generations of service to the nation, the state and the community.