Elijah Scott, the recently promoted dean of libraries, college testing and curriculum innovation at Georgia Highlands College, started college with one career path in mind but ended up following another one.
“I wound up working in libraries because I like to help people,” he said. “While in college, I had planned to become a high school history teacher. By the time I finished my student teaching, I realized this plan really wasn’t the best fit for me. After finishing college, I spent several months working random jobs and thinking about what I wanted to do next. I knew that I really enjoyed working in the college environment, based on the jobs I had while I was a student. I wasn’t so much interested in teaching, so working in a college library seemed like a good choice.”
Scott jokingly compares being a librarian to being a grandparent.
“You can have fun with the kids, teach them some cool stuff and help them be successful, but you don’t have to deal with grades or discipline problems,” he said. “Now that I’ve been working in libraries for almost 18 years, I know that I made the right choice, and I have had many, many opportunities over the years to help people find success in college and in life.”
Name: Elijah Scott
Occupational title: Dean of libraries, college testing and curriculum innovation at Georgia Highlands College
City of residence: Rome
Education: Bachelor of Arts in English, history and political science from Cumberland College, 1995; Master of Science in information science from the University of Tennessee, 1997; and Master of Arts in English from Georgia College and State University, 2007
Family: Nicole Scott (wife) and Qannik, our Samoyed
You just got a promotion. What do you see as the biggest challenges you face in your new position, and how do you plan to tackle them?
A: I think any job promotion comes with a set of big expectations from yourself and from your colleagues, so my challenge is to be sure to live up to those expectations. Right now, I’m looking at two specific challenges. First, in the area of college testing, I want to expand the services that we offer so that our students have new opportunities to find pathways to success. As an example, we need to begin offering CLEP [College-Level Examination Program] testing at our college so that our students have options to move through the curriculum faster and at a lower cost to them. My second challenge, and in some ways the biggest challenge, is in the area of curriculum innovation. Our college is in an interesting phase as we are moving from being strictly a two-year college to a college that offers bachelor’s degrees. My role in curriculum innovation is to help build the connections with local businesses and industries to ensure that we offer new degrees and programs that directly meet local employment needs. All of our new degrees and programs should lead our graduates, not just to jobs as a short-term goal, but instead open pathways to employment opportunities that will enable them to build careers for long-term success.
What do you see as the most pressing issues facing your departments at Georgia Highlands, and what do you think can be done about them?
A: In all three of the areas that I manage, the top priority is to ensure that our students have access to the resources and services that will enable them to achieve success. In our libraries, we meet this challenge by maintaining an awareness of what our students need and then providing innovative resources and services to meet those needs. As examples, we provide our students with access to an incredible collection of eBooks, streaming videos and academic journals online through GALILEO. These collections allow students to access high-quality academic information from any location and any device with Internet access. Other examples of innovation include providing 3-D printers in all of our libraries, providing drones that our students can check out for research projects and providing targeted research instruction for their specific class assignments. In the area of college testing, we have made dramatic changes in the past couple of months to our two largest testing centers to ensure that the testing environment eliminates distractions, provides a comfortable, modern work space and allows them to focus on achieving success on their tests. In the area of curriculum innovation, we meet this challenge by identifying new degrees and programs that meet the demands of the local employment market and then by ensuring that the college has the resources to support those degrees and programs. Again, at every stage and in every area, student success is the top priority.
What do you think is/are the best thing(s) about Georgia Highlands?
A: Without a doubt, the best thing about Georgia Highlands College is the people who work here. It’s easy for me to talk about student success at this college, because when I come to work every day, I am surrounded by people — in every department of this college — who are totally committed to helping our students find success. GHC offers a high-quality education at a very low cost, but we accomplish that unique combination only because of the great people who work here.
What kinds of changes would you like to see occur at Georgia Highlands in the next five years?
A: I would like to see GHC expand our degree offerings to include a variety of bachelor’s degrees that are carefully targeted to meet the needs of local businesses and industry. This college achieves success when our students achieve success, and the best way to ensure that our students achieve personal success and financial security is to ensure that they can obtain a four-year degree that opens pathways to careers in the local economy. I think it’s important to remember that when students complete a college degree that leads to a career, that opportunity doesn’t just change the life of that one student; it has the potential to change the lives of an entire family. The more ways that we can make that goal available to the citizens in our service areas, the better!
What has been the most memorable thing to happen at Georgia Highlands since you've been there, and what made it memorable?
A: My favorite experiences at GHC have been attending the college’s annual scholarship reception and the annual honors night banquet. At the scholarship receptions, students who have received scholarships have the opportunity to speak about their experiences at the college and about how the scholarships that they have received have contributed to their success. The honors night banquets give us a chance to reward our students for their hard work and perseverance in their courses and in their extracurricular college activities. For me, both of these events are a meaningful reminder of exactly why I come to work every day — to help people find success in their lives through education. When I hear the stories from our students at these events, especially their stories about the challenges that they face and the ways that they overcome these challenges, I am always reminded of how important the college is to our students and their families.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A: Innovative, creative, dedicated
Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what is the one thing you most look forward to accomplishing?
A: I don’t have a formal bucket list, mainly because there are far too many things that I want to do in life to ever fit them all on one list. I suppose the most simple answer is that my wife and I want to travel as much as possible. We would love to visit all 50 states and also as many other countries as we can.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I think people would be surprised to know that I have worked as a whitewater rafting guide and that I restore antique cars. As much as I enjoy working in the college environment, I also enjoy a good day on the river or a good weekend rebuilding an engine or doing paint and body work.
What three things would you have to have on a deserted island and why?
A: A copy of the complete works of Shakespeare, because there is so much variety and enjoyment in reading his work; a knife and fire-starter kit, because survival in the wild is much easier if you can get a fire going; and my wife, because she’s my favorite person to talk to.
What would the title of your autobiography be and why?
A: Oh, I think I’m way too young yet to be thinking about writing my autobiography! Ask me again in about 50 years.
What is the best book you've ever read, and why was it the best?
A: This question is probably the most difficult of all of these questions! I have no idea how many books I’ve read over the years, but it would be almost impossible to pick out a favorite. Maybe a favorite author, but even that would be a long list. I always enjoy reading books by Charles Dickens, Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, Thomas Hardy, Iain Banks, Andre Norton, Joseph Conrad, Sinclair Lewis, Ray Bradbury . . . and I’ll stop because otherwise, I’ll have a list a mile long!