The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Fulkerson knows campus startup

By Shelly Williams/managing editor

The historical significance of the first day of school hit home for her 13 years ago when a radio announcer said Tarrant County would change forever with the opening of SE Campus.

With matching faculty T-shirts, Dr. Tahita Fulkerson, then SE instructional dean, walked the halls with every other staff member to help lost students find their way to classes. This year, she helped open her second school for the TCC district — Trinity River — in the same fashion, but this time as campus president.

“All of us at the Trinity River Campus feel honored to have the experience of opening a new campus because, generally, it is a once-in-a-lifetime event for professionals,” she said.

In 2003, Chancellor Leonardo de la Garza transferred her from SE Campus to his staff at the May Owen Center to serve as his academic adviser. In 2006, he asked Fulkerson to serve as president of the new downtown campus.

She said the hardest part about opening each campus was remembering all the details that went into making the campuses accessible for students.

“Take the student’s perspective for a minute,” she said. “They may have never been on the campus, may not recognize a single person within the first hour and may not know where to go to find their classes. The administration in charge has to think about that perspective and address as much as possible all the unknowns about the place itself.”

TR vice president for teaching and learning Bryan Stewart said Fulkerson worked seven days a week to open the campus and interviewed every faculty member hired.

“Some of her biggest pressure-packed situations were juggling all the hiring process and coordinating all aspects of the renovations along with working with RadioShack,” Stewart said. “She is one of the calmest, smartest and most creative people I have ever met in stressful and pressure-packed situations.”

Fulkerson said one of the major differences between opening the two campuses was that Trinity River Campus positions were posted internally and externally. That meant that TCC employees had to compete for positions. Thousands of applications were screened and applicants were interviewed at least three to five times.

During the opening of SE Campus, Fulkerson said the department chairs didn’t have telephones, and only one laptop computer was on the campus.

“Opening day was a big day, and we had been working so hard to get ready for it that we hadn’t had time to think through the magnitude of it,” she said.

She said the best part about opening the campuses has been seeing faculty, staff and administrators posted throughout the campus in matching T-shirts to help students find their way.

“It was wonderful. Some of the students that I met the first days I still see,” she said. “They remember it, and they talk about how much they appreciated having us out there in the halls.”

Fulkerson said her job isn’t near over, and she and her staff are working to improve the TR development more. She said they continue to work on the science wing and the Trinity East complex.

“I take a lot of vitamins,” she said jokingly about the pressures of opening a campus. “It’s a team effort. We all work at it.”

As a way to show that unity toward student success and the campus itself, during Dedication Week Oct. 19-23, Fulkerson had the faculty members sign a commitment canvas with philosophies she created for TR Campus.

“The hallmarks that she designed have not only made us a different type of campus, but a creative place for students, staff and faculty,” Stewart said. “She always thinks of others before herself, and her leadership style and loyalty of her staff reflect this. Everyone that comes to TR feels her warmth.”

Fulkerson said that TCC has allowed her to do what she loves — teach — as well as improve her skills with opportunities for growth and service.

“TCC has amazing professionals at every level,” she said. “In opening two campuses, I’ve learned that those professionals are generous with their time and talent. We are all part of the same team.”

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