Cincinnati State Middletown director sees bright future for college

Mimi Summers, a Cincinnati native who has spent her entire career in the education profession, recently was named director of Cincinnati State’s Middletown campus.

She recently talked about her career and her plans for Butler County’s only community college.

Q: After spending the last 23 years at colleges in the Dayton area, what attracted you to Cincinnati State Middletown?

A: Cincinnati State is an up-and-coming name in this area, and I am excited to be on the pioneering end of the college's northward focus up the I-75 corridor into Butler County, Warren County, Preble County, and southern Montgomery County. My background in higher education administration, law, and business has prepared me extremely well to take on the directorship of this campus and help move Cincinnati State into the future with fresh ideas and a passion for spreading the word about all that we have to offer. I am excited about the opportunity to combine my Cincinnati background with my knowledge of the Dayton area and all points in between to focus on growth in this region, by capitalizing on opportunities to assist individuals in the community who want to improve their lives through education and employers in the region who need a skilled and educated workforce.

Q: As director of Cincinnati State, what’s your role and your vision?

A: My role is to lead the already high-performing Middletown campus team into the future with a focus on the surrounding communities where we are located and where we want to expand so as to set the guideposts for what we want to accomplish and where our best strategic partnerships will be. I plan to become an active participant in community affairs so that we can work together to find win-win solutions that are of benefit to the college, the students, and the community. I also envision strengthening ties with natural educational partners such as Butler Tech where we dovetail our offerings to provide a seamless educational experience into four-year institutions such as Miami University Middletown, University of Cincinnati, Wright State, and the like. I also envision an expanded footprint of name recognition and enrollments that moves beyond the scope of Middletown into Butler and surrounding counties.

Q: What would be your answer to someone who says: “College isn’t for me.”

A: Many times over the years I've encountered potential students who have not succeeded academically in their past and so they rule out college as not being for them. Maybe they dropped out of high school and pursued their GED, maybe they just didn't do well in high school and don't want to tackle any type of higher education. Often times they are not supported by their family or have been told that they aren't "smart enough" for college. The bottom line is that people often surprise themselves when they find out what college is like when they get to choose a topic to study that interests them versus a topic they are forced to study. When they combine that keen interest in the subject matter with a supportive environment where people are present to help them succeed and cheer them on, it is a recipe for success even when the student doesn't see it that way. What I would say to this person who feels that college isn't for them is to not base this assumption on their past experience or what other people have said to them and to give it a shot. It could be the best thing they have ever done for themselves. I have seen so many instances of people moving forward despite these reservations and then doing great and being so grateful they took the chance.

Q: What has to happen for Cincinnati State to be successful?

A: Cincinnati State has been a tremendous success in its mission of getting a Middletown campus off the ground and sustaining it for over four years now. It is key that we continue to build upon this success. In my opinion, a successful community college needs to be the go-to resource for higher education in the community and that's what we want to be. Starting with co-enrollment opportunities in the high schools, to workforce development initiatives with the business community, to providing an affordable education for first-time college students looking to obtain a certificate or an associate degree that leads to a career or a transfer to a four-year institution, to be successful means we need to be the best solution to consider when making a choice for a college education. I am 100 percent confident that when someone stops by to see what we have to offer, he or she will find that we are often the perfect solution for their educational needs.

Q: What have you learned professionally that helps you at Cincy State?

A: Through my numerous years in higher education administration, law, and business, I know how to create a learning environment that is welcoming and nurturing for students as well as friendly and collegial for faculty. I know how to build relationships with the community to foster the success of the students and to serve the employers in the community by providing high-quality and skilled graduates. I know how to serve our higher education partners by providing well-rounded and well-educated transfer students who are ready to further their education with a four-year degree and beyond. I know how to focus on certificate and degree programs that are in fields with expected growth and demand for graduates in the community. I know how to work with city, county, state, and business leaders to maximize the contribution of the college to the area and partner with these leaders to foster growth of the college.

Q: What role do you see Cincinnati State playing in the overall revitalization of the downtown?

A: Cincinnati State has already played a key role in the revitalization of downtown Middletown by bringing more traffic into the downtown area and creating more demand for business growth — places for students, staff, and faculty to eat, shop, bank, and the like. I see Cincinnati State as being a key partner in these continued efforts to revitalize downtown Middletown by virtue of partnering in community events, sharing resources, and coming up with creative ways to enhance additional interface with the downtown area.