Tyler Junior College got ready to kick off a new academic year by celebrating the college’s role in the community during its annual Fall Convocation.

TJC’s seventh president, Dr. Juan Mejia, stepped into the spotlight in his new role. The convocation is one of the first major events since he took the reins this summer. Mejia previously served as district provost and president of branch Locations.

He kicked off the ceremony with a video poking fun at the idea of a new year, new Mejia-type transformation, complete with a presidential makeover.

“I am honored and I am very grateful to serve you as seventh president of this institution,” he told the gathered faculty and staff. “But I want to be very clear: I don’t want anything to change. I want to be the same Juan Mejia.”

It wouldn’t be the same Juan Mejia if he didn’t work in a way to praise his wife, Meela, so he found a way to share some core beliefs with the acronym MEELA. As he discussed his hopes for the new year, a slide flashed on the screen that read, “This I believe: Mission, Empowering, Ethical, Legacy, Accountability.

As he discussed the college’s mission, Mejia read from a speech given at TJC’s first commencement ceremony for the 1926-27 school year.

“The future of the institution will, in a measure, depend on you,” he read before discussing the way the faculty of the college has helped transform the community over the past century.

“That became a reality and we get to see that on a day-to-day basis. You are the authors of the East Texas miracle,” he said. “We get to experience all the great things this college has brought forward for generations and generations.”

Mejia said those at TJC are in the business of making a difference in many lives. One, he said, is not sufficient.

To illustrate the way lives are changed at TJC, the college put together a video compilation of professors reading letters from the students they have guided. Many of the educators were left in tears after reading about the impact their students credited them with.

Mejia wants to see that impact grow as students reach for even loftier goals.

One of his main goals for the next year will be to continue working toward raising four-year graduation rates, which increased more than 5% from 2016 to 2018.

He said the college also is deep in the process of preparing for its reaccreditation application in 2020.

Mejia said that as the college shapes its next strategic plan, it is not going to attempt to find a new direction; it will celebrate who it is as an institution and community and continue moving forward.

“That is the story we need to tell, who we are and what we will not compromise. We are one TJC,” he said. “We’re going to empower everybody to achieve everything they can.”

Mejia made it clear during his first convocation as president of the school that he intends to honor the legacy of the college and empower faculty to continue changing lives.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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