Bay College president to retire in June 2023

Laura Coleman
Laura Coleman(Bay College)
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 9:52 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2022 at 2:43 PM EDT
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ESCANABA, Mich. (WLUC) - Bay College President Laura Coleman announced her intent to retire during the College’s Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday.

Coleman will retire effective June 30, 2023, as the fifth and longest-serving president in Bay College’s 60-year history.

“The Bay College team has worked diligently over the past 16 years to improve student success and stabilize our enrollment. Working with the teams at Bay College to help our students gain new skills and knowledge which will change their lives, has been inspiring and leaves me satisfied with my professional career. There is much left to accomplish. The Bay College team will stay on that path over the next nine months and going forward under new leadership,” said Coleman.

Throughout her years at Bay College, Coleman’s focus has always been on the students.

“I am going to miss the conversations in the hall. I’m going to miss talking to the students. I’m going to miss being with all my colleagues here,” said Coleman. “Seeing the students walking around, smiling and happy. Graduations, watching them cross the stage. That one is going to be a tough one for me because I’ve really enjoyed that.”

The board is in the process of selecting a firm to guide a national search for Coleman’s successor, which will include input from employees at the college and individuals in the community. Information about the process and timeline will be available on the college’s website.

Coleman was hired in July 2006, after leading Lake Michigan College’s Bertrand Crossing Campus as Executive Dean. She received her Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, her Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Lake Forest, IL, and her Bachelor of Science (BS) degree from the University of Illinois.

Under Coleman’s leadership, Bay College implemented student engagement and success initiatives such as Supplemental Instruction and Open Educational Resources (OER), including an entire AA degree using OER books. An Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction, the College improved graduation rates by 35% using Title III and numerous additional grant awards to improve service to students. Coleman also ensured the development and launch of new instructional programs, including EMT/Paramedic Program, G.I.S. Program, Mechatronics, Robotics and others; facilitated development of ten Early Colleges within the College’s service area to provide additional dual enrollment opportunities for high school students to earn college credit while in high school with little to no cost to the student; guided the addition of food pantries, career closets, and mental health counseling representing some of the holistic support services on each campus; completed the triangle of education by providing Academics, the Arts, and Athletics when the Board of Trustees approved the return of Athletics in 2017; facilitated passage of the millage renewal in Delta County; guided renovations of over 70% of the campus buildings throughout the past 16 years; served as a tireless advocate for the funding needs of the College to Congress, the State legislature, the general public, the media, the College Foundation, potential donors, and other decision-making bodies; and participated in and led local, state, regional, and national organizations devoted to improvements of education, and especially the community college.

Trustee Tom Butch responded, “Bay College, Delta County, and surrounding areas are most fortunate to have Dr. Laura Coleman as our President at Bay College for over 16 years. Her record has been most superlative. She has guided the College through many difficult periods, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Bay College was the only Michigan community college of higher education institutions to have an increase in students during the first year shut down! Also, in 2013 she led Bay College to a ranking of 30th among 700 community colleges participating in the Community College Survey of Student Engagement in the nation-based survey on student success and completion by Washington Monthly.

Most importantly, she has guided multitudes of students to success and employment opportunities. She, while interacting with faculty, staff, administrators and Board members, has always stressed the importance of “student success”, first and foremost. She has tirelessly pursued all the components of student success, from lobbying legislators for much needed funds to personal guidance of students needing additional assistance to reach their goals.

Her work for the College has been tireless. We have been most fortunate to have such a committed leader here at Bay. We wish her the very best during her retirement. She will be sorely missed!”

Trustee Eric Lundin said, “Dr. Coleman has successfully led the institution through the ever-changing landscape of community college higher education these past 16 years. Her commitment to the College, the students, and communities it serves has been unwavering. Laura’s passion for student success is infectious and will be carried on for years to come. This passion is now engrained into the fabric of our fine institution.

We recognize and thank Dr. Coleman for all she did and wish her the sincere best in this next chapter of her life.”

Coleman says she isn’t sure what’s next for her yet but will continue to work diligently in the next nine months as president. In June when Coleman retires, she will have served 17 years as Bay College’s president.

“It’s hard to believe. It’s an amazing thing. In some ways, it feels like it’s been 17 years and in other ways, it’s like, ‘wow, I just got here yesterday,’” said Coleman.