Dawn Lindsay was walking across the Anne Arundel Community College campus on the first day of classes when she approached a student who appeared lost.
"Can you tell me where the Florestano Building is?" asked the student, explaining that she was en route to the school's nursing orientation.
"Sure I can," said Lindsay, pointing the student in the right direction.
About 45 minutes later the two met again during the nursing orientation, and the student discovered that the woman who had given her directions was the school's new president, who spent the first day of classes engaged in impromptu meet-and-greets.
After two months on the job, Lindsay is steadily familiarizing herself with the 53,000-student school that in April selected her as its sixth president. She replaced popular mentor Martha Smith, who retired after the last school year.
AACC students say they're still getting to know their new president.
Said AACC student Tyler Anderson, who met Lindsay in the school library, "I didn't talk to her much, but it's nice to see the president of AACC looking for feedback from the students. It shows me they really want what's best for the student body."
In addition to talking with students and faculty, Lindsay said she met Aug. 27, the first day of classes, with County Executive John R. Leopold and the County Council.
She has implored AACC faculty to introduce her to community leaders. She has begun making contact with officials at Maryland Live, the new gambling and entertainment casino at Arundel Mills mall, and has had several meetings with the school's Board of Trustees to define her long- and short-term goals.
"I've been very busy getting out into the community," Lindsay said. "Faculty are very responsive to the community and very interested in being adaptable very quickly as far as workforce needs. Meeting the economic needs of the community is clearly a priority here.
"I didn't bring in a transition team because I didn't need to," she said. "The people that are here in place are amazing, and I am here to learn how they've become so successful."
A Maryland native who formerly worked at Howard Community College and the Community College of Baltimore County, Lindsay most recently served as president of Glendale Community College in California, where she oversaw a school that has about 10,000 fewer students. She said she has purchased a home in the area and that her son is attending a community college in Pennsylvania.
Lindsay comes to AACC as it opens its renovated Andrew G. Truxal Library, which includes a 134-seat technology learning center. The school also recently opened the new Center for Cyber and Professional Training in Hanover near Arundel Mills. AACC is partnering with North County High School in Glen Burnie to offer courses for area residents, particularly those at least 16 years old who have dropped out of high school.
"I think she's the right person for the job," said Andrew Pruski, president of the Anne Arundel school board. "One of the things that I'd like to see is more joint partnerships, college and career readiness."
Yet AACC is also coming off one of its more trying years financially. Last school year, AACC trustees approved a $110.6 million operating budget that included a tuition and fee increase of $16 per credit hour, the largest in school history.
In an interview in May before stepping down, Smith said the increase ensures that Lindsay will enter her tenure in a "much better situation than that of [fiscal year] 2012."
Lindsay said that as she continues to familiarize herself with the school and its community, she won't mind if some students don't immediately recognize her.
"The thing is, I'm a pretty humble leader," she said. "I don't run around with the president's symbol. I go up and I interact with students."
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