Selected as the President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System in January, 2007, Dr. Joe May has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life in every community in Louisiana. During his time in this role, Dr. May has revitalized workforce and career and technical education while expanding opportunities for students who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree by starting at a community college. He has taken a hands-on approach to improving the role of community colleges in growing the state’s workforce and economy. He has put Louisiana in the spotlight nationally and internationally as a result of his relentless advocacy for the role of community colleges in solving today’s most challenging societal issues.
His passion for the role that higher education plays in American society and the economy grows out of his personal and professional experience. As the first in his family to attend college, he realized the profound impact that higher education had not only on his life, but on all of society. It is this background that inspired him to help start and become the founding president of Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC), a national consortium of community colleges that is dedicated to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. In 2012, in his role as the president of RAMC, he was invited to testify before Congress to share his views on improving operational efficiency while controlling the cost of attending college.
Unique to most higher education leaders, Dr. May has an entrepreneur’s drive that is the outgrowth of his work in business organizations as well as public and private colleges and universities. His results oriented, practical approach to leadership has led to improved efficiency through the use of technology and through organizational restructuring leading to enhanced opportunity for students and growing enrollment.
He has championed the effort to reprioritize community and technical college offerings that has resulted in Louisiana’s two-year college graduates out earning the graduates of universities by 8.6%. This has been accomplished by aligning college resources with programs that support primary jobs as well as those that improve the quality of life.
The results of these efforts speak for themselves. Over a six year period, enrollment has increased from 71,000 to over 160,000 students. With the launch of Work Ready U, Dr. May was able to increase by over 49,000 the number of adults receiving the basic literacy education and workforce skills necessary for them to succeed in today’s economy.
Dr. May’s underlying operational philosophy is that colleges don’t have needs. Rather individuals have needs, employers have needs, and communities have needs. It is the role of community colleges to utilize their resources to address these needs and solve their problems.
As a community leader as well as an educator, Dr. May strongly believes in achieving academic excellence and has worked closely with public school districts, sponsored charter schools, career academies, and early college programs.
A key to Dr. May’s success is his strong advocacy skills that allow him to both articulate the problems and provide solutions for the challenges facing individuals, neighborhoods, communities, and employers. He has been directly responsible for crafting and passing over 35 separate pieces of legislation to enhance post-secondary education and workforce training for Louisiana’s citizens.
To meet the demands of job growth and changing workforce needs, he led the effort to secure $600.0 million in funding for over fifty advanced technology centers throughout Louisiana. These facilities are essential to ensuring that colleges have the labs and classrooms to prepare students not only for today’s jobs, but for jobs yet to be created.
A hallmark to his approach to leading community colleges is the creation of public-private partnerships. In forming these partnerships, he has helped jump start new economic investment and job creation. These efforts have not just resulted in the creation of good jobs, but the development of some of the best jobs in Louisiana.
Respected throughout the world, he has delivered consulting services to new community college initiatives in Japan, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. As the System President for the Colorado Community College System, Dr. May provided leadership to 13 colleges that enrolled 116,000 students throughout the state. Prior to that role, he served as the President of Pueblo Community College.
A native of East Texas, Dr. May earned his doctorate in education from Texas A&M-Commerce, and a Master's of Education and Bachelors of Science from Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
Dr. Joe May started his higher education career in 1978 as an adjunct faculty member at newly started community college. It was from this beginning that he established his strong belief in the role of community colleges as the solution for the greatest challenges facing individuals, employers, and communities.