BOONEVILLE • Northeast Mississippi Community College has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School – a prestigious designation achieved by only seven other colleges and universities in the country.

NEMCC President Dr. Ricky Ford shared the news with hundreds of faculty and staff members and accepted a plaque from Apple on behalf of the college in the Haney Union on Wednesday.

“This is a great day for Northeast,” Ford said. “The big thing is it not only brings recognition to our institution, but here’s the thing – it brings recognition to our faculty at Northeast Mississippi Community College. Our faculty, along with all the other departments, our faculty are the heart and soul of this institution.”

Being named an Apple Distinguished School is a direct result of the oNE Northeast program which put iPads in the hands of every student beginning in fall 2015 and made Apple technology an integral part of classes. Students purchase an iPad during their first semester on campus, use it throughout their time at Northeast and keep it when they graduate.

NEMCC vice president of instruction Dr. Michelle Baragona said there were four goals for the program: lower textbook costs, engage students in classrooms and on campus, improve communication with students and prepare students for the workforce with the latest technology.

Since iPads have been implemented universally in Northeast classrooms, students have saved almost $6 million in textbook costs, Baragona said. The overall student success rate has also improved. The percentage of students making A’s, B’s and C’s in class has gone from 72% to almost 80% in the 2018-19 school year.

“We have changed the culture of the college to incorporate technology in the entire scope of the college experience,” Baragona said. “We flipped classroom pedagogy.”

Dr. Jon Landis, national development executive with Apple, stressed that being named a distinguished school is not a glorified sales award and is actually difficult to achieve.

“This award was developed quite a while ago to recognize schools that were executing on their mission, delivering on their vision, that happen to be using Apple technologies,” Landis said. “They’re distinguished because we get to learn from them.”

Landis recalled meeting Ford around five years ago and hearing his mission for the college.

“The first thing to come out of Dr. Ford’s mouth was ‘We want to do what’s right by our faculty, we want to get our students employed, we want to make this area an economic fiscal hotbed of innovation,’” Landis said. “He was talking about the mission from day one and it has never faltered.”

There are 470 schools in 35 countries that have been named Apple Distinguished Schools, only eight of which are colleges and universities. NEMCC is the only college or university in Mississippi to receive the distinction.

“Apple has learned so much from this institution’s work over the past four years,” Landis told NEMCC faculty and staff. “I wanted to take a moment to personally thank you from the highest levels of Apple.”

The college was asked to submit an application for the invite-only program that included an outline of its goals and the creation of an Apple book to showcase the college’s history and how it’s implementing technology in the classroom.

“This award symbolizes that we at Northeast are a symbol for leadership and educational excellence and it demonstrates our vision for incorporating technology into our classes,” Baragona said. “As of today, we stand with an elite group.”

But receiving the Apple Distinguished School recognition is only the first step in moving the college forward and enabling instructors to further improve student success, according to Ford.

“We put a lot of time and effort into this, but this is not about Apple, this is not about me,” Ford said. “It’s not about any individual person. It’s about this institution and the faculty that are here being able to step out into the unknown.”

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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