Warner Robins, Ga. – Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC) recently announced its 2020 Rick Perkins Award for Excellence (RPA) winner, the College’s director of Nursing, Jessica Willcox, of Pulaski County.
Willcox’s technical education story has had a substantial beginning. The arch she laid out to the judging panel for RPA spans her fulltime arrival at the College in 2014, where she was tasked to develop the Associate of Science in Nursing program (ASN) program, or Registered Nursing program (RN), then given the duty of leading the Division of Nursing faculty to see it through to initial accreditation.
“I shortened some of how I got here (in the speech), because what we have done is so incredible that I wanted to focus more on that,” she said. “What we are doing now means more to our students, our community, our workforce, our state, and our collective advancement of technical education.”
What the Division is now doing began in 2016, when initial board approval was given to the College to start the program. The program officially enrolled its first students in January 2017 and then in May 2018 it graduated its first cohort of nursing students.
In October of this year, the Board of Commissioners for the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) awarded the RN program initial accreditation alongside the Division’s Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program.
Willcox said then that she was “extremely proud” of the team that pursued accreditation.
“The nursing faculty and staff put in a tremendous amount of effort to achieve accreditation. They are continuously working on improvements to make our programs the best. We will keep this momentum and make a difference at CGTC in the lives of our students, faculty, and staff.”
Having previously taught in the University System of Georgia, she is familiar with the stigma that technical education is secondary, and easily combats with fact.
“Nursing is always about preparing our students for the workforce,” she said. “We prepare you, then you immediately graduate, take boards and go to work. The mission is the same but we put our emphasis first and work toward workforce development with local hospitals and health providers.”
Willcox believes technical education is set to become the public’s first-choice in the future.
“Not only in our own healthcare industry, but I believe that whether it’s a business coming back through economic development to train its employees, or the first-generation student, we should be where they look first,” she said.
Willcox said she is thankful her students that made CGTC their choice and is most proud of seeing them grow into their abilities as growing professionals.
Willcox, originally from Tifton, Ga., celebrated her tenth wedding anniversary this past May and has two daughters, two dogs, and a pet pig.
CGTC instructors are nominated by their peers for RPA and an interview panel selected the winner from a group of six finalists. Finalists for the award were instructor of Computer Information Systems, Lori Harnist, instructor of Computer Information Systems, Eli Walker, program chair of Physical Therapy Assistant, Mary Walker, instructor of Learning Support English, Debbie Waugh, and instructor of English, Dianne Rutherford,.
Willcox moves on to the Central Region Rick Perkins Award for Excellence competitions to be held on the Warner Robins campus in February alongside the 22 other RPA winners from technical colleges across Georgia.
She will also attend the state conference held in April in Atlanta. At the state competition, the top three candidates from the Central, North and South regions will be announced. These finalists will then complete a final interview process to determine the state winner.
About the Rick Perkins Award
The Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction honors the Technical College System of Georgia’s most outstanding instructors. The award has been an ongoing statewide event since 1991 and is designed to recognize technical college instructors who make significant contributions to technical education through innovation and leadership in their fields. Formerly known as the Commissioner’s Award of Excellence, the award was renamed in honor and memory of Thomas “Rick” Perkins, an instructor at West Georgia Technical College, formerly known as West Central Technical College, who received the Commissioner’s Award of Excellence prior to his untimely death. The Technical College System of Georgia provides oversight for the Rick Perkins Award program through the system’s office and the state planning committee.
Photo: CGTC’s 2020 Rick Perkins Award for Excellence Winner, Jessica Willcox.