Dr. Doreen Larson knows the practical benefit of community college education. Her husband, Len, and their three sons graduated from community college.

“The mission of a community college is rewarding,” says the new president of Edison Community College in Piqua. “We take care of you and we’re very practical. I like that message.”

Dr. Larson, Edison’s fifth president and first woman to hold the office on a non-interim basis, says, “It’s a lot to ask the average 18-year-old graduating from high school to move to college-level work in one swoop. Community college introduces them to college work. They still have their home support structure and they’re not spending $10,000.”

Dr. Larson, who spent the last five years as president of Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont, W.Va., is bringing that same practical approach to Edison, which serves Darke, Miami and Shelby counties and has about 4,100 students.

Workforce development is one of her passions and one of the areas she hopes to develop at Edison.

“I’m going to look for opportunities to partner the college with whatever is happening here in economic development,” she says. “I’m interested in alternative energy and maybe we could develop training for alternative energy careers.’’ 

While at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, she helped develop a partnership with First Energy Corp. training power line and substation workers that became a model for other programs. The program expanded to Pierpont when she became president there.

“Those guys graduate on Friday and go to work on Monday making $45,000 to $50,000,” she says.

Pierpont also developed a petroleum technology program to train workers for the Marcellus shale gas fields in West Virginia.

“We started the program three years ago with 30 students. It doubled to 60 students the second year and doubled again to 120 last fall and I guarantee there will be over 150 in the program this year,” she says.

Dr. Larson says she’d also like to see Edison’s Greenville campus, with about 400 students in Darke County, grow.

“I think it has tremendous potential,” she says. “The board asked me my vision and I said in five years I think that area could exceed the number of students we have here [in Piqua].”

A native of Cleveland, Dr. Larson spent two years at Wittenberg University in Springfield on a pre-med scholarship before she decided a career in medicine wasn’t for her.

“I switched to education and went to Cleveland State University and loved it,” she says. After earning her bachelor’s at CSU, she later obtained her master’s from John Carroll University and her doctorate from Kent State University.

Dr. Larson says one of her first tasks will be to get out in the communities Edison serves and start a dialogue. 

“I love the variety of my job,” she says. “Every day is an open book. I enjoy that.