Business lists often enumerate what makes a good leader. One item that consistently surfaces to the top: Be a good listener.
Meridian Community College Vice President of Operations Soraya Welden firmly believes in that adage and it has remained a constant mantra for her as she has served the College now for 27 years. “You have to be willing to listen,” she said.
Welden is now getting the opportunity to serve the College and community in her new role as the new vice president of operations. MCC President Dr. Thomas Huebner Jr. named Welden VP in August. “It didn’t take me long to realize that Soraya was an outstanding administrator with a heart for students and a deep appreciation for the work we do here at Meridian Community College,” he said.
MCC roots run deep for Welden, who herself first experienced the College as a student while working in the campus bookstore. Finishing her two years in MCC’s University Transfer Program, Welden then studied at Mississippi State University, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Returning home she came back to her alma mater – even coming back to the bookstore working there at the start of her professional career at MCC.
Dr. Tommy McDonald, former MCC dean of students and later vice president, hired Welden to become the College’s first student loan officer. From there she became director of financial aid working in that capacity for 11 years until she was promoted to a dean position, making her the first female dean of students at MCC.
As dean, Welden oversaw a myriad of college departments ranging from campus police to admissions to recruiting to campus life in day-to-day duties. She was instrumental in leading in the Office of Civil Rights review and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Walking Trail. She’s also been assigned as a site visitor for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and is a member of the East Mississippi Business Development Corp. Education Committee. Earlier this year, she was tapped by Phi Theta Kappa, the international academic honor society, as a Distinguished College Administrator Award winner.
Overall, though, Welden is an advocate. “I want to be available to students,” she said. “You’ve got to keep figuring out how to help.”
“I want to be a good ambassador – really for the college as a whole. To me that’s a huge responsibility,” Welden said of her new role whether it’s working as a support arm for her staff or for the president of the college. There are new challenges for Welden and she’s looking forward to the opportunities. “I enjoy change, something new,” she said. Now under her leadership are the college’s departments including student services, college communications, institutional effectiveness, computing services and telecommunications. She’s eager to learn from her team what they’re needing. “I want to support them as we all strive to best serve our students,” she added.
Nonetheless she counts herself fortunate. “I feel blessed that I’ll get to be in on a new era,” she said.
It’s a reciprocated sentiment with her colleagues.
“Not only is she deeply connected to our community, she is highly regarded by her colleagues and loved by our students. She was the logical choice for this opportunity and I truly look forward to working with her in this new role,” Huebner said.
When she’s not working at the college, Welden enjoys getting outside. “I used to do a lot of running,” she said, but now that has turned into more jogging and walking. “It’s a great stress reliever,” she added. Cooking different things – especially dishes that are not only healthy but also well-liked by family – and traveling when she can are other hobbies she enjoys. She has two daughters, Reagan, 19, who is a business marketing junior at Mississippi State University and Mckenzie, 16, a junior at West Lauderdale High School.