If you walk past Dr. Jeff Musgrove’s gray Dodge truck in the Columbia College parking lot, one of the things you notice is that he has Columbia College, Louisiana State, Missouri Tigers and New Orleans Saints stickers on the back glass. This could cause some to question where his fandom truly resides. Once you sit down and talk with the 18-year Columbia College veteran, however, the answer is obvious. His passion for the Columbia College mission is evident in everything he says and does.
Musgrove came to the main campus of Columbia College after 17 years as director at the Patrick Air Force Base campus while also serving as regional director for the Southeast Region in 2014. He has now served as vice president of the Division of Adult Higher Education (AHE) for just over a year. He and his wife, Robin, have truly found a home in Columbia, minus the occasional wintry weather conditions which makes it nothing like Cocoa Beach, Florida where he worked for 17 years, or Louisiana, where he grew up.
CC Connected had the pleasure of sitting down with the self-described grill master and father of six recently in the latest CC Focus.
CCC: Where did you grow up?
JM: I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, in the most impoverished area of the city referred to as the “bottoms.” In an effort to keep me out of trouble, my mother sent me to the country to visit my great grandmother and cousins during the summers.
CCC: Can you share a little bit about your family?
JM: Do you believe in love at first sight? My wife, Robin does too. As soon as she laid eyes on me, she knew right then that her life would never be the same if she could not get me to say “I do”. She may have another (true) version of the story, but that’s how I remember it. And after all these years she’s still, the one… as the song goes. We make an awesome team! We have six children, four sons, two daughters and five grandchildren. Our children live in Indianapolis, Orlando, Austin, and one son is in the Air Force, stationed in North Carolina.
CCC: Who is someone that was or is a mentor for you professionally?
JM: Wow, that’s a tough question because I have had so many mentors in my life. If we look at my early childhood, I would have to say Mr. Maurice Monroe. He was a former offensive lineman at Grambling University. After his college football career, he worked as a center director for inner city kids for Shreveport Parks and Recreation. He taught me that there was a better life than what the “inner city” had to offer. He also taught me that everyone had value regardless of color or financial circumstances. He helped me to realize that society will accept and react to the value I place on myself. So if I place a low value on my worth, then society will treat me that way. If I wanted to be accepted by society my actions should indicate how I wanted to be treated.
Professionally, there have been too many to mention, but two people at the top of the list would be Dr. John Rice, who was a regional director of Webster University, and René Massey, who was our former associate dean for Adult Higher Education.
Dr. Rice helped me navigate the waters after my military career was finished. He told me that I had the right temperament to have a very successful career in higher education and was a guiding force behind me earning my doctorate. He was an Air Force Veteran, an officer and a gentleman. He passed away on Sept. 16, 2015 and I miss him dearly.
René assisted in my development as a campus director. During the early days she provided encouragement, guidance and included me in the decision making process of the Extended Services Division, which is now known as AHE. I think if not for her guidance and inclusion, my career with Columbia would have been short-lived. She encouraged me to stay with Columbia because she felt I had a bright future here. Guess she was right!
In my military career, the list is endless. But if I had to select one, it was Colonel Mike Lischak. He was a medical doctor with a juris doctorate, and my supervisor and friend. He helped me to understand the value of a college degree and not only insisted that I complete a degree but made it possible for me to complete it as part of my military job requirement. He insisted that I take time away from my military duties to complete my degree.
CCC: What is your favorite type of food?
JM Naming my favorite types of food is tough as well! There is really no particular food that I prefer over any other, but if I had to choose, it would be how the food is prepared. The spices! I like to taste the different flavors that go into making a dish special. I have also become a self-proclaimed grill master thanks to my travels around the world in the military. I prefer grilling for small groups, but can put together pretty tasty food for a large group as well. Considering the size of my family, I have plenty of practice.
CCC: What are some enhancements and updates coming up in AHE that you are excited about?
JM: My first priority was to restructure the division and get the right people on the bus. We have completed the restructure, we have eliminated positions, created new positions and combined responsibilities of others. We have always had the right people on the bus, but I felt they were in the wrong seats. We are now ready to move the bus forward.
I’m excited about the team: the regional directors, the campus support team and the AHE campus admission managers. These folks will be responsible for enhancing and improving processes and making us more efficient in managing our responsibilities.
We are looking into campus expansion and enhancing our relationships with our community college and military partners as well. We are looking into the possibilities of offering virtual classes, and researching professional development and training opportunities for our staff members.
CCC: Can you tell us more about your military career?
JM: I actually began my military career in the Louisiana Army National Guard as an infantryman while still a senior in high school. I attended Basic training at Jt. Jackson, South Carolina and advanced training at Fort Benning, Georgia and additional training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. After two years in the Guard, I enlisted in the Air Force as a petroleum engineer, a good name for gas station attendant. My job was to receive, test, store and issue fuel to aircraft and military vehicles. After performing every job in the petroleum career field, I later retrained into the First Sergeant Career field. In my opinion, it’s the most awesome job the Air Force has to offer. My job was “people, and taking care of them.
I went to basic training in San Antonio, Texas, and Rantoul, Illinois. My assignments include stops in Spokane, Washington, then to Okinawa, Japan (with tours in Korea, Philippines), Plattsburgh, New York, Lubbock Texas, Galena, Alaska, Spangdahlem, Germany, The Azores, Portugal and then finished my military career at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.
CCC: You have been part of Columbia College for 18 years. What makes Columbia College special to you?
JM: As our former president Dr. Gerald Brouder used to say, “It is a noble thing we do here.” After retiring from the military, I looked for an organization that valued employees as its most important resource like the Air Force does. I wanted a positon that gave me an opportunity to help people achieve their goal of completing a college degree. Columbia College offered that opportunity. The college is special to me because of our product. We offer society a chance. We may not be saving lives here but we are affecting the lives of future generations. I like the product we give back to society; “not only a college graduate but a well-informed citizen.” I’m really excited about having the opportunity to lead the division whose primary focus is to serve the underserved, “the adult student.”
CCC: As a former non-traditional student, if you could pass along one piece of advice to a non-traditional student, what would it be?
JM: The one piece of advice I would give a nontraditional student is that it is never too late to earn your degree and that the tassel is worth the hassle.
CCC: You have lived in Missouri a little over a year now. What are your impressions of Columbia, Missouri?
JM: After being here for a year, I have to admit that I really enjoy being here and I feel like it was the right move for me and my family. I have never been anywhere everyone is so nice and friendly. Columbia is a pretty decent sized city with small town values and lots of diversity and is tolerant of various lifestyles. Now the weather, it’ a different story … (he says with a smile).
CCC: What are some things you enjoy doing outside of working at Columbia College?
JM: I enjoy fishing, really enjoy listening to music, especially live music. And watching college sports. But my greatest pleasure comes from visiting with the grandkids.