Vickie Harris Austin to retire from South Georgia Technical College

Published 4:38 pm Monday, December 11, 2023

By Su Ann Bird

 

AMERICUS – South Georgia Technical College High School Coordinator Vickie Harris Austin recently announced she is retiring from the college after over 18 years in one department and a total of 25-years with the state of Georgia.  She plans to retire at the end of 2023.

“I have so many wonderful memories,” said Austin.  “South Georgia Technical College is a wonderful place to work.  I feel like it is a family.  I have my immediate family, then I have my South Georgia Technical College family, and my high school administration family.  I have really enjoyed working with everyone at the college as well as the different high schools that we serve.”

During her tenure at SGTC, Austin had the pleasure of working for three President’s.  President Jon Johnson hired her initially and then President Sparky Reeves rehired her. Dr. John Watford served as her supervisor when he was the Vice President of Academic Affairs before he became President and has now worked with her in that capacity for over seven years.

In addition to the three President’s, she has also worked for a number of other administrators including retired Vice President of Administrative Services Janice Davis, retired Special Assistant to the President Don Smith, former Vice President of Academic Affairs David Kuipers, current Vice President of Academic Affairs Julie Partin and Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs Michelle McGowan.

“I really loved working with all of them and with all of the different people in the high schools.  I can’t say that I ever had a bad experience,” said Austin.

Austin came to work at South Georgia Technical College as a Financial Aid Assistant in 2001.  She remained in that position until February 2005.  She left the college for about 10 months to work as a Financial Aid Consultant with the Georgia Student Finance Commission.  She returned in December 2005 to work as a College Connections Specialist and has remained with the college for the past 18 years working with High School’s and secondary programs to inform and assist counselors, parents, and students with the SGTC admissions process.

“I feel like the 10-months I left to work with the Georgia Student Finance Commission basically trained me for the job I came back to South Georgia Tech to do.  I was responsible for providing information, conducting workshops and doing presentations on federal and state financial aid programs including GAcollege411 to high school students, counselors, and parents.  I traveled the state to represent GSFC at College and Career Fairs.  And when I saw the job ad for the College Connection Specialist open up at SGTC, I knew I had to apply,” explained Austin.

She did and the rest is history.  She was hired as a College Connection Specialist in 2005 and then was promoted to the High School Coordinator in 2015.  Her job has been to work effectively with secondary programs directors, high school administrators, parents and students to communicate the SGTC admissions procedures, financial aid and information on testing procedures.  She was also responsible for helping recruit and counsel potential high school students’ interest in SGTC as well as counsel students interested in dual/joint/accel enrollment programs.

During the past 18-years of working with high school students, parents, and administrators, Austin has touched thousands of lives.  “I feel like I have had a small part in helping high school students realize their dreams by helping them enroll in college and prepare for the future they want,” said Austin, who is approached by former students who remember her and thank her for all of her help.

“Students may not remember what you say, but they do remember how you made them feel.  And for the past 18-years, I have had the pleasure of helping them with planning, applying and paying for college so they can pursue their goals.”  Then Austin laughed and said it is possible that she may have helped two generations of students during her time here.  “I care a lot about the students and if there is any thing I can do, I will.  I think that is what SGTC is best at.  We go out of our way to help students.”

Vickie Harris Austin and other members of her family have been an important part of South Georgia Technical College for many years. “The Harris – Austin family roots run deep at South Georgia Technical College,” said Vickie.  “My aunt Sherryl Harris Snead was the first African American Business Technology instructor here.  My brother, Al Harris, retired from the SGTC Economic Development department.  My nephew, Dr. Kelby Lamar, taught speech as an adjunct.  My niece, Nikka Harris Moore, teaches phlebotomy here, and my son Rian worked at the Technical College System of Georgia with GVTC for four years.”

A scholarship in the South Georgia Technical College Foundation was also created in honor of her father “Alfred ‘Foots’ Harris, Jr., and his friend Phil Jones, Jr.  It is the Jones – Harris Scholarship and it was endowed in 2005.  Over 25 South Georgia Technical College students have been the beneficiary of those automotive scholarships.

Vickie earned her Bachelor of Arts from Clark Atlanta University with a major in Business Education. She and her husband, Billy, have been married for 41 years.  They are both graduates of Americus High School.  Billy retired from the Marines in 1998 and they moved back here. He went back to work and has been with Cooper Lighting  here for over 25 years.  They have one grown son, Rian, who lives in Charlotte, NC.

When asked what advice she would give to high school students, Austin replied.  “I encourage students to get hands on training at South Georgia Technical College.  If you want to go further, do so, but start here and get those skills that will help you earn while you learn.  An education is something no one can ever take away from you.”