New leader at Mercer CC: Filling gaps – with students, within school – is key to future success

As she took the stage for her first address as the seventh president of Mercer County Community College, Deborah Preston told a crowd of more than 250 community members that the West Windsor school must be willing to judge itself as critically as it does its students.

Preston’s inaugural address, which took place March 24, focused on ways to open doors to higher education. Her talking points highlighted goals such as being an institution that supports education for all, acknowledging shortcomings and solving problems, and being a model for inclusion.

“My vision for MCCC is that we will not only recognize achievement gaps and opportunity gaps among our students, but we will also recognize gaps in our own education and gaps of the knowledge of those in power,” she said.

Preston acknowledged that while MCCC already was well on its way to closing gaps in higher education, there is more to be done.

“We know we have work to do, and we are going to do that work with passion and purpose,” Preston said. “The first step for success is for every student, every community member, to know deep down that they are safe and welcome at MCCC.”

The event took place at Kelsey Theatre on MCCC’s West Windsor campus. Preston’s family, friends and former co-workers as well as MCCC faculty, staff, special guests, elected officials, community members, delegates and others from the higher education community attended the ceremony. Marvin A. Carter, MCCC’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion acted as master of ceremonies.

With a career spanning 30 years of dedicated service, Preston joined MCCC with a proven track record that illustrates her steadfast commitment to ensuring students receive a quality education in a welcoming environment.

About Mercer CC

Established in 1966, Mercer County Community College is a publicly supported comprehensive institution that provides opportunities for higher education through an open-door admission policy. The scenic 292-acre West Windsor Campus was opened in 1972 to serve the needs of Mercer County residents.

Prior to joining MCCC, Preston served as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC), where she was responsible for the executive coordination of all campus operations in direct collaboration with the President. She also oversaw RVCC’s academic affairs as chief academic officer.

A supporter of meaningful change, Preston developed and implemented college-wide initiatives for student equity and success, advocated internally and externally for campus resources and provided innovative leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, who attended the ceremony, came away impressed.

“This is a great day for Mercer County and for our community college,” he said. “Dr. Preston has shown the willingness and determination to tackle whatever comes her way.”

Joseph Roach, professor emeritus at Yale who acted as Preston’s dissertation adviser while she was at Tulane, was a special guest. He gave heartfelt remarks in a moving speech which he closed by expressing how proud he was of Preston.

“I am humbled in the certainty that as a community college president you will be able to do more good for more people in a given month — or even in one good week — than I had done in a whole career,” he said.