Words by Terrell Manasco| Image by Blakeney Clouse
Dr. Leslie Hartley had plans to be a psychologist. Originally from Pickens County, she attended Bevill State Community College (BSCC) in Fayette. After earning a bachelor’s in psychology at the University of Alabama, she pursued her master’s at Mississippi State. As a graduate assistant there, she found that she enjoyed teaching and interacting with students, and her peers took notice. “One of the professors said, ‘Have you thought about teaching? You’re good at conveying things clearly,’” sherecalls.
Coincidentally, Dr. Hartley had considered a career change. Her dream became to teach at Bevill State. That year, BSCC had one available position in her field of study and statewide there were only two open psychology instructor positions . “I applied, got the job, and moved to Jasper,” she says.
At that point, Dr. Hartley had connections with two of Bevill State’s five locations. She had attended the Fayette campus and the Pickens County Educational Center, which is in Carrollton where her parents live. Her arrival on the Sumiton campus to teach psychology marked her third. She later served as Interim Dean of Academic Transfer at the Hamilton Campus, her fourth.
Jasper became her fifth connection in 2014, when Dr. Hartley was named BSCC Dean of Instruction. “My responsibilities are pretty much everything that has to do with teaching and learning at the institution,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun. Right now, we are preparing for our reaccreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.”
Recently, Dr. Hartley has taken on copious special projects. She was instrumental in the partnership with Alabama Power that led to the BSCC/Alabama Power HVAC Training Center in Jasper. She’s also the primary contact for the upcoming Mercedes-Benz project. “We have a new co-op program with them for our automotive degree,” she says.
Since Day 1, the majority of Dr. Hartley’s time has been devoted to her work. Recently, she and her husband, BSCC Financial Aid Director Doug Hartley, celebrated their second anniversary. Having someone to share her life with has made her a more rounded person, she says. “Everything was about work for a long time,” she says.“It changed a lot of my perspective and my life in general.”
In her 19 years with BSCC, Dr. Hartley’s passion for the mission has not diminished. If anything, it has intensified. “What we do changes lives, and not just a life.” she says. “That, to me, is the mission of a rural community college. Helping people be successful with their education changes lives for generations. That’s what makes me excited to come here every day.”
Although she set out to become a psychologist, Dr. Hartley chose to follow a different road. Sometimes we may find that an unplanned detour was the correct path all along. “This was my dream job. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I wanted to be here,” she says. “I have no doubt that it was God’s hand in that, putting me here with this group of people as my family. I’m two hours away from my mom and dad. I didn’t know a soul when I moved here. These folks took me in, and they are my family. We all have the same mission, which is helping students be successful. I absolutely love working with them.” 78