A chat with FCC’s new president

Frederick Community College’s 11th president, Annesa Cheek describes herself as “an open person.”

In other words, Cheek is a people person.

“I love meeting strangers and learning about their stories. I am also a very caring and kind person. I love giving back to the world,” she said. “I love making sure people are OK and helping them when I can.”

Cheek was hired in February 2022, but came aboard officially as the college’s president in July. FCC’s previous president Elizabeth Burmaster, retired in July 2021 after serving for seven years. The college’s board appointed Thomas Powell, president emeritus of Mount St. Mary’s University and Saint John’s Catholic Prep, to serve as interim president until July 2022. 

Before coming to FCC, she served for four years as president of f St. Cloud Technical & Community College in Minnesota. She received her Bachelor of Arts in business management from Tennessee State University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Dayton, and a Doctor of Education from the University of Texas at Austin.

When Cheek was asked who she was, she said,  “I would say that I’m an open person.”

Cheek lived in Minnesota for six years before moving to Maryland.

“It’s fantastic here. I fall in love with Frederick every day,” she said.

In addition to the people, she raves about the city’s welcoming nature and how amazing it is.

“I want to get a shirt made that says hashtag Every day I find a new reason to fall in love with Frederick,” she said.

In addition to her adoptive city, Cheek said she has fallen in love with FCC’s campus as well.

“I have been meeting all of you and having a wonderful time doing so,” she said. “You guys are amazing. The staff here is amazing, and I love how goal-ridden and driven everybody is.”

Cheek said her favorite part of the school is the staff and students.

“I’ve been so impressed with the students. I tend to speak with them and as they speak, I tend to reflect on what it was like for me as a student in their same positions,” she said. “I can say that I was not as focused, driven, goal ridden, committed, enthusiastic, and as disciplined as they are. I’m just so proud of them because I was nowhere like that at their age.”

She admitted that she is still trying to find herself and create her own path.

“I just continue to be in awe of our students. They’re all so different. They have different stories, different goals, different dreams, different talents, etc. They all shine so differently, but they all shine equally,” she said. “Discovering the glory and the beauty of the student body has been one of the most welcoming surprises I’ve experienced. The staff too are amazing. They’re so dedicated and committed to our students. You notice that you cannot do this all by yourself when you sit in the role of president. Everything that I do is with and through people. Working with a team, a large team of amazing people throughout this institution, being able to come in and work every day with these many people that care so much about the institution, their students, their success, and their livelihoods are energizing.”

Cheek has a few things she would like the campus to work on the biggest is communication.

“I think at any institution or large complex organization like FCC you must work on relationships. As I mentioned previously, relationships matter. Working on and building relationships is so important, they keep this institution moving,” she said. “The feedback I’ve gotten from employees is about communication. I’ve never worked at an organization or institution where communication was not raised as an issue that needed attention.”

Cheek said one promise that is keeping is committing herself to “working with employees within the institution to improve our communication which goes back to building relationships and trusting one another.”

As for FCC’s future, Cheek said she’s not sure what the plans are because she said she doesn’t feel as if she knows enough about the students, faculty, staff or campus.

“For me, it’s like being a guest in someone’s home while visiting for the first time and moving the furniture around. It’s offensive and it’s rude to do so because I’m still a guest. I still feel as if I am a guest because I do not know enough. I’m still trying to figure everything out,” she said.

Cheek said she’s “still spending a lot of time listening, learning, observing, trying to seek understanding, and trying to build trusting, open, and transparent relationships with people throughout the college and community.”

She wants to learn where FCC’s been and where we need to go for future endeavors. The president touched on how institutions need to “continue and spend more time celebrating and acknowledging the excellent work.”

Cheek said she doesn’t have a specific goal in mind other than “making sure that this community, students, and families of the students get the recognition that they deserve along with the progress that they want to see.”

Even as the president, she is still a student at life.

“Listening and being mindful about what I say or do and observing things have been great for me. I’ve done a better job of being more visible and present. I feel that others can tell that I am putting in the effort to be more visible and present, it was one of the most important things to me,” she said. “Everyone at the institution plays a vital role in the work that we do here. Hopefully, I’m helping anyone at the institution who might have felt overlooked or not seen at all. I want them to feel seen, heard, and welcomed.”

She also touched on both the staff’s and students’ mental health, which is especially important to her because she cares about the well-being of everyone.

“I’m here for them,” she said. “I care about them and who they are. I want them to know that we all care and for them to know that they belong.”

Cheek also said anyone who wants to reach out can by emailing her at [email protected].

“I will surely get back to you,” she said.

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