Chattanooga State student activities thrive under 25-year-old director

Chattanooga State student activities thrive under 25-year-old director

May 10th, 2011 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

Justin Booker, director of student life at Chattanooga State, poses for portraits in the Times Free Press studio. In addition to implementing programs for students, he also has a passion for fashionable shoes. Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Justin Booker, director of student life at Chattanooga...


• Age: 25.

• Profession: Student life director at Chattanooga State Community College.

• Family: Wife, Shadrina.

• Education: University of Central Florida graduate.

• Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.

Favorite book:

"The Rose That Grew from Concrete" by Tupac Shakur.

Favorite music:

"It all depends on how I feel at the time, but my favorite musicians are Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn), a rapper, and Freddie Jackson, rhythm and blues."

Favorite movie:

"Love & Basketball."

What would surprise your friends to learn about you?

"I'm shy. Since I started working at Chattanooga State, I've had to host events and speak before audiences. I'm breaking out of my shell."

With a pen tucked behind his right ear and a backpack slung across his shoulder, Justin Booker looks more like a student than the director of student life at Chattanooga State Community College.

The job title still takes the 25-year-old Florida native by surprise, he said.

"I had no intention of working at a job like this," he said. "I wanted to go into physical therapy, but going to school another four years was not in the cards.

"My mom was career military, so I thought about working for the federal government. But when the job at Chattanooga State popped open, I thought it sounded interesting."

Hired in October 2009, Booker has brought lots of energy to the job, according to school officials. Chattanooga State spokeswoman Phyllis Mescon said Booker is developing new programs for the college and has significantly increased student participation in recreational and intramural activities.

According to the college, student activity participation increased from 2,305 students in the 2009-2010 academic year to 6,108 in 2010-2011. Intramural participation increased from 397 students in 2009-2010 to 1,193 in 2010-2011.

Q: What are your goals at Chattanooga State?

A: I'd like to see a continued growth. Right now we have about 7,000 students participating in student life recreational and intramural activities. We have about 12,000 students enrolled, so I'd like to find something everybody wants to do. We've added activities like pickleball.

It's hard to find activities that everyone can do because many of the students at a community college have active lives outside school. I'd also like to increase the retention rate. I'd like to find a way to keep students in school and keep them involved.

Q: Has it been hard to get students involved in nonacademic activities?

A: It was tough at first. I had to build relationships. I had to put my face out there so people would get to know me. One of the things that has helped a lot is Facebook. We take a lot of pictures at events and post them on Facebook. Students will tag themselves on the photos. The student cabinet also meets with the students several times during the academic year. We've hosted a number of events such as the "soul food" luncheon during Black History Month, where we showcased Southern-style food that people love around here. We served, at no charge, to nearly 1,000 students.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: I enjoy my work at Chattanooga State. I see myself working at a community college in a higher position - maybe not as president but definitely in a leadership role. I do know that I would 3like to stay in the Southeast. Also, I've been toying around with designing a men's clothing line. In 10 years. I would like to design T-shirts and shoes that match. It would be a cool and fun thing to do, but, once again, it would be stepping out of my comfort zone.

Q: You have an interest in men's fashion?

A: Yes, especially shoes. I think it's a cultural thing. In an urban culture, you have to have cool shoes. You have to - or think you have to - start the school year in good, clean shoes. I don't even like for my shoes to get creases in them. I keep them in a box and keep them looking new. It's an investment. Once I've worn them for a while, I give them away. I've always liked to dress nice. I know that first impressions are important, and I always want to make good impressions."

Q: Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

A: My mom. I come from a single-parent home. My mom was in the military for 21 years. She took care of me by herself. She's my best friend and my mom all rolled into one.