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Get to know “Dr. O,” Vol State’s fourth president

Last updated on September 22, 2021

By Bailey Guy

Dr. Orinthia Montague, or “Dr. O” as she prefers, began working as Volunteer State Community College’s fourth president Sept. 1. 

Originally born in Jamaica, but having grown up in Missouri, Montague has worked in higher education in numerous states, but most recently as the president of Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) in upstate New York.

Montague approaches people with individualization, she said, “I try to find what works for the individual, whether that’s celebrating a birthday or listening to what they want to do and finding a way to make that work for them. I utilize that in my leadership as well because each person is unique and different, so how I speak to people might differ because they have different needs. Being able to pinpoint that and communicate is one of my top strengths.”

She said that she believes in leading by action.

“I’m the kind of leader who will volunteer to help, I’m not just asking someone else to do it. I’m going to lead by example and show the way. If you want people to work alongside you for a common goal, you have to be all in,” she said.

“I feel that Dr. Montague is calm, cool, and collected,” said Ramer Building receptionist Janice Herrin.

One of her favorite jobs was early in her career.

“I worked for the division of Youth Services in Missouri, and that was with young people who, if they were adults, would’ve been in prison. I absolutely loved that job, and I tell people all the time, I love what I’m doing now in higher education, but my lottery win dream is to open a transitional home,” she said.

The youth in the program could only stay until they were 18, but Montague said, “At 18 I don’t know if all of them know the right path and what they want to do yet, and I don’t like the idea of them going back to an environment that didn’t support them, so I’d love to open a facility like that.”

She also spent time as a social worker at a high school, along with being the pom coach for their inclusive team.

“Anyone who wanted to be on the team could be. Trying out was showing up,”she said.

When initially contacted about coming to Vol State, she admits that she was unsure.

“But when I came here, just the genuineness of the faculty and staff, I was sold. I wanted to be a part of what TBR [Tennessee Board of Regents] and Vol State is doing,” she said.

Her main goals for Vol State are increasing enrollment, community outreach, and making Vol State more visible.

“I want to do whatever we can to get involved so people see us and know us and want to use as a resource,” she said.

“I’m really excited she’s here. I think she’s got a lot to offer for the school,” said Admissions Advisor Briggette Moore.

Her husband, Michael, was formerly in the Navy, and is now working in cybersecurity and medical information technology. Montague has four stepchildren, the youngest of whom is in his 30s.

“Michael is a foodie. He loves to eat. This sounds crazy to people, but he loves Waffle House, and they didn’t have one in New York, so he’s so excited that there’s a Waffle House here,” she said.

In her free time, she enjoys watching reality TV, especially “The Bachelor and Big Brother.” She also knows the importance of sleep, “I love to nap. A nap on the weekends is a wonderful thing,” she said.

She said that she also wants all students and staff to know: “Be on the lookout for Dancing with Dr. O! Coming soon to a gym near you.”

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