A year ago when I accepted the offer to serve as Southside Virginia Community College’s sixth president, the world was a different place. People have commented about what a topsy-turvy year it has been, but I am pleased to have been tasked with a leadership role in such challenging times. There’s no place I’d rather be.
During its 50-year history, SVCC’s mission has focused on serving the regional community through education, outreach, and collaboration. The mission remains unchanged. I am thankful and proud of how the college community has come together to meet COVID-19’s enormous challenges. During the virus-related emergency, SVCC’s staff have been active in seeking opportunities to serve the public in new ways.
Be assured, SVCC is open for business. We are working collaboratively to meet challenges head on. We are collectively doing whatever it takes to serve our students and neighbors. For example, as a service to the community, one of our instructors, Lisa Jordan, has assisted small businesses with their applications for grants. Several faculty members are serving as volunteers to shop for people who are place-bound, and our Campus Within Walls Coordinator, Lisa Hudson, has worked diligently to ensure continued instruction for incarcerated students.
In its mission to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to acquire an educational foundation that develops and extends their skills and knowledge, SVCC has embraced innovative opportunities to serve diverse student groups. Our Career Coaches have been in touch with 2020 graduates from area high schools and have worked diligently to assist high schools in pursuing alternate placement testing options. Students who have elected to stay home rather than return to other institutions across the commonwealth have been welcomed. Financial aid staff continue to work hard to ensure that each student receives the maximum amount of support available, including funds earmarked for students under the CARES Act.
Dr. Dixie Watts Dalton, Dean of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business, reports that faculty members have adopted an array of technology-enhanced communications, such as live Zoom sessions, utilization of Canvas and Navigate, phone calls, texts, email, and Facebook Messenger. In addition, faculty have put together packets of course materials to be mailed to students without internet access. Also, Dr. Dalton commends instructors who have developed creative solutions in special circumstances. As an example, she explains, “For what is usually a hands-on class, adjunct instructor Katy Clarke created recordings of painting techniques for her art class so that students could watch and listen on their own schedules as they work on their own paintings."
Dr. Chad Patton, Dean of Career and Occupational Technology, is working closely with his team to develop innovative workarounds to ensure education continues in the online environment. In addition to technical solutions, such as the use of automotive repair and advanced manufacturing simulators, faculty members are working one-on-one with students to ensure success. An example is allowing welding students to complete class projects where they are currently employed and send their work to the instructor for evaluation. Although hands-on labs are not currently permitted, an SVCC taskforce is working very hard to develop best practices to ensure student safety once students can return to our labs.
Dr. Michelle Edmonds, Dean of Nursing, Allied Health, and Natural Sciences who is also serving as Special Assistant to the Vice-President of Workforce and Academics, explains her current strategy, “I pretty much run office hours 24/7. Whenever students write to me by email or text message, I respond right away. If they can send me a picture of their question, I can walk them through it or I can show them another example.”
No one knows for sure what the future holds. If you have questions about any of our classes, academic programs, or short-term FastForward workforce programs which lead to jobs, please give us a call. At SVCC, we are communicating differently and adjusting to working in ways we’ve not worked before, but our strong commitments to the community and to education excellence remain steadfast. We are making every effort to put all hands to the task. Our ongoing mission of community service is too important for us to do anything less.
Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.