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Loudoun provost talks PVCC plans

Julie Leidig has always been drawn to excellence, which is why she said she applied to be the next president at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

“PVCC has always had an excellent reputation, especially for the quality of instruction and the care that it gives to its students,” said Leidig at a forum Thursday. “… It would be such a privilege to work with this group of people to advance the college and the community that it serves.”

Leidig is currently provost of the Loudoun Campus at Northern Virginia Community College. She’s served in that role since 2010 and previously worked in the Texas community college system.

Leidig is one of four finalists picked to succeed Frank Friedman, PVCC’s longtime president who is retiring at the end of this school year. The other two finalists will visit the college next week for interviews, a tour and forums with students, staff and faculty.

Finalists will interview with the PVCC board in closed session during their visits. Ultimately, the PVCC board will recommend a candidate to the Virginia Community College System Chancellor, who will make the final decision.

Leidig said at Thursday’s forum that her current job is similar to that of a campus president. She’s worked to upgrade the campus facilities, boost enrollment and raise funds to help students with emergency expenses and launched new programs.

“I view the leadership role as a sacred trust,” Leidig said, committing to earn the trust of the PVCC community and build partnerships if she were to become to president. “… Years from now, it will be said, we were already a great college, but she worked with us to make us so much better than we ever were.”

Leidig, who started her career teaching English in Japan, said she’s “a true believer” in the mission of community colleges. She also wanted people to know two other things about her: if she knows something is important, she’ll find a way to get it done, and that she’s a builder.

“I love to build on what is already there, and I have a vision for building things that aren’t here yet,” she said, adding that she also loves working with people and mentoring those who work with her.

Currently, employers in the area are looking to PVCC to help them find qualified employees. Leidig said she wants to meet the needs of employers as well as of students. Before starting a new program, she said she wants to make sure the college is meeting the highest area of need.

“A program is an investment,” she said. “We have to be sure that we can support the investment by attracting enough students who will get jobs.”

She added that she would want to partner with employers who need the workers, know the skill set they are looking for and will commit to recruiting students in the program.

“So that the student who does well in the program just about walks out with a guaranteed job,” she said.

One of her goals as president would be to increase student enrollment, she said. Enrollment at PVCC has been declining, and in spring 2021, PVCC had about 4,223 students enrolled.

“One of the things we struggle with as community colleges is that people don’t know enough [about us],” she said.

Expanding the reach of the college throughout its six-county area, including Charlottesville, would help with that goal. Leidig said she would want to get out into the community to start meeting people as president. She also suggested recruiting alumni of the college to help tell PVCC’s story and bring in more students.

Boosting enrollment also extends to the trade programs, which one attendee at the forum said tend to be an afterthought.

Leidig said the trade programs are incredibly important.

“To a lot of families, graduating with a certificate from a trade program and having a really great job for the first time is just as important as walking across the stage at University of Virginia and we should value it just as much,” she said.

Jean Runyon, campus vice president of Front Range Community College in Colorado, will visit PVCC next. Her forum will be at 9 a.m. April 12 in the V. Earl Dickinson Building Main Stage Theatre on the main PVCC campus.

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