Piedmont Virginia Community College is “embracing” the new vision for education espoused by the recently appointed state community college chancellor.
David Doré, who assumed his role in April, has announced plans he said will transform community colleges throughout the commonwealth. The idea, according to Doré, is to reduce barriers for learners by focusing on job placement and eliminating gaps within the system. Those gaps, he said, are in educational achievement, technology and skills.
It’s a natural transition from the early days of Doré’s first few weeks on the job when he championed bridging a divide between academia and business, arguing the two had become too fractured.
“We embrace the chancellor’s decision for community colleges, because it really is our mission to serve all individuals who also believe in the transformative power of education,” Jean Runyon, PVCC president, told The Daily Progress.
Shortly after he became chancellor, Doré went on tour, visiting all 23 of Virginia’s community colleges.
PVCC had the biggest turnout, he said.
“When I went to Piedmont, there was an incredible turnout of students,” Doré told The Daily Progress. “I think I had one of the largest turnouts of students, and I can honestly say, I thought that those students had some of the most insightful, difficult questions.”
With the new position came new goals for Doré.
Doré announced a “new era” for community colleges earlier this month at the annual chancellor’s retreat in Roanoke.
Critical to beginning that new era is a strategy Doré calls “blurring the lines.”
The hope is to encourage opportunities and have a more seamless transition from high school to post-secondary education, as well as from college to the workplace.
“We’re trying to blur the lines between post-secondary and secondary education,” Doré said. “What that means is getting high school students into a post-secondary pathway much earlier. At the end of the day, they’re all ultimately trying to get a job. And then also blurring the line between the college and the workplace, so that our students have more opportunities for workplace learning.”
PVCC encourages many different pathways, according to Runyon. The school offers opportunities for people coming from different beginnings to find their way to a job, she said.
“Community colleges really are the community’s college, and as such, all pathways lead to high demand, high skill jobs,” Runyon said. “If individuals come to us because they want to earn an associate degree to enter the workforce upon graduation, that pathway leads to a job. If adults want to come to the college to fast forward their career through some of our short-term industry credential programs and workforce services, that pathway leads to a job, and learners come to us because they want to earn an associate degree and transfer to four year college or university, and ultimately that pathway leads to a job.”
Doré’s vision also incorporates a new approach for colleges to use technology and flexibility as a way to serve the “new majority of learners.” That majority includes veterans, parents and working adults.
Flexible options for PVCC’s “new majority of learners” offers opportunities to learn from all over, according to Runyon.
“Many of our learners come to us and they really want that flexibility to learn on grounds on one of our campuses and online, and technology plays an important role as part of that online learning experience to allow some new majority of learners to participate in post-secondary education anytime, anywhere and anyplace,” Runyon said.
The flexibility still allows students to be included as if they were in a normal classroom by integrating a high level of technology into schools, Runyon added.
“We’ve also equipped our classrooms with high-flex technology, so that students can be online engaged in real time with students on ground in the classes as well. So, technology does play an important role in achieving opportunities for all adults to earn credentials that have value in the workplace,” Runyon said.
PVCC plans to continue offering programs that align with Doré’s vision.
The community college has “many donors who believe in the transformative power of education,” according to Runyon. Donations allow the school to offer scholarships and programs for their new majority of learners.
“I’m really excited that we’ve been able to continue our PVCC4U 100% program,” Runyon said. “There are many examples of programs and scholarships that support our students from connection to completion.”
PVCC4U 100% is a program that provides the full cost of tuition and fees for in-state students who are eligible, according to the college. In order to be eligible a student must be enrolled in at least nine credit hours and have a family income of $100,000 or less.
In the meantime, Doré has plans to visit all community colleges again “this academic year,” he said.
He said he hopes to see changes already in effect since his first go-around.
“One of the big changes is that what we’re doing is looking at our colleges more strategically across the whole state,” Doré said. “So one thing that I’m getting out of this is that we’re going to take a more regional approach, and so as opposed to 23 colleges going in 23 different directions, our colleges will become much more collaborative.”
Runyon agreed fully with Doré’s whole-of-Virginia approach.
“Piedmont Virginia Community College is one of 23 community colleges in the commonwealth, and together we have really made a bold promise to be able to address the job opportunities and credential opportunities of today and tomorrow,” Runyon said. “That also involves the use of technology and flexibility, even for the new majority of learners.”