January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!


Even as we prepare to welcome new and returning, residential and commuter students to campus for the start of the 2013 spring semester, admissions standards for fall applicants are being revamped. Student housing policies and procedures are being revised in support of Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) goals and objectives. Recruitment of a fall cohort of honors students is underway. And plans for a one-stop enrollment services center are beginning to take shape with a planned fall pilot. Obviously, enrolling and retaining more students who are academically prepared for the rigors of college will ultimately be the outcome of a carefully designed and well executed SEM plan. For now, the necessary groundwork is being laid. In the spring semester, Jeremy Colb, our new admissions counselor and academic advisor, is working to streamline the student tour process and create a unified approach to prospective student visits through the RBC Ambassadors program. These and sundry other initiatives currently underway will help to ensure that students who are admitted to Richard Bland College are well informed, properly supported and fully prepared for academic success. 


Re-Investment in the Core

As you know, administrative operations were realigned last fall as a first step toward the larger goal of re-investing and eventually increasing resources to the core academic purpose and mission of Richard Bland College. This re-investment in the academic core is and will remain essential if we are to achieve what has emerged both through informal and formal inquiry as a primary interest of College stakeholders—to secure RBC’s image and reputation as a premiere, first-choice provider of liberal arts education for transfer. This re-investment will also help to build the College’s capacity to respond to the Commonwealth’s needs for public institutions of higher education. RBC’s enrollment shortfall in the summer and fall, and an anticipated enrollment decline in the spring, have only heightened the need and the urgency to strategically re-position the College to deliver only the “right and best” academic programs in an optimal learning environment, and to do so at a high rate of efficiency. Even as we continue to synthesize the research and stakeholder input gathered throughout the fall semester and proceed to finalize the 2013-2018 strategic plan for RBC in the spring, there is no question that success will be dependent upon collaboration, discipline, focus.


The Launch of Shared Governance

With a system of shared governance now established and codified—thanks to the extraordinary efforts of faculty, administrators and staff working together in the fall—Faculty Senate, College Council and the three official college committees will soon be formally launched. Given the tremendously important work before us in readying Richard Bland College for a bold and aggressive agenda for the future, the timing with regard to implementation of shared governance simply couldn’t be better. I look forward to ongoing openness, transparency and clarity in the decision-making process.


Human Resources

The ongoing development of current employees, the identification and hiring of new talent and, in general, the strategic deployment of human resources are vital to RBC’s future success. Also, I am well aware of faculty and staff concerns about salary inequities and the need to study and resolve, as appropriate, these inequities in the interest of fairness and workplace morale. I am pleased to announce that Jason Brown has accepted the position of Director of Human Resources, effective January 10, 2013. Mr. Brown served in the U.S. Army for 15 years where he assumed increasing levels of responsibility in human resource management; his most recent HR experience is with the City of Richmond. Please join me in welcoming Jason Brown as the newest member of RBC’s administrative team.


Also on January 10, Dr. Annette Parker, a retired executive from Dickinson College, will begin a part-time administrative assignment to run through June 30, 2013. Dr. Parker will be responsible for overseeing systems alignment throughout all administrative processes in the interest of reduced costs and improved functionality. Her focus will be to eliminate silos, to integrate IT solutions, and to build high-performance, cross-functional teams throughout all administrative operations. Specific assignments include general oversight of resource management, capital projects (including plans for the renovation of Ernst Hall), IT systems and other high-priority institutional initiatives. In a part-time capacity and in the same timeframe, Mr. Thomas Burton will assume general oversight of institutional advancement with primary responsibility for transitioning the College to a new and significantly more robust fund raising management platform, The Raiser’s Edge. Both Dr. Parker and Mr. Burton are highly regarded professionals in their respective areas of expertise. Both served as external consultants to RBC in the fall, so they are familiar with the campus and will hit the ground running in January.


Dr. Theresa Stillion has announced that she will be leaving the College on January 31, 2013. Gayla Hayes, LPN, has also notified the College of her intent to leave at the end of January. Dr. Stillion and Ms. Hayes have faithfully operated the Student Health Center since 2008, and they will be missed by the entire campus community. On behalf of all of us at RBC, I thank them for their many contributions to RBC and wish them well in all future endeavors. Beginning February 1, campus police officers who are certified emergency responders will provide assistance to residential students and other members of the campus community in need, or, if appropriate, these first responders will provide referrals to appropriate health care providers nearby. We will carefully monitor this change in service and plan accordingly.


Searches are currently underway for biology and chemistry faculty members, with interviews planned for January and February. I extend appreciation and gratitude to members of these and other search committees, for their efforts to bring the best talent to RBC are, quite literally, critical to the College’s future success.


Brand Research and Development

Achieving clarity of purpose or, phrased differently, identifying Richard Bland College’s brand “promise” was identified in the fall as an immediate priority by students, alumni, employees and, indeed, all RBC stakeholders. Currently, there are competing views among stakeholders and the general public about Richard Bland College’s purpose and “promise.” Therefore, we will launch a branding study in January that will both complement and help to inform the College’s 2013-2018 strategic plan. Cassandra Clemens of Annodyne, Inc., will serve as project manager for RBC’s branding study. More information will follow as the project gets underway, and as previously announced, Lashrecse Aird will coordinate the initiative, so please contact her with any questions, suggestions or insights.


Developmental Education

Developmental education is without question one of the most complex, controversial and pivotal issues with which two-year colleges in the U.S. are currently grappling. RBC is no exception. Click here to review the report and joint statement released in December by the Charles A. Dana Center; Complete College America, Inc.; the Education Commission of the States; and Jobs for the Future. This report offers new research-based insights and recommendations from organizations committed to addressing what many have described as a crisis in higher education, the large percentage of high school graduates who are placed in developmental courses upon entering college and who never receive college credentials. I invite faculty and administrators to read and ponder this report as we enter the New Year, and I look forward to engaging the campus community in serious discussions about how Richard Bland College will approach and deliver developmental education in the coming year(s).


May 2013 bring good health and good fortune to you and to Richard Bland College!


Best regards,