July 12, 2013

Along with Lois Wray (37 years), Bill Wamsley (22 years), Barbara Southall (13 years), Mary Perdue (13 years), Stephen Jenkins (9 years), Mike Kelly (8 years), Aaron Ott (6 years), Joliefawn Liddell (6 years), Whitney Gershowitz (6 years) and Scott Davis (6 years), I am celebrating my employment anniversary (1 year) this month. For all of us, I imagine, this is a time of reflection about goals accomplished and lessons learned as we consider how best to fulfill—both personally and as part of the collective whole—the mission, vision and goals of Richard Bland College.

 

My recent letter published as a guest column on the editorial page of the Richmond-Times Dispatch (attached) represents my reflections about the great educational experience and value that Richard Bland College has consistently delivered to students for more than five decades. In addition, I’m delighted that we have begun the new fiscal year with many key components for future success firmly in place, including:

  • A system for shared governance that promotes the utilization of our collective intelligence in fulfilling the College mission, vision and goals,
  • a bold and far-reaching strategic plan that provides a clear roadmap for the future as we seek to align all resources entrusted to the College in support of its core mission,
  • clarity about the College’s unique position, role and responsibilities as a public provider of higher education in Virginia (resulting from our comprehensive branding study), and
  • the launch of a new marketing campaign designed to communicate our brand promise, elevate brand awareness and attract high-performing students.

 

As to lessons learned, there are several. The big lessons that I learned last year are summarized below:

 

  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Significant change, however necessary, can result in confusion and even fear about the potential impact for employees and their future. This confusion and fear is even greater when the new leader remains, well, new to so many people both within and outside the organization. I am optimistic that with redoubled communication efforts on the part of the administrative team and effective utilization of our shared governance structure, which will dramatically improve access to information about the status of the various initiatives underway, we will improve communication considerably in the year ahead.

 

  • Simplify priorities and goals. This, too, is a matter of communication, but one that deserves a special call-out. I said in a note to the campus community dated July 6, 2012, “…continuous improvement in the curriculum and student success is at the heart of RBC’s future success.” As a campus community and as individuals with various titles, roles and responsibilities within this campus community, it is incumbent upon each of us to ensure that the academic success of our students—all of our students—is the #1 priority. The strategic plan and the target goals established therein are focused on this singular outcome. I will work to ensure that the dots are better connected in the coming year so that there is no confusion about institutional priorities and goals.

 

  • Build community. Last year at about this time when I met with staff and faculty as part of my informal orientation to campus, almost all of you expressed in one way or another the value of working in a small environment where co-workers feel like family. Even as we work to diminish departmental silos in favor of cross-departmental collaboration and an integrated approach to program/service delivery, I will seek to keep us focused on retaining, nurturing and building upon the culture of community that is a core value of the College.

 

Welcome Reception

 

Speaking of community building, if you are available, I invite you to participate in a welcome reception for new employees on Friday, July 19, 2013, at 4:00 p.m. in the McNeer Hall Atrium. This will be an informal event with a brief program and light refreshments. Faculty who are not on campus this summer will have the opportunity to meet new employees at a fall kick-off event in August. More details on that event will follow.

 

Enrollment

 

I applaud our enrollment services team for their strong commitment to honoring our admissions standards while at the same time working hard to recruit new, academically strong students to Richard Bland College. These efforts will eventually yield improvements in student retention as well as improvements in the overall educational environment—which will boost enrollment over time. As of today’s date, a total of 693 students have registered for fall classes. Our target is 1,572. 529 students have paid deposits, and 203 (of 361) beds have been reserved in residence halls. We hope to see an uptick in interest and applications in response to marketing efforts and other initiatives currently underway.

 

Faculty and Staff Update

 

Earlier this month Annette Parker, Vice President, Finance and Administration; Dr. Jenifer Blair, Vice President, Enrollment Services; and Chandragupta Gudena, CIO, moved into their new offices on campus. Annette Parker is located in Maze Hall, Dr. Blair’s office is in the Center for Student Affairs, and Chandragupta is in the Library. Annette, JB (as she prefers to be called) and Chandragupta are arriving with impeccable credentials, high energy and great enthusiasm about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Please join me in welcoming them to the Richard Bland College community.

 

I am happy to announce that effective July 1, 2013, Jacqueline Carrell will assume the duties and responsibilities of Interim Library Director for the 2013-2014 academic year under the direction of Chandragupta Gudena. Together, the Library and ITS teams will explore ways to integrate information technologies, resources and services to best support a high quality learning environment and experience for our students.

 

With sincere appreciation to Jeanne Holmes for her dedicated service last year in the role of Interim Director of Strategic Enrollment Management, I wish to inform you that Jeanne has decided to conclude her full-time service to the College at the end of August. During her tenure in the Director’s role, Jeanne and her team explored various mechanisms for bolstering admissions standards, brought area high school guidance counselors back to campus in an effort to reintroduce them to Richard Bland College, and implemented the College’s first online student application solution. Jeanne, on behalf of the entire campus community, we thank you for your many contributions and we wish you well!

 

Foundation Golf Classic

Building relationships with alumni both within and outside the region continues apace, and in that vein, I am pleased to announce a project that Dr. Scott Davis and Chuck Moore have finalized after more than six months of planning: the Sixth Annual RBC Golf Classic. In addition to relationship building, the golf tournament will generate funds through the RBC Foundation for student scholarships, athletics and other College priorities. This year, the event will feature a post-tournament dinner and a golf entertainer, Roger Caldwell with Great Golf Events, who will engage the teams in side games like the Break-the-Glass Challenge. Please go to www.rbcgolfclassic.org for more information, and I encourage you to promote this event with friends, family and business associates. And, of course, mark your calendars for Wednesday, September 4, at 1:00 p.m. for the Shotgun Start at The Country Club at The Highlands.

 

Best wishes for the summer season!

 

Debbie