Dr. Alfred A. Roberts was tapped to succeed Dr. John Cavan as president of Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) in early August. Formerly the provost of the college’s Christanna Campus in Alberta, Roberts says he’s humbled by his appointment and promises to enhance SVCC’s reputation as a world class, 21st century community college.
1. You have spent a sizable portion of your professional career at SVCC, most recently as provost. Does this put you in a unique situation with respect to achieving the college’s goals and objectives as you assume the role of president?
First, let me say how humbled and honored I am to have been selected as the fifth president of Southside Virginia Community College. Upon my initial employment at SVCC in 1995, it became immediately clear that I had found the place where my professional values and my personal values converge. Southside Virginia Community College is an outstanding institution and I value each opportunity that I have had the privilege to serve. I have a strong passion for this institution and look forward to serving Southside for a number of years to come.
I do believe that my knowledge and understanding of the culture of the college and the community afford me a unique opportunity to “hit the ground running.” Our goal is to build upon the college’s rich history, and move strategically to advance the mission of the college and enhance its reputation for high academic standards, effective student support services, creative responses to community needs, and overall institutional excellence.
2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge facing SVCC and how do you propose to deal with that challenge?
Now more than ever, rural community colleges are challenged by the demand to be “all things to all people” while, at the same time, respond to constantly shifting priorities. This challenge is magnified at SVCC where we serve ten counties and one city in a 4,200 square mile service area. Our response has always been to partner and collaborate with others.
It is my intention to strengthen our existing relationships and build new ones. Our success is dependent upon the collaborative engagement of local leadership across Southside Virginia. We will call on local governments and school divisions, workforce investment boards, economic developers, and community based organizations to get the job done.
3. Regarding the economy in Southside Virginia, is SVCC the engine that drives the train? Please explain.
We know that a skilled, well-trained, available workforce is essential to the economic development of this region. To that end, SVCC is indeed the engine that drives the train. This past year, Southside Virginia Community College served over 8,000 students and awarded some 1,400 degrees and certificates. In addition, through our credit and non-credit programs, we prepared over 4,000 students for professional licenses and industry-recognized credentials. But our commitment is to do more.
Just last week, I met with our academic deans and workforce staff and instructed them to explore a broad spectrum of options available to get Southside Virginia’s citizens prepared for the medium and high skill jobs that mark the 21st century economy. The idea is to align program learning outcomes with industry standards and embed industry credentials into career and technical programs. We are very aware of the critical role we play in the economic development of Southside Virginia and will do all we can to support regional workforce development efforts.
4. What does student success mean to you?
I believe that student success is defined by the individual student. In the end, it really comes down to whether the student was able to meet his or her unique goals. From an accountability perspective, success is most often measured by completion or degree attainment. But I believe that definition is too narrow. Rather, student success, and our success as a community college, can best be measured by the impact that we have on the lives of our students and on the communities we serve.
5. On a personal level, please tell us three things about you that others don’t already know (hobbies, interests, etc.)?
•I was born in a truck stop. Details are available upon request.
•I minored in theater in college and worked several years as a union stage hand.
•I love to cook . . . and eat.
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