The panel leading the search for the next permanent leader of Virginia’s Community College System has adopted what it calls an “expedited” schedule for the nationwide hunt. The search committee will recruit and screen potential applicants. The hiring decision will be made by the VCCS State Board, with a goal of selecting a new chancellor in January.
Dr. Sharon Morrissey has been serving as Interim Chancellor since June, when a previous search ended without success.
The new search panel met for the first time at the VCCS System Office September 16 and members voiced some of their hopes for qualities in the next Chancellor.
“We need someone who can engage with people at all levels,” said Darius Johnson, who also serves on the VCCS State Board. “It’s vital that our new leader builds trust with our faculty and staff, in addition to lawmakers, business and community leaders.”
Ben Davenport, representing the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, urged the search committee to consider “non-traditional” candidates who can bring leadership skills and perspectives in addition to experience from the world of higher education.
Deborah DiCroce, another VCCS State Board member on the search panel, said the next VCCS leader must understand the complexity of running a diverse network of colleges and attend to the needs of both transfer and workforce training students.
The eighteen-member search committee includes ten VCCS State Board members, two college presidents, student and faculty representatives, a member of the VFCCE Board, two Virginia business leaders, and State Education Secretary Aimee Guidera as an ex-officio, non-voting member. The full list is below.
“As we begin the search process, we’re keenly aware that our work will shape the higher education landscape in Virginia for years to come,” said Douglas Garcia, VCCS Board Chair and also Chair of the search committee. “I’m excited that the membership of the search committee represents key stakeholders across the commonwealth who will assist us in finding a Chancellor to lead our 23 Colleges.”
“There is nothing more important to the future of Virginia than this search,” said Secretary Guidera. Her comments were echoed a few days later by her boss, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, when he met September 22 with the VCCS State Board.
“We have a search to find a visionary leader who can embrace the opportunities and challenges before us and chart a single path, not 23 different paths, but a single path forward for a system that should be the envy of the nation,” said Youngkin.
“We need a common mission across the entire system, a mission that is in fact focused on building the workforce of the future in this knowledge economy, touching all Virginians,” the governor added, promising his support for and involvement in Virginia’s Community Colleges going forward.
“And I just want to take this opportunity to thank Chancellor Morrissey for her leadership,” added the governor. “When the moment came, she accepted the call to step in. Thank you for answering that call.”
Washington, DC-based consulting firm Academic Search has been hired to provide professional services in the nationwide hunt. The firm’s senior consultant on the VCCS project is no stranger to our colleges. Dr. Shirley Pippins was president at Thomas Nelson Community College from 1995-2003.
Members of the search panel acknowledged they may face recruiting challenges because of the earlier unsuccessful search.
Jason El Koubi, President & CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership said the search committee will need to explain to potential candidates that “the situation in Virginia six months ago was very different than the situation today.” El Koubi added, “I think there will be candidates out there who take a long view and who can see the opportunity here.”
Reynolds Community College President Paula Pando, agreed. “This is a great opportunity, but people need to understand this job is not for the faint of heart.”
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Jim Carlisle, pursuing a degree in social sciences and psychology at Northern Virginia Community College. Carlisle, the student representative on the search committee, said he hopes the next Chancellor will be adept at working with diverse populations and is open to new ideas.
Brightpoint biology instructor Chris Pantazis, faculty rep on the panel, agreed, saying he’s hoping for a leader with experience in different parts of the higher education enterprise, “someone who can truly empathize with people at all levels in the system.”
Members of the Chancellor search committee include:
Also from the State Board: