VCCS Leadership Academy aims for stronger, better, more inclusive leaders - VCCS

VCCS Leadership Academy aims for stronger, better, more inclusive leaders

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“I’ve received leadership training in the past, but it didn’t come close to what we received here,” said Willie Williams, Retention Coordinator at Tidewater Community College’s Portsmouth campus.  Williams was one of two dozen people tapped for the VCCS annual Leadership Academy, which began at the System Office in Richmond in late February.

image of students and administrators seated at tables

VCCS Leadership Academy, Richmond, February 23

In-person VCCS leadership training academies were on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants say this year’s gathering was a worthwhile deep dive into the latest scholarship on human relations, with a goal of producing better, stronger and more inclusive leaders.

Concentrated interactive instruction ran for two days February 23-24 and will be followed up with online training sessions, culminating in a presentation for all interested parties at the VCCS New Horizons Conference in Roanoke at the end of March.

Image of Willie Williams

Willie Williams

“It’s critical that we’re committed to including everyone and providing a level playing field for students, faculty and staff alike,” Williams added. “Making sure everything we do is fair and accessible must be embedded in what we do.  We need to actually live the commitment. I’ll carry this experience back to my team.  This training has inspired me to do more.”

Laura J. Clark, VCCS Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Success and Professional Development, said the immersive learning experience was designed to provide a cohort of emerging leaders with examples and strategies to foster meaningful and productive interactions, especially in collaborative and team environments.

“People are not just one thing, we’re many things, and as leaders we need to remember that,” said Leonda Williams-Keniston, Piedmont Virginia Community College’s Dean of Humanities, Fine Arts, and Social Sciences.   “The training

Image of Leonda Williams-Keniston

Leonda Williams-Keniston

here has been tremendously helpful and I hope the VCCS offers this kind of opportunity again in the future.”

Image o Ixcel presentation

This year’s leadership training was conducted in partnership with the IEXCEL Education Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  VCU faculty members Archana A. Pathak and Chris Reina led the interactive instruction.

“The facilitators are amazing and have led us in wonderful directions,” said Colleen Pendry, VP for Instruction and Student Services at Blue Ridge Community College. “It’s important to remember that despite our

Image of Colleen Pendry

Colleen Pendry

differences, we can be together, can talk about difficult issues, and still be a community.”

Image of SWCC President Tommy Wright

Tommy Wright

Participants in this year’s training academy included some veteran VCCS leaders, including

Southwest Virginia Community College President Tommy Wright.  “As lifelong learners, we should be eager and willing to jump into opportunities like this,” said Wright.  “If we’re committed to growth and advancement in our communities — especially as our economies create connections with different cultures around the world — we need to be willing to grow and work positively with all people.”

You can read more about the professional development opportunities offered this spring by the VCCS Student Success Center.


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