Take Five with Chancellor Glenn DuBois: Parting thoughts and plans post-retirement
1. Why retire now or was it simply time to stop earning a living and start enjoying the next chapter of your life?
There was no triggering event. Twenty-one years is a long time in any one position. It’s time to hand it off and let someone else lead the organization to the next level, whatever that might be. I feel completely satisfied with what I’ve done.
2. What would you say was your single biggest achievement during your career with Virginia’s Community Colleges?
It’s hard to knock it down to one, but I can tell you that signing my name to 650-thousand degrees and certificates is pretty darn satisfying.
Editor’s note: It was here that DuBois offered an interesting anecdote:
Many, many years ago, I was in a pub having a sandwich and a beer. There was a young man in there and I asked him for the check. He gave me the check and I handed him my credit card. He came back and I signed it and he looked at it and goes, ‘You’re the guy who signed my degree!’ He was just graduating with his bachelor’s degree, and I asked him what field. He said criminology and I told him he would be very good at that (chuckles).
3. What initiative or program would you like to see come to fruition that’s been talked about but not acted upon and why.
The big one, the one we call Workforce Pell — that’s making federal financial aid (Title lV) eligible for those that are in our short-term programs. These are programs that last a matter of weeks or months, not years. Unfortunately, federal financial aid is only for the traditional side of the house – the degree-seekers. So, we — myself and about five of my peers — started an organization called Rebuilding America’s Middle Class or RAMC. The whole purpose was to focus on federal legislation.
We’ve been working on this for about six or seven years, and we are pretty darn close now to getting that over the goal line. It’s not there yet, but we’re within inches.
That one would be a game-changer, a big deal. We’ve been pushing hard on it.
It just takes the House and the Senate to vote it in and the president to sign it. The president has already said he will sign it. I think it could actually happen before I officially retire, a kind of cherry on top of the career.
4. How have the needs of community college students changed over time?
They’ve changed in significant ways. We’re seeing more insecurities such as food insecurity and housing insecurity among our students. We’re seeing more mental health issues, mostly anxiety and depression. The pandemic did not help, it just compounded the problems.
We’re also seeing more adult students who have different needs. Their needs are related to the ALICE population. They have to keep working, they have rents and kids, maybe a car payment. They’re in jobs that (serve to) barely keep their heads above water. They need to make more money, but they can’t just stop working and take three years or four years off to work on a degree. They need something much more short-term. These people are the target of our fastest growing programs like fast forward.
That’s a kind of changing student market. I think it’s going to be much more of our future.
I see community colleges pivoting much more toward workforce programs and less about degree programs.
You have a lot of adults who are in jobs that they hate or don’t make enough money or both.
And it’s because they just don’t have the credentials for those better-paying jobs. Often, those credentials are not necessarily degrees. They’re often certifications or licenses. Think welding, think commercial truck driving, think machinists, phlebotomists…the list goes on and on. So, you have a lot of people out there who are under-employed. They’re adults in their 30s and 40s. They need something that can help them in weeks or months, not years. The fastest growing segment of our programs are the adult programs.
5. What’s your first travel destination after you retire and why?
We’re going to do a trip that we booked three years ago, and it’s been postponed each year since because of the pandemic. But it’s on for this July. It’s a trip down the Danube, from Budapest to Bucharest. I’m kind of interested in that whole Eastern European theater. It’s very historic and a lot of Americans haven’t tuned into it. They’re more into the Western part or Europe. So, it’s a little less crowded and it’s more reasonably priced. It’s just not a destination for a lot of American tourists.
We also have some trips planned for late summer and in the fall. We’re going to start up in Maine and follow the foliage into New Hampshire, Vermont, Upstate New York and down into Pennsylvania. It’ll take about a month to kind of slowly get back to Virginia.