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SVCC to reopen with options

Southside Virginia Community College will reopen its doors Monday, Aug. 24, with a full schedule of offerings and a range of attendance options that incorporate in-person, online, and hybrid classes. Short-term workforce programs that require hands-on learning will be offered in small groups. We have reconfigured classroom and laboratory spaces to meet social distancing requirements, and in accordance with guidelines, SVCC will require face coverings on campus.

Taking steps to minimize risks while preserving student momentum toward the attainment of education goals is of paramount importance. At this complicated time in our nation’s history, educational offerings at community colleges have never been more important. This is especially true in places like southside Virginia, where historic gaps in opportunity produced enormous impacts on rural and minority communities.

One important means of improving earnings abilities among rural residents and members of racial and ethnic minorities is the attainment of credentials and certifications that are in high demand among local employers. The community college mission incorporates this kind of education, training, and upskilling to help people launch academic journeys, find careers, or get back to work.

At SVCC, we are proud of our efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. We bolster student success through mentoring programs, such as Make It Happen and WISE, and a robust student support system that incorporates tutoring, academic advising, career counseling, and financial assistance.

Diversity in the classroom also demands diversity in staffing. Our goal is to have a college community that is reflective of the communities and students we serve. Keith Harkins, Ph.D., vice president of academic and workforce programs is providing oversight for a college-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to develop a plan that will include recommendations, timelines, and measurable outcomes. Bethany Harris, human resources director, is actively involved with the Search Advocate initiative, which will help overcome implicit biases in the hiring process.

Many other local employers are also seeking to increase diversity. As a part of those processes, some who recognize the need to increase the education and training pipeline have partnered with the college to establish scholarship programs that will lead to better equity in their workforce demographics.

In these unprecedented times, however, addressing diversity issues and financial concerns is not enough. SVCC is also working to tackle inequities created by the existing digital divide. To bridge this gap, we and our community partners are making alternatives available for students who do not have adequate high-speed internet at home.

At various locations across the college’s 4,200-square-mile service area, SVCC’s campuses and off-campus sites will grant students access to computer labs and high-speed internet connections, while still complying with appropriate distancing guidelines.

At SVCC, we care about our students’ health and their success. For more information and for updates about education and workforce training opportunities, visit Southside. edu or call (434) 949-1000.

DR. QUENTIN R. JOHNSON is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans 10 counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.