Opinion — Planning to succeed

Published 5:42 pm Saturday, March 19, 2022

Last year, the Virginia Community College State Board unanimously approved a new strategic plan, Opportunity 2027. Dr. Michelle Edmonds, Dean of Nursing, Allied Health and Natural Sciences at Southside Virginia Community College, and I proudly served on the task force that helped develop the plan.

Opportunity 2027 has one overarching goal: “Virginia’s community colleges will achieve equity in access, learning outcomes, and success for students from every race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic group.” The innovative plan, which was developed through an equity lens, focuses on diversity and inclusion and provides tangible strategies for outcomes and metrics. With it, the Virginia Community College System stands as a leader among state systems across our nation.

SVCC’s Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success Dr. Daryl Minus, explains, “Equity minded principles and practices are the thread that connects our goals, strategies, and objectives. From the review of curriculum and faculty development to student onboarding and holistic support services, Opportunity 2027 is ambitious. It engages areas of our institution in the important work of making us the primary choice for workforce and academic development while delivering on the expectation that everything we do flows through an equity lens.”

The statewide plan offers multifaceted subgoals and objectives in support of its primary purpose. It addresses broad areas regarding diversity, inclusion, recruitment, student access, and success, especially among minority and disadvantaged students. It is, however, only a starting point.

As an individual college, SVCC must formulate a specific response. This important process is already underway, and it gives us an opportunity to ask questions about where are we going as a college. Ultimately, our local strategic plan will provide a roadmap for the work that we do. It will explain how we will meet the objectives and goals in the statewide plan and how those tasks align with our mission.

We began the process earlier this year by gathering feedback from internal and external stakeholders. We have convened focus groups with faculty, students, staff, and administrators. We have organized regional discussions with business and industry advisers, legislators, community leaders, and education partners. A survey has been established at https://bit.ly/svcc-csp so members of the general public can offer their input, and I hope you will take the time to share your thoughts with us.

Investing time and effort in a comprehensive strategic planning process is a worthwhile endeavor for two simple reasons. First, we are required to do it by legislation and as a part of maintaining our accreditation, which must be sustained in order to award academic degrees and participate in federal financial aid programs. Second, the process helps us set priorities that guide where our resources need to be invested.

SVCC’s jurisdiction covers 10 counties across 4,200 square miles. We provide education services to dually enrolled students, adult students, workforce students, and students in college transfer programs. We operate two comprehensive campuses and several off-campus centers. Maintaining a level of excellence for all those we serve requires a coordinated effort.

SVCC has always been concerned with diversity, inclusion, and equity, but this strategic planning process provides a unique opportunity for our college to grow and be a leader within the Virginia Community College System. We can make a difference. We can move the needle, and I’m excited about that. I’m excited about our future.

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.