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Dr. Rachel Desmarais, president of Vance-Granville Community College, joined WIZS on Monday’s edition of Town Talk to discuss college reorganization, expanded community outreach and enrollment growth.
The recent hiring of Jerry Edmonds as VGCC’s Vice President of Workforce Development and Community Engagement aligns with Desmarais’ mission, as she stated in a previous Town Talk interview, to “leverage the gifts and talents that our people have here in the college to create more short-term workforce training to support our existing companies and to be a recruitment tool for economic development.”
“We did some reorganization in the college to make sure what has been traditionally considered corporate and continuing education, or non-credit training, was no longer the back door of our college,” said Desmarais. “We believe that needs to be front and center; we need two front doors.”
Edmonds’ background includes his most recent tenures as the Dean of Workforce and Economic Development and Small Business Center Director at Halifax Community College, along with prior leadership positions at Johnson & Johnson and IBM.
His familiarity with Henderson’s economic scene is also a plus, according to Desmarais. “Jerry’s parents moved here in the 80s and kept their family home here. Jerry owns a home in Henderson and is very familiar with local business and industry.”
Desmarais said Edmonds has hit the ground running in his new position by helping the college expand the Business Agriculture program operated through the VGCC Small Business Center.
As part of that expansion, VGCC will be offering CDL-A training for big rig truck driving beginning February 2020. This is part of a series of nine-week programs “designed to get people employed quickly,” according to Desmarais.
In addition to offering more programs at the college, VGCC is also expanding its community outreach endeavors. “VGCC is trying to get out more,” Desmarais said. We’re not expecting people to always come here. We are taking a critical look at how we can also be part of the community. It is something I believe in very passionately.”
Desmarais believes VGCC’s presence at various community events over the spring and summer led, in part, to the college’s 3.75% increase in enrollment for the fall semester. Such an increase is significant when viewing figures that show a steady decline of enrollment over the past six years, she explained.
A focus on providing tuition-free college classes to local high school students also helped provide an enrollment boost this semester.
“We’ve been very intentional with our K-12 programs. We don’t just educate adults; we also partner with our school systems to offer education to high school students. That’s usually done through Early Colleges – we have one in each of our four counties. We also offer general Career and College Promise classes to any high school student whether they be in public school, charter school, home school or private school. These are wonderful opportunities for high school students to take college classes tuition-free,” said Desmarais.
The college has also been focusing on increasing marketing efforts for its basic law enforcement program, increasing the capacities in the health programs and streamlining the financial aid and admissions process for students.
In looking forward to the 2020 Spring Semester, Desmarais said the college will be expanding hours of operation to better fit the schedules of working students.
In addition to the recent inclusion of office hours on Tuesday evenings, the college will soon open at least one Saturday each month and will include additional sections of evening and weekend classes.
Desmarais also announced that VGCC, in partnership with KARTS serving Vance, Warren, Granville and Franklin counties, will be tackling one of the largest barriers to higher education in the local area – lack of transportation.
“Beginning this spring, we are going to be offering vouchers that the college will be paying for out of grant funds and existing endowment funds. If we run out, we’ll be asking for more people to consider giving to our endowment funds,” said Desmarais. “It’s about partnerships; it’s about leveraging our assets along with other assets in the community.”
Desmarais wants to ensure that lack of transportation and/or funding is no longer an obstacle for those wishing to receive higher education or job training. To ensure funding, in particular, was no longer an obstacle, the college created a “VanGuarantee” program as a way to assist students with money not covered by financial aid.
“If someone wants to come to Vance-Granville, we are going to find a way for them to come whether it is through federal financial aid or scholarship money from our endowment,” Desmarais said. “The VanGuarantee is that we are going to get you here!”
To learn more about the VanGuarantee or Vance-Granville Community College’s programs, please visit the website by clicking here.
To hear Desmarais’ interview in its entirety, please click the play button below. Listen live to WIZS’ Town Talk Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on 1450AM, 100.1 FM or online at www.wizs.com.
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