A community college president has a challenging job dealing with needs of both the college and the localities it serves, according to Angeline Godwin.
Their decisions can make them popular in the community but ineffective on campus, said Godwin, the new president of Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC).
That is why on Friday, she told a team of advisers that she welcomes their efforts to help her get familiar with PHCC and the localities it is charged by the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) with serving — Martinsville, Henry County, Patrick County and southern Franklin County.
Godwin started her job in early July. She succeeded Max Wingett, who retired after more than 30 years as PHCC’s president.
The VCCS recommended that PHCC set up a “presidential transition team” because after Wingett’s long tenure, there are bound to be differences in his and Godwin’s leadership styles to which people must get accustomed, said Ron Epperly, the vice president of financial and administrative services at PHCC.
The team has at least 20 members, including college board members, students and employees and area officials and business leaders. Its purpose, according to Epperly, is to give Godwin help and advice in adjusting to the college and communities — not to tell her how to run the college.
However, Godwin said she wants the team to give her “a laser focus” on what she should concentrate her time and attention on.
As a newcomer assuming a leadership role in the community, “you’re always fearful you’re going to drop the ball on something,” she said, adding that the team’s advice will help her not second guess her decisions.
No major college issues were discussed during Friday’s team meeting.
The team considered whether PHCC should hold an event at which the public could meet Godwin. In recognition of its 50th anniversary, though, the college is holding a “Big Birthday Bash” on Sept. 15, and team members decided that should be ample opportunity for the public to meet her.
Kris Landrum, PHCC’s public relations director, said that since assuming the presidency, Godwin has “been a very busy woman,” talking with many people in the community, such as by speaking to civic groups.
Godwin thanked team members for introducing her to, and connecting her with, people in the community that she otherwise might not get to know so soon.
She told the team that in talking with the public, she has heard both praise and criticism of the college, but she did not elaborate.
Asked after the meeting to cite examples of each, Godwin said an example of praise she has heard is that many local business and community leaders were educated at PHCC and “they are glad they chose” the college.
That reflects well upon the college, she indicated.
An example of criticism, she said, is that some people think PHCC needs a bigger presence in the community’s population centers. She said she will try to think of ways to do that.
She understands why people have that concern.
“It’s very easy for a college to get isolated” within a community, Godwin said.
But PHCC’s main campus — off College Drive, which is off Kings Mountain Road between Martinsville and Collinsville — basically is “a destination spot,” she said. “It’s not on the beaten path. Everything comes to us.”
Godwin said she would like to talk to anyone with concerns about how the college operates.
Landrum, who is on the transition team, suggested that the college try and get school systems to have Godwin as a commencement speaker next year.
“I think she would be awesome,” and her remarks could inspire high school students to want to pursue higher education at PHCC, Landrum said.
The team plans to have one more full-group meeting Oct. 19. Much of the advice and help its members give Godwin will be one-on-one.
PHCC’s team is the first presidential transition team in VCCS history. If its work proves beneficial, the concept may be replicated at other community colleges when they hire new presidents in the future, Epperly said.
“We’re the guinea pigs,” he noted.