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PHCC plans for the future

Friday, June 28, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Now that Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) has finished celebrating its first 50 years, attention is turning to planning for its next half century.

The initial focus will be the next five years. During a retreat Thursday at Chatmoss Country Club, PHCC administrators and board members began the strategic planning process by analyzing the college’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as well as potential obstacles to success — what officials loosely referred to as “threats.”

A major strength, officials said, is that faculty and staff members dedicate themselves to helping students succeed at learning and, ultimately, obtain the knowledge and skills they need to get jobs.

Nothing is more important than students, they said.

PHCC President Angeline Godwin acknowledged that sometimes, faculty members may not put all the effort they can toward that end. They sometimes may get preoccupied with other aspects of their jobs, she said.

However, she reiterated a point she made during a recent college board meeting.

As a PHCC employee, Godwin said, “if student success is not your focus, if it is not what you eat, sleep and breathe, Patrick Henry Community College will not be the most comfortable place for you to work.”

She later said that does not necessarily mean that employees who do not live up to that standard automatically will lose their jobs, but that standard will play a role in hiring processes and performance evaluations.

“Everybody loses their spirit from time to time,” Godwin said. Employees in that situation must remotivate and recommit themselves to the cause, and the college must find ways to support and encourage them, she said.

From what he has seen, board member Gary Collins of Henry County said faculty members generally show “a lot of care and love” for students.

But “we always have room for improvement,” Godwin said.

Other strengths of the college, officials said, include being able to quickly adapt to workforce training needs of local employers and being recognized nationally as a leader in the Achieve the Dream academic reform effort.

The biggest weakness that PHCC must deal with, officials indicated, may be one that it did not create but is involved in efforts to help reverse — local economic problems and resulting negative perceptions of the community.

According to Godwin, the college and the community must focus on making things better in the future and not get preoccupied with the past.

Look ahead through the big windshield, not behind through the small rear-view mirror, and do not try to make the windshield small and the mirror big, she analogized.

The community is not as bad off as some people think, she indicated.

Godwin, who previously lived in Mississippi, is observing her first anniversary as PHCC’s president. Based on her past experience in economic development, she said she would not have moved here if she did not see opportunity here.

“There are (economically struggling) communities in this country that would die to have what we have now,” including resources and people cooperating to improve the community and hospitality among those people, she said.

Jack Hanbury, PHCC’s new vice president for finance and administration, said before he recently moved here, he noticed media reports about new economic opportunities locally. He did not elaborate on those opportunities.

But “I was really impressed with what I saw,” and that spurred him to take the PHCC job and move here, Hanbury said.

An opportunity that officials identified is the need to promote PHCC more to make people aware of what the college has to offer prospective students.

“In the past, we kind of waited for students to come to us,” said Steve Branch, dean of science, technology, engineering and math.

“Now, were going to go to them more,” Branch said, such as by promoting satellite campuses in Patrick and Franklin counties.

Godwin mentioned that PHCC plans to resume mailing printed schedules of courses being offered each semester to area households.

Placing such information online is important, she said, but “when someone gets it in their mailbox,” looks it over and then passes it along to family members, “it becomes part of the conversation” at home.

Unfunded mandates and competition for resources of the federal and state governments are among potential threats to PHCC’s well-being, officials said.

Yet for now, the college is better off than some of its peer institutions elsewhere.

Five years ago, 60 percent of PHCC’s funding came from the state. That has since dropped to 39 percent, and it is likely to keep dropping, officials said.

Compare that to South Carolina, though, where “technical colleges” get only about 10 percent of their funds from the state, according to Greg Hodges, PHCC’s dean of developmental education and transitional programs.

PHCC officials will take into account their discussions on Thursday as they get further into the strategic planning process in the coming months.

The plan is expected to take about a year to complete.

But “we’re going to take our time,” Godwin said. “This is too important to hurry.”

The process will include forums in which students, businesses and industries and the community at large can participate, officials said.


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