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Godwin recalls initial term at PHCC, looks to future
Patrick Henry Community College President Angeline Godwin (right) talks with college Payroll Specialist Dorothy Griffin. Godwin recently celebrated her first anniversary with the college. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)
Angeline Godwin is proud that Patrick Henry Community College has been recognized as a national leader in higher education.
As she enters her second year as its president, Godwin wants to ensure the college stays a leader as it and its students cope with economic constraints.
Many PHCC students have trouble paying for textbooks and other learning materials, let alone paying tuition, Godwin said.
She knows that, she said, because along with being the top administrator at the college, she also teaches some courses there, and students tell her about their struggles in getting an education.
Along with having a hard time affording college, many students also must work school around jobs and/or family commitments, according to Godwin.
To reduce college costs, PHCC has added scholarships, and students now can rent textbooks instead of buying them, Godwin said. It also is working with the Virginia Community College System to develop “open source” textbooks that students can use at little or no cost, she said.
Meanwhile, state funding for community colleges has been reduced. In the past five years, PHCC’s state funds have dropped from about 60 percent of its budget to less than 40 percent, and more cuts eventually are likely.
“Resources are going to continue to become more and more precious,” said Godwin. For that reason, administrators, faculty and staff “must work smarter and smarter” to maximize whatever resources are available.
PHCC is embarking on a strategic planning process. During the coming year, college officials will determine how PHCC can best meet future needs of students and the community. Students, businesses, industries and the community at large will be able to participate.
Yet students are the main reason why PHCC exists, and Godwin often reminds employees of that.
She wants students to earn the credentials they need to get good jobs that will pay them the salaries they need to support themselves and their families.
But it also is important that students get their credentials because, to her understanding, how much funding community colleges get in the future will somehow be tied into their students’ academic success.
PHCC has been recognized as a “leader college” in Achieving the Dream, an initiative by community colleges nationwide to improve access to college for low-income and minority students as well as their success at learning.
One strategy is changing how students learn in the classroom. No longer do PHCC instructors simply stand in front of a class and lecture. Now, they serve as facilitators, leading discussions and helping students help each other learn, according to Godwin.
PHCC faculty members have traveled the nation to teach faculty at other community colleges how to engage students, Godwin said.
As a new educational method, so-called “cooperative learning” is “not flashy, but it absolutely works,” she said. It takes some students longer than others to get used to, but for most, “once they experience it ... they don’t want to go back” to just being lectured.
Businesses and industries support cooperative learning because “it better prepares students for the real world of work,” Godwin said. For example, it helps them develop problem-solving and communication skills important to many types of modern jobs, she said.
The college also is placing more emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses that companies want employees to have, according to Godwin.
“Math and science are the great liberators,” she said. Having those skills “gives you more career paths.”
Ultimately, PHCC must “get the student by one hand and the employer by the other” to ensure students get skills they need to get good jobs, Godwin said, and that should help with local economic development efforts.
“We are not going to take it for granted anymore,” she added, that just because students get credentials in some type of work that they actually have the skills needed to do the work.
Godwin considers a major strength of PHCC to be agreements with most of Virginia’s four-year colleges and universities, plus the New College Institute (NCI) in Martinsville, which enable its students to have smooth transfers to those schools.
She noted that PHCC and NCI now have a full-time advisor who works with students planning to transfer from the college to the institute.
As part of agreements between them, PHCC also will be able to use medical and advanced manufacturing equipment that NCI will install as part of new curriculums being developed at the institute, she said.
NCI, which also gets state funding, provides access to higher-level courses needed to complete certain degree programs offered by various universities statewide. Students can take their first two years of college classes at PHCC and then transfer to the institute.
The universities notwithstanding, Godwin said PHCC is much like NCI’s “lead partner institution” because both institutions, to a large degree, are designed to help prepare students to work at local companies.
There is no competition between the two, she said.
“We do a good job of collaborating” and want to expand that cooperation, she emphasized.
PHCC celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. During those five decades, the college went about its mission of teaching students and trying to make them ready to do jobs available in the community without much pomp and circumstance, according to Godwin. She said “that’s to be respected.”
But the key to attracting students in the future will be finding ways to increase its visibility in the community, she indicated.
Many people know a lot about PHCC because they have gone to school there and for some, if it had not existed, they could not have gone to college at all, Godwin said, mentioning conversations she has had with area residents.
Still, she has realized that many people locally know little to nothing about the college because they have had no contact with it, she said.
Godwin, 53, is an Alabama native. She is a former president of a community college in Kentucky and has worked at other colleges and universities and in economic development.
She said her personal experiences at PHCC so far “have exceeded all my expectations,” and she hopes to lead the college until she retires.
That is many years away, she said.