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Godwin assesses PHCC role, plans
Sen. Tim Kaine and Patrick Henry Community College President Angeline Godwin talk at Thursday's groundbreaking for the Commonwealth Crossing Business Center. Godwin will be inaugurated as PHCC's third president on Friday. (Bulletin photo)
Sunday, April 20, 2014
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
As she prepares to be formally installed as its third president, Angeline Godwin is focused on figuring out how Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) can better serve students, as well as all of Southern Virginia.
Godwin arrived at PHCC in July 2012 in the midst of its 50th anniversary celebration. Since then, she has been trying to “turn over every rock,” she said, to discern what the college is doing right, what it should improve and how it can make positive impacts on the communities it serves.
The process has included talking with as many current and former students, as well as faculty and staff members and other people in the college’s service area of Martinsville and Henry, Patrick and Franklin counties, as possible.
It also has included examining PHCC’s partnerships with area organizations and how the college compares to other higher education institutions.
Godwin said her “biggest surprise” has been realizing how much PHCC is recognized as a leader among community colleges nationwide.
Much of the recognition, she said, has been through PHCC’s involvement in Achieving the Dream, a reform movement among community colleges aimed at helping students — particularly low-income and minority ones — achieve greater academic success.
Within the movement, PHCC is recognized as a leader college that helps mentor other colleges, officials have said.
That prominence aside, Godwin said she also has been surprised at “how little our community knows about the college” based on her conversations with people she has met at places such as stores and gas stations.
There is “a warmth and affection for the college” locally, Godwin said, but people do not realize everything it has to offer.
For instance, she said, she has heard “tons of requests” for programs and services that “more times than not” the college already provides.
Along that line, she cited a need for PHCC to strengthen its public relations and marketing efforts.
Godwin said she has a crucial role to play in those efforts, such as by being visible in the community and forming relationships with people she meets by listening to their comments “good or bad” and answering their questions.
All comments she has heard will be taken into account, she said, as PHCC develops a strategic plan that is scheduled to be completed by July 2015.
The college has prepared similar plans over the years. To her understanding, though, Godwin said planning processes were “more structured and defined” under auspices of committees and the Virginia Community College System.
Committees and the state system still have important roles in helping the college plan for the future. This time around, however, the planning process has been slowed to allow more time to get vital public input, Godwin said.
Preparing a strategic plan “takes time and patience,” she said.
Doing so, she said, involves “protecting (the college’s) points of excellence” from eroding, all the while “looking at where we can improve” both the good and the not-so-good — and not being afraid of what the latter may entail.
When it is finished, the strategic plan will have “a heavy focus on student engagement” in learning, Godwin said, especially for lower-income students.
There is “not much difference,” she observed, between the needs of lower- and middle-income students.
They all need support throughout their college experiences, according to Godwin, from people in their lives as well as the college.
PHCC must be ready to help them in any way possible, she said, from when they think about going to college to when they enroll and as they earn associate degrees and career certificates.
Upon completing their education at PHCC, about 50 percent of students go on to a four-year college or university and a like number enter the workforce, she said.
Godwin wants students to know they are her main concern. If they call her or send her an email, she always tries to respond, and if they want to have a conversation with her, she tries to make herself available to them, she said.
“The students are the fun part” of working at a college, not the paperwork and other bureaucracy, she emphasized.
Godwin also is striving for PHCC to be active in economic and community development efforts.
The college “more and more is serving as a facilitator or a convener” in those efforts, she said.
But “even if we just serve coffee” or take part in some other small way, it will not be a waste of time, she added.
Godwin’s inauguration will be at 2 p.m. Friday in Stone Hall. Former Gov. Gerald Baliles, a Patrick County native, will be the keynote speaker.
Such ceremonies usually are not held until at least a year after presidents start their jobs to give them time to become familiar with their colleges and the communities they serve, PHCC officials have said.
Originally from Mississippi, Godwin held various positions in higher education and economic development before coming to PHCC. She said she and her husband, Jim Hatten, a retired biology instructor, “made the right choice” when they decided she would take the local college president’s job.
She hopes the community feels the same way, she said.
“Everyone has been very gracious,” Godwin said, and the area “has a lot more (cultural and recreational) amenities than we realized” at first.
Noting that she and her husband enjoy arts, music and sporting events, she said that along those lines, “there is more to do than we have time to do.”