The search soon will begin for the fourth executive director for New College Institute.
Leanna Blevins, who has held that post since December 2016 and has been employed with NCI since its inception in 2004, will begin working for Virginia Tech on July 1.
Her last day at NCI will be June 30, she said.
Her new role will be assistant vice president for Health, Science and Technology Education of the Virginia Tech-Carilion campus and partnership that includes the Virginia Tech-Carilion School of Medicine and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, based in Roanoke, she said.
Her role would involve “overseeing the academic programs on the Roanoke campus and integrating undergraduate students to that campus within a year,” she said.
Currently, only medical, master’s level and doctoral students are on that campus.
“One of the things that attracted me to this opportunity is that at NCI I’ve gotten to design and build these programs and partnerships, so that’s part of what I’ll be doing there for Virginia Tech, too,” Blevins said. “I really like that part of what I’ve been doing and really excited about the opportunity to do that there.”
Leaving NCI would involve “a lot of tears, and is emotional,” she said.
On the technical side of things, “I’m trying to make sure I’m handing off partnerships in our programs internally to people who will keep the momentum,” she said. “We have partnerships throughout the commonwealth,” and she said she wants to make sure NCI’s partnering institutions “know who they’ll be working with moving forward, make sure current and future contracts are on track, make sure locally we’re still listening to people and meeting our students’ needs to help them complete their educational goals.”
Blevins started at NCI before it even went by that name, in the summer of 2004 as a vice president for students and community development.
“It started as the New College of Virginia, because there was no agency,” Blevins said. “It was an idea, and we called that idea New College of Virginia. On July 1, 2006, it became NCI.”
She has done everything at NCI, she said, “and for a while I was the sole staff person, about 2005.”
Then Barry Dorsey, a former college president who also had worked for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, was hired as the first executive director in January 2006, followed by William Wampler, who represented the Bristol area in the state Senate from 1988-2011.
Sammy Redd, who left his position as NCI's Student Services Coordinator on May 1, said Blevins was NCI's first employee, and he was its fifth. Their leaving makes for “an interesting generational shift there,” he said.
“I’m excited for Leanna. It’s a great opporunity. I think she and I both are excited about the future and the new direction,” Redd said.
“It’s hard for people to understand now, but when Leanna and I and some of the other people started, there was nothing there. When I arrived, I had a cubicle and no phone service, so to look what it is now, 12, 13 years later, it’s just awe-inspiring. People want things to happen quickly. What we’ve been able to accomplish in a very short amount of time is something to be proud of.”
Blevins said she and her family have not decided whether they would move to Roanoke or stay in Martinsville, adding that they are comparing both options.
“I have really loved being a part of this community,” Blevins said. “And I do feel so privileged to have been part of NCI. It’s really difficult to walk away from something that you helped build, but this new opportunity will enable me to build something new and different there, and I feel like it’s the right time and the right fit for me.”
Richard Hall, who serves on NCI’s board of directors, said the process of looking for NCI’s next executive director would begin at NCI’s next regularly scheduled board meeting, on June 27.
“No search has been started yet,” he said. “There’s a whole process that we have to go through for the full-time director position,” which he expects to take “six months, easily.”
When asked about what the board would look for in terms of qualities and qualifications of suitable candidates, he replied, “looking for leadership most of all,” but that a search committee as yet to be formed will create a list of qualifications.