New State Board Chair Brings Global Perspective and Consensus Building Instincts to Virginia’s Community Colleges

Published: July 21, 2008

Robert W. Shinn had more stamps on his passport before he could walk than some people get in a lifetime. “My father was a diplomat. I grew up all over the world,” he says.

Born in London, Shinn went on to live in Russia, Germany, Poland and France. He says having a global perspective has served him well. So has some advice from his father, an arms control negotiator who worked for Henry Kissinger on the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) in the 1970s.

“He always told me, ‘Make sure you always understand other people’s points of view. See where they are coming from,’” said Shinn.

Shinn will be using both his perspective and his talent as a consensus builder during the coming year as chair of the State Board for Community Colleges. Shinn served last year as the board’s vice chair. At the Board’s May meeting he was elected unanimously. He will preside over his first meeting on Thursday, July 17.

Shinn says the dual mission of Virginia’s Community Colleges – providing both affordable access to a college education as well as customizable workforce training – makes the colleges essential in the communities they serve and he wants to focus his term as chair on improvements in both areas.

“Community colleges are adaptive to our changing world. Because our workforce and education needs are changing so rapidly, the community colleges are well positioned to meet the workforce needs of the 21st century,” Shinn said. “At the same time, the access our colleges provide to an affordable high-quality education can make the difference between a family whose child finds opportunity and one that is left behind.”

Shinn’s term as chair will serve as a transition for Virginia’s Community Colleges as they conclude their six-year strategic plan, called Dateline 2009, while preparing for the next strategic plan. Shinn says that process ensures that the colleges are listening to – and accountable to – the families, businesses and communities they serve.

“Even though we’re one of the top community college systems in the country, we are pushing ourselves to get better. This strategic planning process is a big part of that,” said Shinn.

“I’ve had the honor to work with Rob Shinn for a number of years,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Like the men and women who have served as chair before him, Robb is personally committed to what our colleges do. He is adept at strategic planning. And throughout his career, Robb has earned respect from leaders in communities across Virginia.”

Shinn earned his undergraduate degree at Ohio Wesleyan University, where he played on the school’s varsity baseball team and was elected president of his graduating class.
His love for baseball drove him to amass more than 40,000 baseball cards while growing up. He once tried out for the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds.

He earned a law degree from the University of Richmond, while working with CSX. His 14-year career with the company culminated in his position as vice president and executive assistant to Chairman John Snow, who went on to become the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

Shinn currently works as a partner of Capital Results, a public affairs and business consulting company in Richmond. He is concluding a two-year chairmanship of the Powell Center for Economic Literacy and is a member of the board of trustees for the Collegiate School in Richmond.

Shinn and his family live in the Greater Richmond area.

Also taking on a new role on the board is Gary C. Hancock, of Pulaski. He is becoming the board’s vice chair, the title previously held by Shinn.

About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Created more than 40 years ago, the VCCS is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than a quarter-million credit students each year. For more information, please visit

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