TNCC’s role is clear, its future strong


Published: December 8, 2008

The Daily Press

On Oct. 1, I began an interim presidency at Thomas Nelson Community College. The opportunity to lead and restore a sense of normalcy and confidence to TNCC is a challenge I enthusiastically embrace.

I am no theologian, but I know that “without a vision the people perish.” In our parlance, the mariner would say, “No wind blows in the direction of a ship that has no port of call.” Students, faculty, staff, alumni and stakeholders believe in the mission of Thomas Nelson Community College. We are committed to building a stronger and more vibrant TNCC, and we are confident the future augurs well.

TNCC is an excellent institution that has a wonderful story to tell. It is, like many two-year colleges across the nation, far more important to American higher education than is generally appreciated.

As a long-time observer of the nation’s community colleges and the American automobile industry, I have witnessed the impact of foreign manufacturers in the South. Consider that Mercedes-Benz has a huge presence in Alabama. Consider also that Nissan plays a major role in Tennessee. A drive along Interstate 85 takes you past the massive BMW plant in South Carolina. In each instance, these companies are successful because they work closely with community colleges to prepare students for higher education and the work force. In turn, graduates get jobs that produce goods and services, contribute to the economy and enhance the quality of life for all.

TNCC plays a similar role here and contributes substantially to regional and state economic development.

Community colleges are the unsung heroes of American higher education. We have an obligation to do a better job of describing and explaining the myriad ways we are assets to the communities we serve. Community colleges are committed to access and affordability. We recognize the need to expand opportunities for applied learning and to establish pathways linking high school, college and work so students can explore career options earlier. Thomas Nelson does this as well as any institution – and we are committed to doing more to demonstrate that we add value in countless ways.

This fall, TNCC enrolled nearly 11,000 students, its highest ever in a single semester. We continue to increase the uses of technology for instruction and management in order to enhance efficiency. We are collaborating with the Hampton public schools and Old Dominion University to heighten the number of teachers to meet the needs of Hampton Roads.

Thanks in large measure to a U. S. Department of Labor grant, our work force development activities have enabled us to place 3,700 people in jobs since 2005. We serve 30,000 citizens each year through our work force development office, which has been recognized by the Labor Department and the National Association of Workforce Boards and University Business magazine as among the best in the nation.

Next spring, we plan to open our new Historic Triangle Campus in Williamsburg/James City County, where we expect to serve close to 3,000 students. We look forward to being a part of the exciting new developments there and in Hampton Roads generally, thereby underscoring further our worth to this region. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners and stakeholders in fulfilling our mission as we endeavor to improve the quality of life for everyone. Hampton Roads is an evolving success story, and Thomas Nelson Community College plays a key role in making this possible. Our destiny is tied to this region and the communities we serve, and we are excited about capacity-building for the future to better meet the needs of higher education and the public, private and third sectors of society.

- Dr. Alvin J. Schexnider

Schexnider is interim president of Thomas Nelson Community College.



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