Among the bright-eyed, fresh new faces you may see be-bopping across campus when classes start back up at River Valley Community College on August 27, you might notice that of Alfred Williams, IV. He’s not there to take classes, though; he’s the unanimously approved new President of RVCC.
Mr. Williams came to the Upper Valley from Danielson, CT, where he worked for 15 years at Quinebaug Valley Community College, most recently serving as Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services. While Connecticut is considered to be a rather urban state, Danielson is located in one of its most rural areas. There is a special place in his heart for higher education in small towns, so the opportunity at River Valley Community College seemed like the perfect fit for him – a school with a mission to bring education to students who may previously not have considered college to be an option, in a beautiful area that seems perfectly suited to raising his two young daughters with his wife without their having to leave their beloved New England.
It seemed a particularly wise move to come to New Hampshire, where the seven community colleges, while generally tailored to suit the unique areas they serve, collaborate with each other and share resources such as IT, enrollment, and recruitment strategies. Then there is the “65 X 25” initiative, which aims to make sure that 65% of New Hampshire’s working-age adults have some sort of higher education credential by the year 2025. Several education and employment institutions are working together to make sure that the state is ready to foster robust economic development through the retention and education of its residential work force. Currently, only about 40% of New Hampshire high school graduates going on to four-year colleges choose in-state schools (Community College Daily). Community colleges are poised to help improve this number by offering an affordable start close to home where students can get credits that are guaranteed to transfer to New Hampshire’s network of 4-year state colleges.
In the days since his arrival on July first, Mr. Williams has been extremely impressed by the faculty’s commitment to the RVCC students. He has ideas for change and new initiatives, which can sometimes be scary for long-timers at an institution to accept. But not here. At RVCC, the staff believes that if new ideas lead to a better student experience, then they are worth trying. One such idea is that of “guided pathways” – the belief that the changing student profile requires higher education to rearrange schedules and program tracks to allow people to attend classes while also holding full-time jobs, caring for families, and doing internships. He also hopes to increase student activities and “get kids in front of someone,” because the more engaged they are with other people on campus, the more likely they are to succeed. And a successful, engaged student population is always his goal.
As for Alfred’s family and their Upper Valley experience so far, it has been fun, but busy. They arrived just a couple of weeks ago and have been actively exploring. When asked about highlights, he said that anything involving ice cream is his six-year-old’s favorite. Feel free to comment below on activities and attractions that you think he and his family should experience as they enter into their first Autumn in the Upper Valley!