Vance-Granville’s new president defines goals for student-success as college turns 50

Thursday, February 21, 2019
Dr. Rachel Desmarais smiling against a black backdrop

Vance-Granville Community College’s new president, Dr. Rachel Desmarais, recently described details of her student-centered vision for the campus community, which will guide students toward realist goals like obtaining jobs where they can earn “livable” wages.

“We must care for our students,” Desmarais said. “We must be student-centered. We must be accessible.”

Desmarais earned a Ph.D. in Instructional Design and Technology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., where she first became interested in the connection between educational research and classroom results.

During her first week as president, Desmarais pledged her commitment to the continued application of principles of research into daily practices at Vance-Granville Community College.

“We know today more about how the brain works and about how learning truly occurs than we did 20 years ago and certainly 50 years ago,” Desmarais said. “Yet it strikes me that the practice of education has not changed a great deal.”

She said research should be used to enhance student “retention and better gains in learning. Learning itself doesn’t have to be hard. How can we effectively demonstrate, show, teach?”

Vance-Granville Community College’s Board of Trustees, in December 2018, appointed Dr. Desmarais as the seventh president in the College’s 50-year history. Prior to VGCC, Desmarais served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Forsyth Technical Community College. She was also a student at FTCC, as well as an adjunct professor, vice president of information services, and vice president of planning and information services.

When community colleges were first established by the state, their purpose was to make higher education and job training more accessible and affordable, Desmarais explained. While these qualities remain vital to their mission, community colleges must also focus on helping students establish and achieve goals that will lead to an improved quality of life for them, their families and communities.

Desmarais’ vision includes “a bird’s-eye” view for the college: accessible, inclusive, student-centered, quality, pathways that lead to careers with livable wages is the big picture.

“The center of everything we do is preparing students to earn livable wages,” she said. “In order to accomplish this goal, we must be community focused. We must be inclusive.”

As Desmarais continues implementing her vision and goals for VGCC’s students and campus community, she is also busy overseeing preparations to recognize the College’s 50th anniversary. Scheduled events for the celebration will include the official Presidential Inauguration, as well as a variety of events that will rotate among the College’s Granville, Vance, Franklin and Warren counties’ campuses. More information will be forthcoming in the near future.

“The celebration will be an opportunity to gain forward momentum for the next 50 years, while also renewing our commitment to our students, their families and communities,” she concluded.