The recent retirement of two senior administrators at Eastern WV Community and Technical College has led to an organizational realignment and promotions of staff and faculty to leadership positions. The new appointments include:
· Debra Backus, Dean of Teaching and Learning
· Monica Wilson, Dean of Student Access and Success
· Briana LaVorgna, Dean of Community Engagement and Partnerships
· Curtis Hakala, Division Chair of General Studies
· Sherry Watts, Associate Dean of Workforce Education
Backus, a member of the WV Academic Administrators Association (WVAAA), has served Eastern in several academic and faculty positions since joining the college in 2002. Her new responsibilities as Dean include overseeing all academic programs, and “implementing systems to support teaching and learning,” she said, “and the development of students as leaders in their personal lives.” In meeting the challenges of the new job, she feels “supported by a strong administrative and a dedicated academic team,” she said.
“Serving as the coordinator and liaison for Eastern’s accreditation review by HLC (Higher Learning Commission) will be a priority for the next two years,” she noted, as the college again undertakes a comprehensive self-study project. The project will prepare the college for an HLC Review Team visit scheduled for April 2018.
“The self-study ensures that as the community college, we are doing what we say and saying what we do,” Backus said. “And it helps us to identify our strengths and challenges going forward as we continue to grow.”
As Eastern grows, its staff also develops professionally. Monica Wilson started at Eastern as an administrative assistant with the Academics department soon after the college first opened its doors in 1999. Since then, she has taken on a series of increasingly challenging responsibilities, including Associate Director of Admissions for the last eight years, a role she will continue to fulfill. As Dean, she will now provide overall guidance and supervision for the Learner Support Services department as well.
“I like to be behind the scenes, to make sure things are going smoothly and that everybody has what they need,” Wilson emphasized. “I like being in the trenches.”
Focused on her key goals of continuing to increase student success and completion, and to expand student enrollment and retention, she is “working with everybody at the college — students, staff and faculty — to strengthen our support for all of our students and enhance their experience at Eastern.”
Wilson belongs to both the WV and the Southern Associations of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (ACRAO).
Briana LaVorgna first joined Eastern in June 2014, to lead the college’s transformational process under WV’s “Bridging the Gap” (BTG) grant from the US Department of Labor. As she continues with that effort, she will additionally take on the overall supervision of Eastern’s Workforce Education and Public Relations departments. Her portfolio includes shepherding the college’s outreach to and relationships with the communities, schools, industries and employers within Eastern’s six-county Potomac Highlands service district.
“My new role provides the flexibility to strengthen existing community ties and create new ones,” she said, “to ensure that Eastern is meeting regional needs to compete in a global economy.”
Lavorgna’s new responsibilities merge well with those for the BTG grant, she noted, which aims to enhance West Virginians’ opportunities to complete technical learning programs that lead to high-wage, high-skill jobs. As Dean, she will intensify her focus on engagement with “our regional industry partners, to expand both the depth and breadth of these relationships.” In both roles, she collaborates with industry and employers to identify regional technical training needs and “align our IT, Energy and Electromechanical programs to” meet them, she noted.
As Eastern’s new Division Chair of General Studies, Curtis Hakala organizes the general education course schedules and recruits adjunct faculty to teach the classes. He also spends “a lot of time advising students” and identifying “what they want to do with their degree once they graduate.” That process involves exploring students’ career goals, selecting the best certificate or degree program at Eastern to fit those goals, and determining whether they might wish further schooling after graduation for a Bachelor degree as well.
Then, he emphasized, he “makes sure they take all the classes they need to graduate on time for the program they’ve chosen.”
Hakala, who has taught English at Eastern for eight years, also prepares ongoing reviews of technical and general education programs to ensure that they all continue to meet the standards of both the college and the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia (WVCTCS). “And I’m very thankful for Deb Backus’ support and guidance as I wrap my hands around this new assignment,” he said.
In the future, he hopes to organize a technical writing program at the college that would allow students to take the first two years’ equivalent of courses at Eastern, and then complete the final two years online through a partnering institution.
“Freelance technical writing pays well, and a lot of the work can be done at home,” Hakala noted. “So people who complete this program wouldn’t necessarily have to move away from the area to hold down a good job.”
Sherry Watts, as Associate Dean of Workforce Education, will continue to focus on designing, delivering and fine-tuning training programs “that promote personal and career growth opportunities,” she said, “and offer the businesses and industries in our area a competitive edge in the marketplace.”
For nearly ten years, Watts has played a leading role in Eastern’s Workforce Education department, working with the community’s employers to provide effective training programs for their employees through efficient delivery formats. Her responsibilities include general administrative supervision of Eastern’s Continuing Education programs, which offer classes for skill credit, academic credit and/or continuing education units (CEUs).
Watts also oversees the college’s popular Community Education series of non-credit workshops in arts, crafts, and personal growth and leisure pursuits.
For more information about Eastern’s financial aid opportunities, programs of study, workforce training and community education and events, call 304-434-8000, or toll-free: 877-982-2322; or check the College’s website: “www.easternwv.edu”.
Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College is a comprehensive and equal opportunity community and technical college that makes educational resources accessible to the families, communities, and employers of Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, Pendleton and Tucker counties. Eastern is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.