NCI to begin search for its third director

March 8, 2015

The New College Institute (NCI) is starting the search for its third executive director. 

William Wampler, a former state senator who has led the state- and Harvest Foundation-funded institute in Martinsville since January 2012, plans to leave his position effective July 15, when his contract expires. At that point, he will retire as a state employee.

NCI’s board voted unanimously Friday to have Chairwoman Gracie Agnew appoint a search committee, including board members and representatives of Harvest and the community, to recruit Wampler’s successor.

Input will be sought from Weldon Hill, an NCI board member who is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Virginia State University, and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, which provides the General Assembly public policy recommendations on higher education issues.

An executive director’s job description will be prepared immediately. With the board’s permission, Agnew will approve the description after it is sent electronically to other board members and they are able to examine it.

The search committee should present the board with at least three applicants to consider by this summer, said board member Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville.

Leanna Blevins, who as associate director/chief academic officer is NCI’s second-in-command, said after the meeting that she has not yet decided whether she will apply for Wampler’s job.

Blevins has worked for the institute for more than a decade, since its initial days as the New College of Virginia, a group focused on establishing a state-funded, bachelor’s degree-granting college in the Martinsville area.

Wampler has said that after he leaves his position, he will remain with the New College Foundation — NCI’s private fundraising arm — as a consultant through 2017 and help the institute in any way he can in the future.

Before coming to NCI, Wampler represented the Bristol area in the state Senate from 1988 to 2011, when he decided not to seek re-election to a seventh term. He was the Senate’s senior Republican member at that time.

Wampler succeeded Barry Dorsey, who had headed NCI since it opened in 2006.

Also Friday, the board adopted a revised college tuition reimbursement plan for NCI employees.

Under the revised plan, tuition and fee reimbursement will be considered for academic programs and certifications that would help employees do their jobs, based on a determination by their supervisors or the executive director.

Reimbursement for master’s and bachelor’s degree courses now is possible, with an annual maximum of $5,000, up from $2,000.

Master’s degree courses usually cost more, Blevins noted.

The limit is $1,000 for continuing education and certification courses.

Tuition assistance will be available to employees with at least six months of service, down from 12 months, as funds are available to help employees.

Small amounts have been budgeted annually toward such aid, according to NCI Finance Director Christina Reed. She did not specify those amounts.

So far, “nobody has ever taken advantage of” the program, Blevins said.

An employee who aims to pursue a master’s degree recently voiced interest in receiving tuition assistance, she said.

Employees receiving reimbursements will have to continue working for NCI for at least three years or they will have to repay the funds, the revised policy shows.

Recipients do not have to take courses at NCI. Blevins said they may need degrees or courses that the institute’s partner universities do not offer. 


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