NCI proceeds on leadership, programs

October 27, 2011

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The New College Institute (NCI) board on Wednesday appointed Associate Director Leanna Blevins as interim director effective Jan. 1, when Executive Director Barry Dorsey will retire.

The board also gave Blevins a new permanent promotion. Effective Nov. 1, she will be NCI’s chief academic officer as well as associate director.

Those appointments were made following a closed session called to discuss personnel matters.

Blevins has taken the lead role in negotiating with NCI’s soon-to-be three partner universities about degree programs they will offer at the institute beginning next fall. (See related story.)

She estimated she is spending at least half of her job time involved in the negotiations.

Her new academic duties are “a well-deserved promotion,” board Chairman Rob Spilman said.

Currently, Blevins gets an annual salary of about $75,000. Dorsey said he is working with state human resources officials to determine an appropriate pay raise for her.

Blevins “really does know NCI from the inside out” and will do a good job as chief academic officer and interim director, Dorsey said.

Blevins moved to Martinsville in 2004 to join what was then called the New College of Virginia as its vice president for students and community. She later became the associate director of the New College Institute.

"We would not preclude the possibility of her becoming executive director” on a permanent basis, Spilman said. First, though, the committee must determine if she would be interested in the position, he said.

Blevins said that right now, her main concern is helping the three universities establish the best degree programs possible at NCI. She said she will have to think about whether she wants to pursue the executive director’s job.

Funded by the state and The Harvest Foundation, NCI offers local access to upper-level courses needed to earn certain degrees from various universities statewide. Dorsey has been its executive director since it opened in 2006.

Spilman said he will head a committee that will recruit Dorsey’s permanent successor. Spilman said he envisions six to eight people, including board members and community representatives, being chosen to serve on the committee.

Because the institute serves the community, the community should have a role in choosing Dorsey’s successor, Spilman said.

However, the fewer people who are on the committee, the more efficiently it can operate, he speculated.

Spilman said he hopes the committee can recruit and evaluate candidates and name Dorsey’s successor within six months.

But “this is such a crucial decision,” so “we want to take our time” and find the right person, he emphasized.

Plans are to seek advice from the partner institutions during the recruiting process, he said.

Spilman called Dorsey “our fearless leader and able academian.”

Before coming to NCI, Dorsey was president of a combination university and community college in Ohio. He previously worked for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

NCI officials have said that during its first five years, the institute has been more successful than they ever imagined. It so far has educated more than 400 students, including 244 who have earned degrees. Spilman attributed most of that success to Dorsey’s work.

“You’re synonymous with” NCI, he told Dorsey. “We can’t imagine going on without you. You certainly got the results.”

Whoever replaces Dorsey “has big shoes to fill,” he added.

Dorsey attributed NCI’s success so far to “great teamwork” by employees and to community support.

Wednesday’s board meeting was expected to be Dorsey’s last as executive director. The next meeting is set for Jan. 3 — two days after he will retire.

The board presented him a resolution, approved unanimously, in his honor.

Dorsey said that since he was hired six years ago, “I’ve written a lot of resolutions, but I didn’t write this one. It’s a total surprise.”


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