On December 2nd, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) held a joint board meeting with the Southern Virginia Higher Education Foundation (SVHEF). The meeting was held virtually via Zoom and livestreamed on the SVHEC’s Facebook page.

Screenshot taken during the December 2, 2020 joint SVHEC, SVHEF Board Meeting.
The meeting was held via Zoom and livestreamed to the SVHEC’s Facebook page.

Virginia Deputy Secretary of Education Fran Bradford provided remarks thanking the board for their hard work and dedication to the SVHEC and the Commonwealth. “You all give an incredible amount of time. I know it’s supposed to be a volunteer board, but I also know how much time you all give to this effort and you are amazing representatives of higher education, government, and the private sector.”

Deputy Secretary Bradford also extended thanks to the SVHEC staff stating, “I know this has been a really difficult time for many, both personally and professionally, I really want you to know how much we value your work and commitment here in Richmond. We really are grateful for all the time and effort you’ve put in these really difficult months.”

Bradford ended her remarks by praising the Commonwealth’s system of higher education centers. “I’m a huge believer in Virginia’s higher education centers. They are creative, engaged in our communities, working to bring business nearby, train the workers needed, and they’re nimble. We need that nimbleness now more than ever.”

SVHEC Board Chairman Dennis Witt and SVHEF Chairman Ryan Garrett each provided remarks speaking to the collaboration and mutual support that exists between the two entities. “Ours is a unique relationship in the effort to provide post-secondary educational opportunities to the citizens of Halifax County and surrounding areas. Normally an institution would precede a supporting foundation, but in our case the Foundation spawned the Higher Education Center which has grown and flourished into a beacon of opportunity on a hill in South Boston, VA,” Witt stated.

SVHEF Chairman Ryan Garrett shared, “We’ve spent the last year and a half at least upping our game with fundraising, and despite the pandemic we continue to not only grow closer to the Center, and stay committed to our ideals of fundraising, but to step up to some great challenges together. I’m really proud of that.”

Following those remarks, Dr. Betty Adams presented an executive director’s report to the boards. While the SVHEC continues to deal with the on-going COVID-19 crisis, she stated, “the good news is that we are operationally and financially stable.”

SVHEC has utilized several strategies to mitigate the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus including, remaining closed to the general public, installing iWAVE air purifiers in HVAC systems, maintaining enhanced cleaning and sanitation schedules, and holding weekly COVID-19 task force meetings to review the data and make adjustments as needed. “Overall we’re in good shape. We’re stable and hopeful the vaccine will begin to bring us back to normal over the next 10 months,” Dr. Adams stated.  

Dr. Adams also provided board members with an update on the SVHEC’s relaunch of the R&D Center as ProductWorks, and showed a video highlighting ProductWorks as the Commonwealth’s only single-source location for product design and development services.

Southern VA Higher Education Foundation executive director Katrina Powell provided an update on the Foundation’s activities which have focused on fundraising to support student scholarships and programs at the SVHEC. Powell stated that the Foundation’s renewed efforts resulted in a 54% increase in the number of first time or lapsed donors. “In addition, 19% of donors who were giving increased their donation this year,” she said.

SVHEC Chief Finance & Operations Officer Brenda Terry delivered an overview of the agency’s balance sheet, and reviewed budget reduction strategies that were implemented in anticipation of reduced funding. “Even though there will not be a budget reduction for Fiscal Year 20-21, we are still monitoring our spending and trying to identify ways to reduce costs.” Budget reduction strategies include evaluating the need to staff vacant positions, restructuring departments to combine positions where possible, and evaluating contractual services to discontinue costly contracts where possible.  

Following committee reports, SVHEC Board Chairman Dennis Witt re-activated the board’s nominating committee and tasked them with nominating two at-large members to sit on the Board’s Executive Committee. With no further business Chairman Witt adjourned the meeting.