Over at In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Kim Leeder wrote a wonderful post that takes on the issue of “snobbery” towards community colleges. Kim writes: “If you look down on community colleges, consciously or unconsciously, you may be surprised to learn that community colleges don’t look up at you. Faculty, staff, and students are proud of their colleges and their accomplishments.” Yes. Exactly this.
I remember when I left UMW to come to NOVA, I had people ask me why I would leave a well-respected university to go to a community college – there was a certain disbelief in their question, a hint at the snobbery Kim writes about in her post. Beyond the career opportunities I saw at NOVA, my internal response to why I was going to NOVA was because “that’s where the students are!” Community college enrollments were growing and, most importantly, offered the opportunity to work with a very diverse group of students.
I was especially drawn in to the student-focus of the community college environment – I wanted to be someplace where the student was everyone’s priority. Of course there are student-focused universities and many schools that offer opportunities for disadvantaged students, but those are the central missions of community colleges and part of what makes them such a rewarding place to work.
I didn’t come to NOVA as a stop-off to somewhere “better” or because I couldn’t hack it at a university, I accepted the offer at NOVA because I believe in the mission of the community college – I believe that every student, despite their performance in high school or their social or economic status, deserves a shot at higher education. Higher education has value and makes a significant positive impact in the lives of those who are able to participate, and there is little that is more rewarding than being a part of that impact.