As firsts go for Marion Clifton, her new position is a big deal. She is Virginia Peninsula Community College’s first presidential fellow for the Southeast Higher Education Center, housed at An Achievable Dream Middle and High School in Newport News.
“Being named a presidential fellow is like a capstone in my career,” said Clifton, adding she was ecstatic when selected last year.
“This means that the president trusts the team to ensure that the vision is successful,” she added. “That means I am going to give not just 100% but 150% to ensure that this work is successful and impactful.”
Clifton’s association with Virginia Peninsula dates to the early 2000s with her service in various roles through the years — SDV instructor, temporary academic advisor (part-time), volunteer, and adjunct professor in the Human Services department. She also participates in committees and special groups such as Governance, Social Justice, and Societal Change, and the Naming Task Force.
She assumed her new role at the Southeast Center Dec. 12.
The College established Southeast Center in 2007 to give area residents seeking VPCC classes the opportunity to complete 50% or more of specifically identified programs. Pre-pandemic, the center saw between 300 and 400 students a week. Enrollment decreased in recent years, causing College officials to commit to revitalization.
“I believe revitalization of Southeast Center could not have come at a better time,” said Clifton. “It aligns with our strategic plan, Thrive 2027, with the new branding and, with our new president’s vision.”
Clifton, teamed with Interim Dean for Community Partnerships Keisha Samuels, is most excited about the community focus of her role.
“We’re not coming and saying, ‘This is what we think you need.’ Virginia Peninsula Community College is a part of the community, and we are going to help from the inside out, not from the outside in,” she said, noting the concentration is not only on course offerings but resources and “opportunities for the community.”
She plans to be about town connecting with community stakeholders, high school students, young adults and others. While all are equally important, young adults particularly interest Clifton.
She wants their take on questions such as: What are their needs? How has it changed now that we are re-engaging in society since the pandemic? What is their perspective on their future? How does that impact college enrollment, recruitment and retention?
Clifton, the faculty senate’s first vice president and 2022 recipient of VCCS’ George B. Vaughan Leadership Award for Outstanding Adjunct Faculty, is eager to engage faculty members, too. The Southeast Center’s location in a community school is ideal for that goal, she noted, given that there is access to classrooms, an auditorium, a board room and a library.
“I’m looking for ways to invite faculty, so they can see the limitless opportunities that are here for them,” she said.
A founding board member of the Menchville House and COO of a community-based non-profit organization, Clifton is a workforce development professional. She has federal career counselor certification, federal job search trainer certification, and recently earned Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace certification from the University of South Florida. Organizational and fund development, including proposal writing, are also part of her professional background.
She has a bachelor’s in sociology/criminal justice from Old Dominion University and a master’s in counseling from Hampton University. She also completed the Harvard University School of Divinity Leadership Institute and doctoral studies at Trevecca Nazarene University.
Clifton and her husband, the parents of two daughters, live in Hampton.