Over 20 years ago, Michelle Shonk walked up to the doors of Virginia Peninsula College searching for her pathway to a brighter future. She was driven by her passion for creating beauty and a genuine love for helping others. As a single mother of three small children, she knew her journey in higher education would certainly impact the trajectory of her own family, but she had no idea that her work would also help to transform the lives of others in the community.
Her latest project: Creating a new brand for the college.
Shonk, the College's media manager and graphic designer, has seen hundreds of students come to Virginia Peninsula with the same hopes and dreams she had years ago.
She's also seen those same students walk across the stage on graduation day with a diploma in hand and the amazing opportunity to achieve the success they define for themselves.
In 2001, she was a part-time employee who worked in the computer lab. While working, she earned her degree, an AAS in Applied Science in Computer Arts. She then applied for a full-time position with the College's marketing team shortly after completing her program.
"I'm so proud to work here. I've seen a number of people come through these doors. And the measure of success is different for everyone," says Shonk. "I'm a veteran. I was a single mom when I first came here. I received a scholarship and financial aid. I've seen students come through and get degrees and I've seen students transfer. I love the fact that we offer opportunities for everyone and anyone."
Shonk, who is also an alumna of Phoebus High School in Hampton, is the first in her family to earn a college degree and has proudly blazed a new pathway to success for her children and grandchildren.
The College officially changed its name from Thomas Nelson Community College to Virginia Peninsula Community College in 2021. This recent change opened up an opportunity to refresh the visual representations of the institution as well. Shonk willingly took on that challenge with enthusiasm. She worked closely with internal and external constituencies to create a brand that would represent that same pathway to success for other students that she experienced years ago.
"I took all of the ideas and information from our entire community and created a visual representation. The logo is circular, which represents our Peninsula, water, and land. The bridge is strong and supportive. It steps up and rises. It's your individual pathway to the sky," explains Shonk.
Over the last year, she created dozens of different designs and worked with the marketing team and leaders on new taglines and a new official seal. The College involved the entire community in the process by conducting public surveys and town halls to provide updates about the creation of the brand. After the data was collected and everyone had an opportunity to weigh in on the process, the College unveiled the new brand to the public in November 2022. Shonk hopes the community will see the new brand and get inspired to take their first step on the pathway to a better future. She wants to see every student succeed.
"It's important to me that this college is successful because it benefits our community. When our community thrives, we all thrive. We want everyone to be at work. We want everyone to be happy," says Shonk. "Virginia Peninsula Community College will help you get to where you want to go. Our mission is your success."