Eric Jones, a 1997 graduate of Laurel Park High School, will fill the role of secretary for the executive New College Institute Board.
After graduating high school, Jones went to Virginia State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in information systems.
“There, I was afforded the opportunity to play basketball and golf and I kind of went on a tri-scholarship. I had an academic scholarship, golf, and basketball scholarship to Virginia State. And there’s where I kind of explored my love for technology,” Jones said.
Jones also holds a master’s degree in information systems and telecommunications from John Hopkins University and is a Doctoral candidate at Marymount University.
His role as secretary gives him many different responsibilities, but Jones believes that finding a new executive director should be his and the board’s number one priority.
“I’m making sure we are distributing information amongst the members and also keeping a record of the progress that we’re making and the decisions that we’re making amongst the team. So, that’s in an executive capacity, supporting Senator Stanley who’s the chairman and also the vice chairman Richard Hall,” Jones said. “Right now, I think our biggest charge as an executive committee, but also as a board, is really fulfilling our NCI director. Looking for that, making sure we’re doing the due diligence required by the state, and also what’s right for the Martinsville, Virginia area and finding the right person for that role.”
Even though his background is primarily in technology, Jones believes his affinity for bringing people together has helped prepare him for this role.
“Throughout my career, technology has been my focus, but really my talent is, I think, leading people. Bringing people together to solve problems. And I’ve done that across a myriad of government organizations. So, not, in a volunteer capacity, using my experience of bringing people together for a common cause, organizing ideas, and really pushing agendas forward for the benefit of Martinsville-Henry County and Southside Virginia, I think that’s where my background really comes to play with this role,” Jones said.
Jones has several goals for the board, the first of which is “recovery from the pandemic and getting a leader.”
“Getting an executive director hired and getting that person indoctrinated into the successes that New College Institute continues to have, but there has been a void,” he said. “We’ve had two interim directors, we’re coming off Karen Jackson, but I think the stability is at the top. Bringing somebody in to embrace that role, be the executive director, I think that’s priority one.”
He also wants to continue driving forward the institute’s non-traditional status. He wants to work with other higher learning institutes in the area to establish a model for education in Southside.
“New College Institute is a non-traditional institute for higher education. We don’t have to be competition, but I think really fortifying to the community who we are and what we bring. When we talk about our Global Wind Program, and the safety training we have with that, and things of that nature, I think that’s a big part of it. Really solidifying who we are in the community… and how we can work with Patrick and Henry, how we can work with the Danville Community College, how do we fit in that model?” he said.
Jones also believes that it is important to help reach out to those who could gain from the non-traditional learning environment and allow them to take advantage of the resources at NCI.
“Getting engagement and getting students going in, whoever that might be. That will be sometimes in a non-traditional sense. That might be a person who has their first and second degree already accomplished, but teaming with organizations or universities for doctoral programs and things like that. So, really taking advantage of the population who could take advantage of the non-traditional education,” he said.
In many ways, Jones believes the institute is doing many things well. The biggest of which is the Global Wind Program.
“Our Wind Program is state of the art with what we’re doing with the safety and the training that we have with that… I think that the investment has been made and now is the time to continue to market that and get people interested in that,” he said.
He also believes it’s a success that companies send their workforce members to the institute for workforce development and wants to continue being this resource.
“I think that with some of the opportunities that we have, with some of the changes and things that the governor is thinking about with workforce development, having an institute or location where companies can send employees to train and gain new skills,” he said.
However, despite championing themselves as a non-traditional institute, Jones believes it’s important to also give attention to the more traditional learning opportunities at NCI.
“I don’t want to lose the thread of being able to partner with institutions within the Commonwealth for traditional degrees. We still want to keep the momentum going with what we have with our traditional programs. The ability to receive some kind of bachelor’s or master’s degrees because that is an augmented opportunity for students in the area to get access to resources in a unique way,” he said.
Jones wanted to give special thanks and appreciation to the staff at NCI who have stepped up, especially in the face of a pandemic and the need for a permanent executive director.
“Christina Reed has done a remarkable job coming in and kind of providing stability for the organization while we are going through a pandemic, getting through that. She has been in constant communication with the state and Commonwealth to make sure that the things that needed to be done and all the updates to the board, I just wanted to commend the team there on the ground,” he said.