Friday, June 21, 2013

Bruce Scism: A Look Back and a Look Forward

Bruce Scism was wondering if he had made a mistake as he began his move to Gallatin. He was leaving Lee College in Texas, a job that he loved. He did so because of the opportunity here at Vol State and what the college had to offer. He also did so for personal reasons. His wife Beth was having health problems due to air pollution in the Houston area. Now he says he will have similar feelings leaving here in July, as he travels to take on a new role as president of Danville Community College in Virginia.

“This has been the most enjoyable experience in my life, working here for the last five and half years,” Scism said.

The attraction to Nashville was of course the sum of the parts: better air quality for his wife, the excitement of Nashville and the attraction any songwriter naturally feels to the Music City. Dr. Scism says he saw then, and still sees now, great potential for Vol State. When asked to name his top personal achievement here he naturally has a hard time picking one.

“The one thing I have had the most satisfaction from has been working with some of the key faculty and deans in the area of student success. Supplemental Instruction makes a huge impact on people and Toni Murad has done a fabulous job there. The redesign that we went through and the curricula changes were important.”

Once Bruce starts to mention academic programs he’s officially on a roll.

“I think of George Wilson’s Logistics program and what he has done with that. Look at the success Kevin Cook and James Brown have had in Criminal Justice. I think of what the CIS faculty is doing and particularly Dan Arena. We’re getting ready to propose an advanced certificate in that area.”

It’s clear that he could go on to mention many, many more programs.

“The creativity of the faculty and the deans here has been great.”

Of course, Bruce has always had a soft spot for the music and recording programs, which is understandable given his hobby and side line work as a country music songwriter and musician. He has played at bars and clubs all over Nashville, including the legendary Bluebird CafĂ©. He speaks with excitement about opportunities in the new Entertainment Media Production program at Vol State and related projects such as a record label, musical instrument video instruction, a bluegrass music TV show and songwriters TV show. He adds that the biggest challenges for those “out of the box” additions to Vol State will be funding.

When asked to pick something he would have done differently, Bruce pauses.

“I would have backed up and taken more time to be more conversant with more people. Like everyone else, I was pushing everyone really hard. And sometimes you don’t fully explain things to people as you need to.”

Danville Community College sits on the southern border of Virginia in a small river city of just over 43,000 people. It may seem like an out of the way location, until you understand the attraction.

“I was born in that hospital and my dad still lives, part of the year, next door in Pelham, North Carolina. My grandmother lived there until 1987. So, I have deep roots in the area. I’m excited about working in the Virginia Community College system. They have a tech orientation at community colleges there because they don’t have technical centers. They have a wider array of technical and workforce programs. Danville just wrapped up a $7.2 million community campaign. The community is tightly tied to the college to have that kind of support. That’s exciting.”

Dr. Scism will be taking the position following the retirement of current Danville Community College president Dr. B. Carlyle Ramsey who has served the institution for 21 years.

“There are challenges in following someone who was doing a good job and is well liked. They’re looking for someone to come in and continue that leadership and connection to the community. They are also looking for someone to take on student success, and that’s what I enjoy.”

Phyllis Foley will be the Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs while a national search is conducted.

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