Building Educational Bridges

Virginia Peninsula Community College looks to the future with a new president and a new brand

by Barrett Baker

An effort two years in the making, Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton officially became Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC) in mid 2022. About a year-and-a-half before, Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon took over as the school’s new president.

College President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon

Photo by Harry Washington. College President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon spearheads branding campaign designed to reintroduce Peninsula residents to their local community college.

To say the well-established community college has recently gone through some major transitions is an understatement, but according to Brannon, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. With a new name and new president in place, school officials also decided it was time for a full rebranding campaign.

“At the time, which was when we were coming out of the pandemic, we thought it would be a great opportunity to reintroduce the Peninsula to their local community college,” explains Brannon. “We thought a rebrand would be a good way to rearticulate not just our value to the Peninsula, its residents, our business partners and our K-12 partners, but also to remind folks what we have to offer and how we’re the lynchpin between economic prosperity and social opportunities.”

As a lover of history, Brannon says she felt that holding on to pieces of the school’s history was really important, so they kept the school’s colors, which are green, purple and gold. What did change was the logo itself and their brand position statement or tagline. The new logo is an abstract depiction of a bridge, which is symbolic in a couple of different ways, and something that came up frequently in their research as being meaningful to stakeholders.

“For some, it was symbolic of all the bridges that connect the Peninsula with different parts of the Commonwealth,” explains Brannon. “But there were also a lot of conversations we had with our alumni, faculty, staff, and students about how the college is their bridge…whether it’s their bridge to a four-year university, their bridge to building new skills, or their bridge to economic opportunities. So, the bridge symbolizes who we are to everyone we serve.”

As for the tagline, it changed from “Success is closer than you think,” to “Our Mission: Your Success,” which they felt was a way to make it very clear that the reason the school exists is for the success of the people they serve.

What’s next for the college? According to Brannon, she is so excited it’s a little bit scary. One of her first goals when joining VPCC was to increase enrollment. For the first time in approximately 10 years, they are seeing a small increase in traditional student enrollment but experiencing double digit (30%) increases in the number of people seeking workforce credentials. Dual enrollment, which is for high school students seeking college credits, is up about 8%.

VPCC also held a ribbon cutting event in April for its recently opened skilled trades center in Toano to provide skilled trades educational opportunities for people on the western side of the Peninsula. And they are working with the City of Newport News on possible plans to do the same on the southeastern side.

In addition, they plan to upgrade their existing campus, build a new theater, and use technology to improve their current facilities. They are also expanding their athletics program to include women’s basketball and softball, and eventually track and field and soccer.

In late March, Brannon was officially inaugurated as the school’s president, a public ceremony that had been previously postponed due to COVID, and one that she looked forward to as “an opportunity to thank all of the partners that helped us get to the growth that we’ve experienced, but also as a way to celebrate the collaborations that exist amongst the community college and all our community partners.”

“It’s an exciting time to lead on the Peninsula,” Brannon says.

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