Meet Dr. Vance Gray, the College’s associate provost of Academic Affairs and Workforce Development. Dr. Gray comes to the College from Olive-Harvey College, City Colleges of Chicago in Illinois as dean of Instruction and Academic Affairs. He started at the College in January 2023 as the associate vice president for Academic and Student Success before assuming his current role. Here, he discusses his experiences thus far and his hopes for students.
Q: Welcome to the College, Dr. Gray! Please tell us a little about yourself. Specifically, we really want to know how you’re liking Philadelphia since moving from Illinois!
A: I am so excited to be here at Community College of Philadelphia. This city is rich with tradition and history that is rooted in a struggle about freedom and agency. Philadelphia is still a research center for the study of African American society. I am beginning to venture out of just coming and going to work, and now enjoying this first summer in the city after 23 years. I did live here during the attacks on the World Trade Center briefly while working in the chemical industry.
Q: You’ve been with the College for a few months now, so you’ve had a little bit of time to get acquainted with the College and its regional campuses. What are your favorite things about CCP so far?
A: By far, it’s the faculty and staff. I’ve seen so much passion in the work of my colleagues and a level of appreciation for educating students at a community college. I’ve worked with committed department heads, faculty and staff before, but this campus feels different. Maybe it just the location in Center City–or it’s the trusted environment where innovation leads. I’ve been embraced at all levels of the College, and it feels great despite having to make really tough decisions about the future of bringing two worlds together in Academic Affairs and Workforce Development.
Q: The College is excited to have you join the Lion’s Pride and participate in all that happens on campus and with our students. Is there anything that you’re looking forward to most within your division or at the College in general?
A: For me it’s graduation. It’s one time each year that faculty, staff and administrators get to congratulate students and their families all day. There’s no talk of budget or meetings, just congratulations and reservations at some of the best restaurants in town.
Q: Can you name at least three (3) items that are most important to you as you assume your new leadership role as associate provost of Academic Affairs and Workforce Development?
A: Closing achievement gaps, advancing equity, and cultivating a great work environment.
Q: Can you tell us how your previous experience will aid in advancing and supporting CCP’s plan for academic, student and workforce success?
A: I was just talking with Dr. [Alycia] Marshall, [the provost and vice president of Academic and Student Success,] about being hired as the associate vice president for Academic and Student Success in February, and how I had prepared for that role over the course of many years. Moving through failures and tough times. I shared with the CCP community that life has had its more than fair share of interruptions in my life. I was a first-generation college student from Oakland, California, so I’ve seen a lot. My mother was only able to attend my high school graduation. She passed away before my first year of college, so achievement is hard for me emotionally. But these experiences, hard as they are, allow me to better understand learners. The opportunity to bridge the gap between workforce and traditional education as the associate provost is humbling. But I bring my corporate experience, and educational experiences as a former dean of instruction, dean of Social Sciences and Humanities, and professor of Political Science to the arena to advance and support CCP’s students and administrative practices.
Q: How important are connection and relationships to you in your new role, as well as to the student experience?
A: Connection, mentorship, and relationships are important to human progress. In my new role I rely on connections at the College to do the work that is required to close achievement gaps and advance equity.
Q: What would success look like from your position?
A: This is a great question. To answer it wisely is to say that success looks like the world. I think we have to say that success is defined very differently, depending on the goal that each student is trying to accomplish. I’ve begun trying to understand that success principally focused on students has to be viewed by understanding one’s purpose. As a learning institution, we have to fit 15,000 students’ stories into a few performance indicators– like retention, progression, persistence and graduation measures. Success is dynamic.
Q: Do you have a message to students? What would you like them to know?
A: Community College of Philadelphia can really help students be successful. It’s possible at this institution of higher learning, this College, to change the trajectory of their lives, family and community.