For most of her professional career Susan Wood has worked to promote the wellbeing of students in Virginia’s community colleges. From her position as vice chancellor, Wood provided statewide academic and student services leadership and support for Virginia’s 23 community colleges, which at that time served more than 400,000 students annually in credit courses and workforce training.
Among her most significant achievements was directing large-scale, statewide change in support of an ambitious and aggressive statewide six-year strategic plan, called Achieve 2015, which was launched by Chancellor Glenn DuBois.
“It required extensive communication and collaboration with members of the State Board for Community Colleges, college presidents and senior staff, and leaders of stakeholder groups,” Wood says.
They revised placement and advising policies, streamlined credit curricula, integrated student services and academics, and developed and adopted tools to enhance efficiency, among other improvements.
“Her meteoric rise from [VCCS] director of educational programs to vice chancellor for academic services and research – all in a period of only four years – underscores her unusual talents and unparalleled ability,” says John S. Capps, president of Central Virginia Community College.
“She has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of students through innovative programs and pedagogies, including statewide guaranteed admission agreements, the Virginia Education Wizard, and ground-breaking redesigns of developmental English and mathematics.”
An endowment from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education was named in her honor in 2014, the Susan S. Wood Professorship for Teaching Excellence.
Wood worked with the system office for VCCS for a total of nine years, beginning as director of educational programs. In 2007, she was named Professor Emeritus by J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, where she served on the faculty from 1973-2005.
The Curry School’s Role
“While completing my studies at the Curry School, I was mentored by my doctoral advisor, Dr. William Lowry, and other faculty members who served on my committee or taught courses in which I enrolled,” Wood says. “In addition to content knowledge, I gained skillsets in areas of discipline, determination, communication, organization, critical thinking, problem solving and more, all of which equipped me superbly to serve as a professor of mathematics at Reynolds Community College for 32 years.
“In turn, my Curry School experience joined my college experience and my leadership history with two national professional associations to prepare me very well for statewide experience as an academic administrator.”
Following her retirement in 2014 Wood worked part-time assisting Director Peter Blake and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia in the development of what is now called The Virginia Plan, the statewide strategic plan for higher education in Virginia. This plan envisions higher education as the means to transform the lives of Virginians and Virginia communities and emphasizes educational attainment.
“As The Virginia Plan moves to implementation, I have concluded my work with the State Council and am now fully retired,” Wood says. “Each day brings delight in new adventures: traveling, spending time with family and friends, mentoring some young professionals, and pursuing new or neglected interests.”
“Susan Wood is a remarkable woman with extraordinary accomplishments,” says Kathleen Burke House (M.Ed. ’71 Math Ed), an adjunct professor at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Frederick, Md. “She has dedicated her career to empowering Virginia’s Community College students to achieve their full potential. In the process she has attained both national and statewide stature and added significantly to the profession of education.”