The start of an academic year is an exciting time – full of hope, promise and opportunity. At Virginia Western, we are looking forward to a wonderful year. However, the recent events in Charlottesville have left many of us, and particularly institutions of higher education, in a place of confusion, anger and uncertainty. Heather Heyer, killed during the violence that erupted, was a former student at Piedmont Virginia Community College and believed in the community college mission to give everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. Everyone.

Here at Virginia Western, we are a forward-thinking community college inspiring individual, community, and economic transformation. Let me repeat: forward-thinking. The racially motivated attacks in Charlottesville – both verbal and physical – are the clear opposite of everything for which we stand. I am deeply saddened by what unfolded, and equally angered at the fact that, in 2017, we are still facing these divisive attitudes. One of our core values is Diversity – promoting a culture and practice of inclusion and empowerment. To all our faculty, staff and students, let me be clear. You are ALL welcome. You are ALL valued. You are ALL an important part of our past, current and future success. We find our greatest strengths in our unique perspectives.

Virginia Western will continue to be forward-thinking, embracing our purpose through inclusion and the strength of our diversity.