April 29, 2016
NCI Recognizes Recent Graduates

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Graduation represents a goal achieved. New College Institute (NCI) celebrated the accomplishments of recent graduates at a reception on Tuesday evening. NCI also announced a prestigious faculty award, the Lula White Johnson Distinguished Teaching Award.


These graduates earned their bachelor’s and master’s degrees from various state universities by taking classes through NCI. While the majority of the students took classes here in Martinsville, some students like Shamika Coleman used video conferencing capabilities to attend classes at NCI from South Boston, VA. 


Dr. Leanna Blevins, NCI’s acting director and chief academic officer, commended the hard work of the graduates as well as the support of friends and family members. “We are celebrating the students who achieved their degrees while balancing work, families, volunteer commitments, and more. We are glad you chose to complete your degree through a partner program at NCI. You did not get a degree, you earned it!”


Graduates included 16 students from two bachelor’s degree programs and one master’s degree program. Another 395 students completing certificates throughout the year received credentials at the time of completion.


Those earning a Bachelor’s of Liberal Studies/Elementary Education from Longwood University include Heather Belcher, Katie Bowers, Tiffany Coleman, Alyssa Dalton, Crystal Draper, Helen Holt, Lora Lovelace, Katie Mays, Leslie Phipps, and Nicole Root. 


Those earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) were Brandon Cloud, Tonija Hairston, Marvin Norman, and Benet Taylor. 


Finally, those earning a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) from Norfolk State University (NSU) included Shamika Coleman and Yolunda Scales. 


Three graduates addressed the crowd to share their experiences and encouraged others to take the step forward to achieve their goals. Yolunda Scales said she is counting down the days and even minutes to receiving her MSW from NSU. “This program afforded me the opportunity to maintain a full-time job, complete a field placement, and attend classes during the evening hours. It’s been a challenging journey but a journey and experience I will cherish for a lifetime,” said Scales. 


“For those interested in pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, consider contacting NCI and like the Nike slogan reads, ‘just do it,’” continued Scales.


Marvin Norman, graduate of VCU, thanked the many NCI staff and faculty who helped him accomplish his goals of receiving a bachelor’s degree. “I saw times were starting to change in my chosen profession, and I realized that in order for me to be more effective, I needed more education. NCI was right place for me to do that!”


Tiffany Coleman reflected on her experience, thanking NCI for offering a program that was “manageable as a wife, mother, and even employee while getting my degree.” Even so, she admitted that it was challenging at times. However, she feels that the challenges have taught her to “relate to students that may be struggling and put myself in their position to help them.” 


In addition to honoring graduates, Dr. David Martin, faculty-in-residence for the James Madison University Educational Leadership program at NCI, received the 2016 Lula White Johnson Distinguished Teaching Award. This award is made possible by an endowed fund memorializing Mrs. Johnson, who taught at Albert Harris High School for many years prior to her appointment as English Department Chair at Martinsville High School.  Many former students link her talent and compassion as a teacher directly to their decision to enroll in college as well as their success in the college classroom.


Dr. David Martin was first contacted by JMU to teach a course. It didn’t take long for them to recognize that he could not only do that, but he could lead the program, coordinate adjunct faculty, and recruit highly capable students, according to Autumn Morris, NCI director of marketing and communications. “As a former superintendent, he has a wealth of experience and knowledge that he shared openly and honestly with his classes,” added Morris.


The Lula White Johnson award includes $1,000, an engraved plaque, and a public forum at which time the recipient will present an educational topic of his/her choice.  Previous recipients of the award are:

  • 2012 – Kimberly Fatten, professor of Accounting at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • 2013 – Dr. Patricia Grant, professor of Criminal Justice at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • 2014 – Dr. Coray Davis, professor of Engineering Technology at Virginia State University
  • 2015 – Janie Brazier, professor of Social Work at Longwood University


If you are interested in learning more about academic programs and service available through NCI, please call (276) 403-5610 or visit www.NewCollegeInstitute.org.




Photo caption: Recent graduates of degree programs offered through New College Institute attended a recognition ceremony this past Tuesday. Pictured: (left to right, first row) Tiffany Coleman, Benêt Taylor, Lora Lovelace, Shamika Coleman; (second row) Helen Holt, Heather Belcher, Yolunda Scales; (third tow) Marvin Norman, Tonija Hairston