When Roger W. Davis was 3 years old, he was chosen for adoption by a Baltimore couple who’d seen him on a television show called, “A Child Is Waiting.”
Last night, he was able to call his mother, Marian, and tell her he’d been chosen again—this time, as the ninth president of the Community College of Beaver County. He is the first African American president in the school’s 52-year history, appointed by the CCBC Board of Trustees at its Feb. 26 meeting.
“She’s 90, and she doesn’t know I have this job yet,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview, Feb. 25. “She’s really going to be blown away. I am humbled and delighted to be the ninth president of the college.”
As for being the first Black president, Dr. Davis has been the interim president since June, and when he came here from Rockland Community College in New York, he was the first Black executive vice president. Before that, he was the first Black special assistant to the provost at the University of Maryland’s University College.
“And before I went to New York, I was also the first Black vice president at Bauder College in Atlanta—yes, in Atlanta,” he said. “Here, given the outreach we are doing to underserved communities, I think it’s an asset.”
Dr. Davis is also determined to see that the college is a big asset in the revitalization of Beaver County. He is excited about the opportunities the Shell cracker plant is already spinning off, and that the college is training students for.
“Plastics companies that will use the polyethylene beads from the plant—I think every warehouse in the county is taken,” he said. “But we also have a casino coming to Big Beaver. There are a lot of opportunities for young African Americans, and we want to be the glue that sticks people, programs, models and opportunities together.”
As to that, Dr. Davis said he has a vision for each of the college’s schools. First, he wants to strengthen retention in the college’s Business, Arts, Science and Technology School.
“We have students who get 30 credits, transfer, get 10 more and then, ‘life happens’ and they quit with nothing to show for it,” he said. “We have to see what strategies we can put in place to get these general studies students to complete either their associate degree or certificate program and get some kind of meaningful credential before they move on.”
He also wants to expand the college’s two most successful programs: nursing and aviation.
“We need to build more clinical space for our nursing program. We have partnerships with Geneva and Clarion colleges, but it could be bigger,” he said.
He also wants to double the size of the aviation school.
“In less than 10 years, there’s going to be a shortage of 100,000 pilots. Most of our students leave as flight instructor, and to get needed hours to fly go to regional carriers, then major carriers—their signing bonuses are going from $20,000 to $50,000 because of retirements,” said Dr. Davis. “And it’s not just pilots. It’s air traffic control. There’s s not a tower in the country that doesn’t have one of our graduates in it. The federal government school in Oklahoma has more students from our college than any in the nation. We have people all over the world working. And where do they send their kids when it’s time for college? They send them back here.”
And all of these programs—process technology, criminal justice, nursing and aviation—are growing because of the Pell Grant program that funds the college’s High School Academies, which allows high school juniors and seniors to earn a year’s worth of college credit. Currently, 54 school districts across southwestern Pennsylvania take part in the program.
There are challenges though, Dr. Davis said. Getting students, particularly poor and non-traditional students who use public transportation to the college and back, is one of them. The Beaver County Transit Authority has only three routes, runs a very limited schedule and is planning service cuts.
“You can’t have a vibrant county without good public transportation. We have evening classes, so we sent some folks to testify at the last meeting,” he said. “But it can’t be all on them. I think Higher Ed has to evolve, so we’re looking at satellite locations. We won’t need a lot of space, a couple classrooms. But I think we need to go where the people are.”
That’s worked out for him, Dr. Davis said. At age 49, after 20 years—and several moves—in higher education, he’s where he wanted to be.
“I always wanted to be a president—I just didn’t think it would be here. But I’m glad it is,” he said. “This was the warmest welcome I’ve ever received when I came here—especially after New York. Nobody talks to you in New York. My first day here a woman starts up a conversation in Kuhn’s market. It feels right here—I’m in three tennis leagues, there’s great food—an awesome soul food place in Ambridge, Annie Lee’s Southern Kitchen—people are social, they’re happy. It’s just great to be in a place where humanity is celebrated.”
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