Dr. Shannon Kennedy standing in front of the RCC Warsaw campus with her arms crossed.

RCC President Dr. Kennedy Becomes Familiar with College and Community

Dr. Shannon Kennedy standing in front of the RCC Warsaw campus with her arms crossed.

Dr. Kennedy

Rappahannock Community College on July 1 welcomed Dr. Shannon Kennedy as its fourth president following the retirement of Dr. Elizabeth Crowther.

Dr. Kennedy’s first week was filled with “meet and greets” with staff and students. “I already feel the family atmosphere and folks are clearly proud of RCC and the individual work they perform,” she said.

During her first two months, Dr. Kennedy was welcomed as a guest at many of the region’s Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce meetings while familiarizing herself with the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck and its citizens. Her focus has been on getting to know RCC’s staff and faculty, members of the board and educational foundation board, school superintendents, and others who are invested in RCC.

“I have planned my days so community events are in the mornings or evenings so I can be on-campus as much as possible during the day,” said Dr. Kennedy. “I’m really getting to know people and understand all that we are doing.”

Dr. Kennedy is excited about the academic year which began Monday, August 26. In October, RCC will kick-off the strategic planning process charting a course for the next several years. Other initiatives include an enrollment management plan to connect to the strategic plan helping the college recruit, retain and re-engage students.

Between meetings and community events, Dr. Kennedy has been busy relocating her family to the area. “I’m very excited to be here and love the beautiful rivers, fresh seafood and the friendly people. I am looking forward to getting my entire family settled and locating a permanent home in the region,” she said.

On January 9, 2020, RCC will commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the first local board meeting designating the area’s first higher education institution.


From the 8/29/19 issue of the Rappahannock Record.

trooper kilman

Trooper J. Travis Kilman

by Jennifer Rose Bryant

Trooper J. Travis Kilman, a Warsaw native, is one of the Virginia State Police’s newest Academy graduates.

trooper j. travis kilman“Always help those in need, treat everyone with respect, continue to challenge yourself, and never stop learning,” is Trooper Kilman’s personal motto that he lives by every day.

After graduating from Rappahannock High School, Kilman was injured on the job at a lumber yard and decided that he needed a new career path, so he began taking classes at Rappahannock Community College. Growing up in the Northern Neck, Kilman says he had “good interactions with law enforcement and saw them as role models.” Their goal of “being a help to people” sparked the same desire in him.

Working Hard Every Day

He worked at Haynesville Correctional Center to get his start in law enforcement. While working at the prison, he gained valuable experience and kept up with his RCC classes, sometimes taking just one or two classes per semester due the demands of working 12-hour shifts. He says it was a struggle that occasionally hindered his ability to quickly earn his degree.

Kilman says RCC instructor Jack Moore mentored and guided him through the program to his goal of earning an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. “Keep trying and don’t give up. Always continue to study and learn,” adds Kilman.

Trooper Kilman lives in West Point and is on duty in New Kent County. He enjoys his job and plans to be in it for life with his sights set on becoming part of a Tactical Team and then the Executive Protection Unit. Kilman’s advice to others is, “Keep trying and don’t give up. Sometimes the timing isn’t right but don’t let an opportunity pass you by.”

Learn more about Criminal Justice at Rappahannock Community College:


Nick Shaw: General Engineering Technology

nick shaw, general engineering technology at rappahannock community collegeNick Shaw is a student at Rappahannock Community College in the General Engineering Technology: Electrical and Instrumentation program in Glenns, Virginia. He recently completed a very competitive paid 16-week internship at WestRock (a corrugated packaging company) in West Point, Virginia. At the conclusion of his internship, Nick was asked to give a presentation to management on his experiences in the internship, relevance of going to school, safety and the General Engineering Technology program at Rappahannock.

Nick is an Air Force intelligence analyst veteran from Gloucester. After he left the service, he sold cars for a while and then enrolled at Rappahannock Community College. He didn’t really have a pathway in mind when he started, but an advisor introduced him to Tom Danaher, the professor in the General Engineering Technology department. When Nick walked into the lab, he was hooked. He expects to graduate in May 2020 and has been invited to remain at WestRock, part-time in the fall while he finishes his degree.

Nick said (earlier in the year), “I decided on this program because I enjoyed working on and fixing things, as well as the excellent career prospects that come with it.”

High Earning Potential

RCC Professor Tom Danaher says, “Electrical & Instrumentation spans many fields. Graduates from this program are qualified to work at power companies, chemical companies, hospitals, trouble-shooting equipment, calibrating medical equipment, and a host of other industries and responsibilities.”  Professor Danaher goes on to say that “according to payscale.com, the median-range pay in this field in 2018 was a whopping $92,500. Technicians starting in this field can expect $50,000 to $60,000 per year!”

Another factor in this field is job security. Although there is the possibility of automation taking over jobs, there will always be a need for technicians to work on and maintain that automation, as automation will not work without human intervention. And, it’s the General Engineering Technology students who will fulfill those positions.

To find out how you can become part of this exciting, high-demand, and high-paying field, contact Tom Danaher at Rappahannock Community College: tdanaher@rappahannock.edu or 804-758-6700.

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Charlie Phouminh: From Laos to America

By Jennifer Rose Bryant

Charlie Phouminh

Charlie Phouminh, upon coming to America at age 10

Charlie Phouminh

In 2009, Charlie Phouminh and his older sister said goodbye to their friends, family and the only home they had ever known: Laos, in Southeast Asia. They boarded a plane for a faraway, foreign country of opportunity and promise, the United States. Charlie was 10.

Greeting them in America were their Aunt Sue and Uncle James Phimmasone, who had relocated from Laos many years before. Thinking back, Charlie says of the culture shock and strange language, “Having such a great family…it’s just amazing how the people around you can help and support you. I feel blessed for this.” Charlie’s parents, back in Laos, wanted better lives for their children and they knew that growing up in King George, Virginia, would vastly increase their children’s options.

In Laos, Charlie says, it’s very common to drop out after middle school and become a farmer. “Life is much more difficult.” Becoming a police officer or a teacher are options for some but the “possibilities are endless here.”

He remembers being six or seven and hiding under his desk at school to keep from getting soaked from the rain. It rained often and the roof of his classroom had holes in it. This was such a common occurrence that the teacher would often continue with the lessons in the rain. Even something as simple as food, Charlie says, is harder to get. He still revels in the ease of fast food — especially Taco Bell.

Finding Success in America

Five years after arriving in the U.S., Charlie became fluent in English and began high school at King George High School. He got a job at Food Lion, working in every position from box boy to cashier. His childhood dream of becoming a professional soccer player had been replaced by practical careers in cybersecurity/information technology. In his senior year, Charlie got a head start on his career goals by taking a dual enrollment English class at Rappahannock Community College.

After high school, Phouminh enrolled at RCC full-time while continuing to work at Food Lion part-time. It was a full schedule, made easier by RCC’s flexible schedules and supportive faculty and staff. Terry Abell, along with her assistants, Deborah Hughes and Cindy Carlyle, were “really supportive; always asked how I was doing and if I needed anything. Really friendly people.”

Since graduating from RCC in May, Charlie finished his last weeks at Food Lion and has been enjoying his summer at the beach and kayaking at Westmoreland State Park. Charlie is looking forward to moving to Norfolk to attend Old Dominion University at the end of summer. He is “excited for the new environment, to meet new people and make new memories.”

“I feel blessed coming here,” Phouminh says of his journey from Laos to America, “it continues to motivate me to grow as a person and to do better.” To new students or anyone facing obstacles, Charlie urges, “keep believing in yourself and never give up. Always keep your head up. Look at the bright side of things, always have faith that it will turn out fine.” Wise words from a young man who has already overcome obstacles, reached goals and is well on his way to achieving so much more.

Charlie gives credit to his aunt and uncle, who are like his second parents and to his mom, “Lian,” in Laos, with whom he Facetimes once a month. He has not seen her since he was 10 years old. “Everything I do is for her. One day, I want to bring her here to the U.S.”

To enroll in classes at Rappahannock Community College, call 804-758-6700 or visit www.rappahannock.edu

Sarah smiles and poses with a skeleton head, its mouth open

Sarah Gordon Preps Students for Success in the Sciences

Sarah smiles and poses with a skeleton head, its mouth open

Sarah Gordon in the Lab

Lab Instructor Sarah Gordon has worked at Rappahannock Community College for 2 1/2 years at the Warsaw Campus teaching students the hands-on skills required to work in a collegiate-level biology lab. Though her career at RCC is fairly recent, Sarah’s family history at RCC has deep roots.

Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Sarah’s family moved to Virginia when she was in the 5th grade. Her love of science began in middle school as she took biology courses. She knew science would be a life-long passion after completing a high school marine biology course. As a graduate from St. Margaret’s School, she then went on to receive a Bachelor’s in Biology from Bridgewater College. The summer before her senior year, she attended a mini-mester in Costa Rica to study Tropical Ecology, which she fondly noted was “one of the most amazing experiences” she has had to date.

In January 2017, Sarah began working at RCC as a lab prep technician, readying the science labs for instruction before the students arrived. While pursuing her Master’s degree in Biology online at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Sarah began teaching Lab Instruction for Biology 101 and 150. “Working at RCC has brought me back to where I wanted to be,” Sarah said. “Because of RCC’s employee tuition reimbursement program I am able to pursue my Master’s degree.” Sarah is currently conducting an independent research project through UNK with puffer fish, or “sugar toads,” in her local Lancaster area. This observational study allows her to research puffer fish in her kayak through an underwater camera. Sarah hopes to discover more information on how the presence of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and water quality (salinity and water temperature) affect the puffer fish habitat. As of August, her study is more than halfway complete.

Beyond the bio lab, Sarah and her family have a legacy as RCC instructors. Her uncle, Phil Semsch, taught History for almost 20 years, earning the status of Professor Emeritus. Her mother, Joan Smith, taught Government for three years at RCC. Sarah hopes her career in the sciences will be just as lengthy. “I like everything here at RCC, it’s very welcoming,” she said, “It feels like family.” Sarah will continue to prep labs for science courses at the Warsaw and King George campuses this fall.


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april twist

April Twist: Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

By Jennifer Rose Bryant

April Twist

april twist graduated from rappahannock community college in 2014Yes, April Twist is her real name! April Dawn Twist to be exact.

As a student at Gloucester High School, April enjoyed participating in ROTC, but ultimately chose not to pursue a career in the military. Graduating from Gloucester High in 2011, she took to heart the motto she learned at ROTC: “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome,” as she began classes at Rappahannock Community College that fall.

Living 25 minutes from campus and relying on only one car shared with her entire family, “improvising, adapting and overcoming” is what April had to do.

Finding Support at Rappahannock

At RCC’s Glenns campus, Twist found her advisor Tanya Oliver and Student Support Services’ Specialist Lorraine Justice to be exceptionally helpful and indispensable sources of support and encouragement. Twist graduated from RCC in spring 2014.

If it hadn’t been for her local Rappahannock Community College, April says, “I would’ve found work and maybe gone back to school. Work might’ve taken priority. I don’t feel I would’ve gone as far.”

Starting out at Rappahannock Community College, and then through distance learning through RCC’s automatic acceptance agreement with Old Dominion University, enabled her “to move forward without loans” and obtain her Bachelor’s degree. Recently Twist finished her Master’s in Crisis Response and Trauma Counseling and works in the Gloucester County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court as a deputy clerk.

April offers some advice:

“Take those classes and get them done. Take advantage of resources. Use Workforce. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.”

audrey lowery

Having a Local College Provides a Unique Opportunity

By Jennifer Rose Bryant

Audrey Lowery

On a summer day in June 1973, Rappahannock Community College held its first graduation ceremony at the Glenns campus location. Eleven certificates and 40 degrees were presented to the students that day. Audrey Lowery was one of them. More than 46 years later, she says, “I’ve had a very blessed career and wouldn’t be where I am today without the college.”

Growing up in a tight-knit community and loving family in Irvington, Audrey says she felt her first serious calling at age 12. Irvington United Methodist Church was at the center of her childhood, and she knew that missionary work was what she was meant to do. For as long as she can remember, wanting to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives has been important to her.

The Butter Girl

audrey lowery - 1966At 16, she had her first job as “the butter girl” at The Tides Inn. It was a good, seasonal job with room to advance, but attending college was a non-negotiable issue to her parents. After graduating from Lancaster High School, Lowery reluctantly left her family and small familiar town for Ferrum College. Although it was only two hours away, Lowery was homesick and didn’t feel that this particular college culture was a fit for her.

Navigating parental expectations, her feelings about college life, and now making decent money seasonally waitressing at The Tides, Lowery found herself at a crossroads. Because she was determined to never leave home again, and there were no colleges closer to her family and beloved hometown, waitressing at The Tides Inn looked to be what her future held.

A Love of Teaching

In 1970, two very important things happened for Audrey Lowery. First, she got a job substitute teaching in a 3rd grade classroom at White Stone Elementary and discovered that she was in love with teaching. Second, her mother learned that  Rappahannock Community College would soon open locally.

With her newfound love of teaching and long-held desire to do missionary work, Lowery realized she could fulfill her calling doing local missionary work while teaching children and setting a positive example. Determined to begin this work as soon as possible, Audrey and her mother met with guidance counselor Ed Neal at Rappahannock Community College in 1972, enrolled in RCC, and graduated cum laude one year later. She transferred to Christopher Newport University for a bachelor’s degree and then earned a master’s degree in Curriculum Instruction from Virginia Commonwealth University. RCC gave Ms. Lowery the momentum she needed to push forward.

As a first-generation college student, Ms. Lowery states with conviction, “RCC saved me,” and explains that having a local college provided her and her family an invaluable opportunity. Audrey and her brother, Tim Lowery, also an RCC alum, fund an annual $500 scholarship awarded to a Rappahannock Community College sophomore with a minimum 2.8 GPA, and the promise to graduate from RCC. “I’ve been so blessed. It’s my turn to give back and so I pay it forward.”

One for the Books

In 2017, after a career in education spanning 50 years, Lowery retired from Page Middle School in Gloucester County. “I am married to education and always have been. I love it and want to make a difference.” She is currently passionate about mentoring teachers and editing the final chapters of the book she co-authored with the late Dr. Joan Fulton of VCU.

Lowery is still heavily involved in her childhood church, Irvington United Methodist and can be found every year on the first Saturday of October, November and December working the church’s legendary bazaar. Her parents are gone but the home in Irvington that her dad had built in 1947 for his impending family remains. Ms. Lowery still lives there with her beloved dog Blossom Belle. On getting through tough times, Lowery says, “Listen to that small voice inside of you and ask God for guidance.”

At the White Stone drugstore, a children’s book entitled The Day I Dug Up the Devil, by Audrey Lowery can be found. A testament to the author, who even as a little girl, was determined to get things done.


Teamwork makes the difference at RCC

Teamwork Makes the Difference at Rappahannock Community College

A Letter from Brian S. Dillon

Teamwork makes the difference at RCC“My wife was in Warsaw today to finish the enrollment of our daughter and your whole staff did a fantastic job. When she walked into R&A, three people had taken the time to wait for and greet her.

We had some issues with graduation records, but Hutt Williams, Carol Baetz and Linda Gaskins were all anxious to make sure we concluded the process today.

Linda had prepared a class schedule based on our perceived needs, and she willingly wrote out by hand the adjusted schedule we had settled on. When one of the classes suddenly filled up, Charlene Jones took the whole process over to get a quick resolution.

She said, “You’ve been here for hours with four kids. That’s enough.” They got it done and it was great. Sharon Mann, working the payment window, did a great job as well.

Not only did they get the job done in an efficient way, they were all amazingly welcoming to my daughter.

She was in a tour last week and Charlene had remembered her and was very welcoming.

My daughter is deaf and Linda went to the trouble of learning some sign language to greet here when they showed up.

I just can’t praise them enough in this respect. My daughter is really looking forward to this semester mainly as a consequence of all their help.”