Nearly 50 years ago, Virginia Commonwealth University held its first classes as a new university, following the merger of Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia.
Among that first cohort of VCU students was a mass communications journalism student, Barbara Gibson.
“At that time, VCU was an uneasy merger,” Gibson said. “[RPI and MCV] were very separate entities as far as students were concerned.
“When I attending classes at that time, I did not imagine that I would return here in any professional capacity.”
But return she did. In fact, Gibson has been a mainstay of the School of Education and the university since joining The Literacy Institute at VCU in 2003.
“When I drive down Broad Street or walk around either campus, I have a hard time believing how much has changed,” Gibson said. “Everyone associated with the university should be very proud of the positive impact VCU has had on the city. I find inspiration for my own work in the work of other schools and departments.”
Now, 48 years after first setting foot on campus, Gibson is officially retiring from her position as co-director of The Literacy Institute at VCU. She leaves VCU with outstanding improvements in their adult education programs — in addition to her role at with The Literacy Institue, she has also been involved in multiple programs, including the READ Center and Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center, centered around helping adults.
"Everyone associated with the university should be very proud of the positive impact VCU has had on the city.”
“I have found workforce education to be one of the most interesting and rewarding aspects of my work during the past 25 years.” said Gibson. “I have had the opportunity develop and oversee programs that have helped adults without high school diplomas to gain the knowledge, skills, and credentials they need to enter career pathways with sustainable wages.”
While executive director for the READ Center, Gibson established an innovative workplace education program for employees of many business in Richmond. She has offered similar programs through the Virginia Workforce Improvement Network.
She also led the team that developed PluggedInVA, an innovative career pathways program that provides instruction in academic and professional soft skills, industry recognized credentials, and co-enrollment in post-secondary courses.
“[PluggedInRVA] is regularly identified at the national level by the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, and other agencies and organizations as an important career pathways program,” Gibson said.
As a parting gift to the university, its students and the people that they serve, Gibson is starting the Barbara E. Gibson Scholarship. This new scholarship will provide funding for adult educators currently enrolled in the School of Education’s online adult literacy certification program.
“Adult education has been at the margins of education, being underfunded and regarded as a stepchild in the system,” Gibson said. “Helping adult educators gain more advanced knowledge about the field in which they work will help move them, and the field, to a higher level.
“I want to help offset the tuition cost for the program to enable more adult educators to obtain the certification and help to professionalize the field.”
Gibson’s successful career has left a positive impact on the VCU School of Education, and her scholarship will continue to help and inspire future educators as well.