The New College Institute has chosen a former state official to be its new executive director on an interim basis.
Members of the NCI’s board of directors on Thursday unanimously approved the appointment of Karen Jackson, former Virginia secretary of technology, to replace Leanna Blevins, who resigned last month to accept a position working for Virginia Tech.
State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, chair of NCI’s board, described Jackson as “above and beyond qualified.
“We have found Babe Ruth,” he said.
The New College Institute first enrolled students in Martinsville in 2006 with a mission of providing four-year and master’s degree programs for Southside residents who lacked easy access to a publicly funded four-year university.
Jackson served as Virginia secretary of technology from January 2014 through January 2018 under then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, according to her resume. Among other things, she was responsible for overseeing information technology, making policy, working with the legislature and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship.
She worked to launch a number of nationally recognized programs, including the expansion of broadband availability in rural areas and luring Amazon’s HQ2 to Northern Virginia.
She also served as Virginia’s deputy secretary of technology and as director of Virginia’s Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance. She was vice president for broadband programs at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology in Newport News.
Blevins, who has held the post since December 2016 and has been employed with NCI since its inception in 2004, will start working Monday as assistant vice president for health, science and technology education of the Virginia Tech-Carilion campus and partnership that includes the Virginia Tech-Carilion School of Medicine and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, based in Roanoke.
Her last day at NCI is Sunday.
“I’m excited to be here,” Jackson said in an interview immediately after the meeting.
“Rural Virginia has always been a lot of the initiatives I worked on and worked with, and I’ve always tried to be inclusive of rural Virginia in all the things that we’ve done, especially as it pertains to high-tech industries, because they do tend to migrate toward the suburban areas,” Jackson said. “So we have always tried to pay special attention to that. Now I have a chance to come here and work on the other side.”
Stanley said the permanent executive director role is a state position that has to be advertised. That’s a longer process, and the board wanted NCI to keep moving forward with its mission and programs, so it made an appointment on an interim basis.
Jackson, a native of Poquoson, has been president of Apogee Strategic Partners since January 2018, with offices in Poquoson and Richmond, as a technology consultant to companies, universities, governmental entities and nonprofits.
She has a master of business administration from the College of William and Mary and a bachelor’s degree with honors in business management from Christopher Newport University.