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Committee certifies four finalists for Thomas Nelson Community College pPresidency

Virginia’s Community CollegesThe State Board for Community Colleges has certified four finalists for the position of president at Thomas Nelson Community College. The finalists were among 92 applicants from across the nation.

The four finalists, in alphabetical order, are Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon of Moorseville, North Carolina; Dr. Theresa Felder of Xenia, Ohio; Dr. Daniel Lufkin of Smithfield; and Dr. John Rainone of Clifton Forge.

“In these unprecedented and challenging times, I am encouraged to see such a diverse and experienced group of academic leaders in this pool of finalists,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Thomas Nelson Community College plays such a pivotal role in an economically vital and culturally vibrant region of Virginia. I am confident that this elite group will yield a president ready to lead the college successfully through the pandemic, the subsequent economic recovery, and beyond.”

Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon has more than 20 years of higher education experience. She began her career as an assistant director and academic adviser at St. John’s College in New York in 1999. Four years later, she moved to the New York Institute of Technology to become its Central Advising Center coordinator.

Brannon joined the Borough of Manhattan Community College/City University of New York in 2006 as a coordinator for Academic Advising and Transfer for a year before moving to Berkeley College where she worked as a dean and then assistant vice president. In 2010, Brannon moved to LaGuardia Community College/CUNY where she served as a registrar for two years and then as an assistant dean of Student Affairs for four years. She moved to Mitchell Community College in Statesville, North Carolina, in 2016 to become the college’s vice president of student services – the position she currently holds.

Brannon earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from St. John’s University and a doctorate for Fordham University.

Dr. Theresa Felder has nearly 20 years of higher education experience, almost entirely at Clark State Community College in Springfield, Ohio. She began her career there in 1998 as a workforce development manager. After some time away working as a consultant, Felder returned to the college as a project coordinator for its Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Youth Program in 2004, becoming a retention specialist in its CareerPlus Program in 2005. The next year she became the college’s GEAR UP director. In 2012, Felder served as the dean of the college’s Greene Center. A year later she rose to become its vice president for Student Affairs and Greene Center operations.

She is currently the college’s senior vice president for Student Success, a position she has held since 2018. Felder has additional academic experience as an adjunct instructor at the college. Felder earned a bachelor’s degree from Utica College of Syracuse University; a master’s degree from Central Michigan University; and a doctorate from Northeastern University.

Dr. Daniel Lufkin has nearly 20 years of education experience. He began as a K-12 instructor in 1998. His career in higher education began five years later at Gateway Community College, one of the Maricopa Community Colleges. He held several positions there including director of Student Life/Leadership, Athletics & Wellness; interim associate dean of Student Affairs; and dean of Enrollment Management. In 2013, Lufkin moved to Thomas Nelson Community College to serve as the institution’s vice president for Student Affairs. Three years later he was hired to be the president at Paul D. Camp Community College, the position he holds today.

Lufkin also has college teaching experience, serving as an adjunct instructor for Mesa Community College in Arizona from 2009 to 2015, and as an associate faculty member at Ashford University in San Diego for the past decade. He has earned a bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Potsdam; a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University; and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Dr. John Rainone has more than 30 years of higher education experience. He began his career in 1989 as an assistant dean of Community Education and Workforce Development at what is now called Manchester Community College in New Hampshire. He moved to York County Community College in Wells, Maine, in 1995 to serve as the college’s dean of Professional Development & Business Services. Rainone served in several roles at the college over the next 18 years, including interim dean of Academic Programs; interim chief financial officer; and dean of Institutional Advancement.

He was hired in 2013 to become the president of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Covington, Virginia – the position he holds today. Rainone has worked as an adjunct instructor at several colleges and universities throughout almost his entire academic career. In 2014, he completed the Harvard University School of Education First-Year President’s Institute. Rainone earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University; and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

The four finalists seek to become the college’s sixth permanent president, and will succeed Dr. Gregory T. DeCinque, who has served as the college’s interim president since the beginning of 2020. Arrangements are being made for the finalists to each visit the college soon, either in-person or virtually, to meet with faculty, staff, students, and community members.

Founded in 1968, TNCC is an accredited, two-year institution of higher education established as a part of a statewide system of community colleges. The college primarily serves the residents of the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg, and the counties of James City and York.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, TNCC served 11,588 students in credit instruction, making it the fifth largest college within the Virginia Community College System in terms of headcount.