President Trible officially selected Anne Holton as the keynote speaker for CNU’s 2015 Commencement Exercises on May 17.
In a telephone interview, Holton explained her professional goals as well as her excitement about speaking at the commencement ceremony.
Anne Holton is the current secretary of education for Virginia. Under this title, she oversees the Virginia Department of Education and the public colleges and universities. She also assists community colleges and multiple arts and cultural institutions across the state.
Holton works closely with Governor McAuliffe to push forward his current agenda of closing the achievement gap between students performing on the lower end of standardized testing and those achieving the highest standards.
“The pressure from the standardized testing . . . has just gotten to be too much. And that, combined with other challenges over the last decade, really put all of our schools under a lot of stress,” said Holton.
As secretary, she created the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee to revamp the current Standards of Learning tests.
“We have made a number of proposals which are well on their way to being implemented that I think help ease up some of the test pressure and recognize and reward things schools are doing to promote success in all areas, not just success on tests,” she said.
Holton is also an active member on Governor McAuliffe’s Task Force on Combatting Campus Sexual Violence. According to Holton, she has worked closely with Rosemary Trible on the task force, and believes CNU’s programs aimed at assisting survivors of sexual violence are exemplary.
Students in the MAT program graduate alongside the undergraduate class at CNU’s commencement ceremonies. Holton was excited at the prospect of speaking to future educators.
“It’s a great profession despite all the challenges, and we welcome you,” she said. “We need you, especially in our most challenged schools, and even though that’s where the hardest work is, it’s where the greatest reward is.”
Before March 27, Holton said it had been three years since she last visited CNU, and she was excited to return. “CNU is one of our flagship universities of Virginia, and I’m very proud to get to be a part of the commencement,” she said.
On March 27, Holton participated in a town hall meeting hosted by WVEC, a local news station, and CNU’s Wason Center for Public Policy.
The forum featured educators and politicians and discussed issues with education in Hampton Roads and throughout the state.
While the forum did not touch on issues of higher education in Virginia, Holton shared her thoughts after the town hall meeting.
She said the combination of affordability and preparing students for a life in the work force is the largest issue in higher education to her. She wants to ensure students are “getting value and skills they can translate to good paying jobs.”
Holton also said students must be prepared for the financial burden college brings and mentioned community colleges and high school counseling to prepare students for loans and payment plans.
In terms of rising tuition and fees throughout the state, Holton said, “The state contribution has gone down significantly and colleges and students bear more responsibility.” She understood the economic issues within the state, stemming from decreased revenue in the defense industry but still said money should be allocated more carefully to education.
Holton’s selection as commencement speaker has created buzz on campus. Students have shared excitement over hearing her speak next month.