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New Chair Says State Board Facing Significant Challenge

Dorcas red suit (3)RICHMOND – Dorcas Helfant-Browning, whose mother was a “Rosie Riveter” during World War ll, says she’s honored to begin her one-year term as chair of the State Board for Community Colleges.

“Whenever you have the opportunity to serve, your job is to direct traffic and solve the goals of the system and stay on target.”

A self-styled Facebook “junkie,” Helfant-Browning says one of the biggest challenges facing the State Board in the coming year is learning to do more differently because the Commonwealth can no longer count on government contracting and the presence of government to be the state’s “growth employer.

“Therefore, we need to look at attracting more business and industry that can bring jobs to that skilled workforce which we have and creating the environment that the Commonwealth is the place to do business and to be headquartered.”

From an academic perspective, Helfant–Browning says Virginia’s Community Colleges are doing a good job of attracting younger students who need a pathway to four-year institutions. “We’re also identifying that not everyone needs a full academic set of credentials. But they need a credential to maximize their ability to be productive members of society. That’s equally important to the board members understanding for the commonwealth to grow and prosper – we must have a workforce that is either educated, certified or a combination of those things.”

Born in West Virginia, Helfant-Browning currently resides in Virginia Beach where she enjoys working out on a regular basis.

“I always feel like I’m being mentally challenged. But I like to physically challenge myself, weights and light cardio and those type things to keep me in shape.”

Helfant-Browning was appointed to the State Board by Gov. Tim Kaine in 2009 and was reappointed in 2011 by Gov. Bob McDonnell. She previously served eight years, including three terms as chair, on the Tidewater Community College local board. She currently serves as liaison to both Tidewater and Paul D. Camp community colleges.                

Also taking on a new role on the board is Idalia Fernandez. She becomes the board’s vice chair, the title previously held by Helfant-Browning.

Fernandez is president of the Hispanic College Fund, a $6 million non-profit that supports Hispanic students. In her role, she oversees developmental programs, fundraising and finances of the fund.

She was also appointed to the State Board for Community Colleges in 2009 by Gov. Tim Kaine and currently serves as liaison to Lord Fairfax Community College.

About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Created more than 40 years ago, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than 405,000 students each year in both academic and workforce training programs. For more information, please visit

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