VersAbility Board Member Quentin Kidd is Home for Good at CNU

Quentin Kidd planned to stay at Christopher Newport University a few years at most.

Twenty-seven years later, the Executive Vice President and Provost has no intention of leaving.

He discovered early on what many come to realize later.

“Relationships matter, and I am in a place where I have some very good ones,” says Kidd, who also serves on the Board of Directors for VersAbility Resources, the Hampton nonprofit that supports people with disabilities leading productive and fulfilling lives of their choosing.

Albuquerque-born Kidd had earned a bachelor’s at the University of Arkansas followed by his master’s and doctorate at Texas Tech. When his wife, Holly, got a civil engineering position in Hampton Roads in 1997, he started as an assistant professor of political science at CNU.

“After a few years I was going to look around for a job at a bigger university,” he says. “I thought I needed to be in a major metropolitan area.”

Kidd’s mindset changed when he taught his first poli sci class that met weekly for three hours. Nineteen students were enrolled — 18 middle-aged women and one teenager. “I was the youngest person in the class, and I fell in love with that,” he says. Classes that long typically have a break in the middle. Kidd, an avid marathon runner at the time, recalls pulling out food from his backpack during those few minutes to replenish.

“By the third week I did the same thing and all the women pulled out their covered dishes,” he says. “They were all moms. Literally for the entire semester, we had a potluck during our break. I had never been in a situation where students and professors get to know each other. I had never been in a place where I had the ability to have those kinds of relationships.”

Today CNU looks and feels like a true college campus thanks to $1 billion in capital construction that began when former Congressman Paul Trible took over as president in 1996. Most students are full-time and residential, the CNU endowment is more than $54 million and the school consistently ranks in the top five among public regional universities in the South.

VersAbility provides opportunities and services for people who otherwise might struggle to have them.

Kidd and fellow CNU Professor Judy Wason went on to launch what is now known as The Wason Center for Civic Leadership. Initially, the center focused on polling, seeking to give Virginia a bigger voice in the national discussion. Given today’s digital tools that changed how we poll, the Wason Center evolved into a student program that fosters engagement in the public policy domain. “It has given me lots of opportunities to see and meet people and engage in the debate myself,” Kidd says. “It’s also a lesson in being open to taking opportunities as they come.”

Truth be told, Kidd didn’t grow up seeing himself in the academic realm. He dreamed of being a Green Beret after an early fascination with all things Rambo. College became more appealing after he enlisted in the military, completing basic training at age 17.

“After a couple of years of that and not becoming a Green Beret, I decided college was not such a bad thing,” he says.

Completing a general education elective his first semester at Texas Tech introduced him to an American government professor who became a mentor. Once he discovered political science, he never looked back, interning multiple places in Washington, D.C., before completing his PhD in 1998. CNU was his first job.

Three times he was named Professor of the Year and his numerous teaching honors include the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education.

As much as Kidd enjoyed the classroom, the move to administration as a Vice Provost, Dean and today Provost and Executive Vice President stemmed from a desire to create opportunities for the faculty that will elevate CNU at all levels.

“I embrace the responsibility of challenges and moving CNU forward in a constructive, positive way,” he says.

Kidd is in his second year on the VersAbility Resources Board of Directors. As a longtime admirer of the nonprofit’s work under its President and CEO Kasia Grzelkowski, it was an easy yes when she asked him to join the volunteer board. This mission also resonates with him.

“We’re only as good as a society as all of us can prosper in our own way,” he says. “VersAbility plays a role in that in a big way. VersAbility provides opportunities and services for people who otherwise might struggle to have them. That is an important responsibility we have as a society and VersAbility is doing its part.”

Kidd looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead for VersAbility, which serves more than 1,500 people with disabilities and their families. On tap: the emergence of AI and automation, which could lead to fewer job opportunities. “We have to address that,” he said. “That’s a challenge for corporate America and higher education, too. We need to think through it and strategize about how to best address that.”

In his free time, Kidd remains an avid runner, having completed two dozen marathons. He most enjoys running along the Noland Trail near his neighborhood.

VersAbility Resources’ Newest Board Members Offer a Wealth of Expertise from Multiple Sectors

VersAbility Resources’ newest members for its 2022 Board of Directors hold leadership positions in industry, education and the nonprofit sector.

The new members are:

  • Shawn Avery, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Workforce Council
  • Susan Jacobs, Vice President of Human Resources and Administration, Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Aazia Mickens Dessaso, Executive Director of Ecosystem Development, Techstars
  • Casey Roberts, Executive Director, New Horizons Regional Education Centers
  • Edith White, CEO, Hampton Roads Community Action Program

“We welcome all of these regional leaders to our Board of Directors and are grateful that they are contributing their skills and experience to shaping the strategic direction of VersAbility,” said Kasia Grzelkowski, President and CEO. “Each of our new members share our vision of helping people of all abilities live, work, and thrive in our community.”

Here’s a closer look at the five additions:

Meet Shawn Aver

As President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Avery provides leadership, management and oversight for the premier Workforce Development organization in Virginia. The Council works to ensure systems are in place to create economic prosperity and enhance quality of life for all Virginians throughout the Commonwealth.

Avery’s interest in joining VersAbility’s board is “to provide the same opportunities to all individuals in Hampton Roads.”

Avery serves on various other boards and commissions, including the Virginia Advisory

Committee for Career and Technical Education, GO Virginia Regional Council, Hampton Roads

Chamber, Future Hampton Roads, Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Virginia, and the Hampton Roads Alliance.

Avery holds a graduate degree from Florida Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree from Christopher Newport University.

Meet Susan Jacobs

Jacobs is a veteran in human resources, having worked in that industry since 1986. Prior to her current position as Vice President of Human Resources and Administration for Newport News Shipbuilding, she served as Director of Human Resources and Administration at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

“I believe that everyone has something to contribute to others and that doing so enriches the lives of all involved,” Jacobs said. “I have seen the great things that VersAbility does and am honored to be a part of that work.”

Jacobs also serves on the boards of LEAD Virginia, Riverside Lifelong Health, Hampton Roads Chamber, and the Hampton Roads Alliance. She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Meet Aazia Mickens Dessaso

In her current role at Techstars, Mickens Dessaso develops and executes strategies and plans to create opportunities for startups, investors, cities, and corporations. Techstars is a global network that provides support to entrepreneurs.

Mickens Dessaso’s tour of VersAbility’s Hampton headquarters several years ago inspired her to join the Board. She looks forward to using “my skills and network to provide access and opportunities for people with different abilities and to connect with like-minded business people in Hampton Roads who share an interest in equity and accessibility.”

Mickens Dessaso is a member of CIVIC and the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. She has appeared on “Shark Tank,” and was honored by the White House as an Emerging Global Entrepreneur.

Mickens Dessaso graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina.

Meet Casey Roberts

The Hampton native and fifth-generation educator serves as the Executive Director of the New Horizons Regional Education Centers, the largest of nine regional educational centers in Virginia. He previously held teaching positions in Hampton, Virginia Beach, Isle of Wight, and director positions for three boards – School Reform Initiative, Alumni Board of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, and Hampton Roads Committee of 200+ Men.

“I bring an array of skills and knowledge of workforce and economic development within the public education sphere that align with the mission and objectives of VersAbility,” Roberts said. “It is my belief that working together toward similar missions accelerates innovation, leverages networks, and further expands opportunities for all.

Roberts earned a graduate degree from Regent University and an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech. He is currently at work on his doctorate in education administration at The George Washington University.

Meet Edith White

As CEO of the Hampton Roads Community Action Program, White oversees the nonprofit with a mission of improving lives by providing optimum services and mobilizing community resources. She previously served more than 15 years at the Urban League of Hampton Roads, where she was president and CEO before retiring.

White notes that VersAbility’s mission “aligns with my personal values.”

White has served on several boards and committees over the years, including Empowerment 2010 Governance Board; Opportunity Inc.; Workforce Development Board; United Way Minority Council Advisory; Old Dominion University Community Development Corporation Board; Virginia State University Business Advisory Board; and the Newport News Public Superintendents Roundtable. She is the founder of Project Vision, a volunteer leadership development board.

White holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University.

VersAbility Resources Adds Five Community Leaders to its Board of Directors

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VersAbility Resources welcomes five business and community leaders to its 2022 Board of Directors.

Board members provide governance and strategic direction for the nonprofit, which helps people with disabilities to live, work and thrive in their communities.

The new members are:

  • Shawn Avery, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Workforce Council
  • Susan Jacobs, Vice President of Human Resources and Administration, Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Aazia Mickens-Dessaso, Executive Director of Ecosystem Development, Techstars
  • Casey Roberts, Executive Director, New Horizons Regional Education Centers
  • Edith White, CEO, Hampton Roads Community Action Program

VersAbility Resources has also named its 2022 Executive Committee members who are:

  • Chair: Bob Korroch, Partner, Williams Mullen
  • Vice Chair: Joycelyn Spight Roache, Senior Vice President, Relationship Manager, Old Point National Bank
  • Treasurer: Doug Burgoyne, Executive Vice President, TowneBank
  • Secretary: Jeff Tanner, Dean, Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University
  • Immediate Past Chair: Ron Murray, Vice President of Quality and Compliance at Newport News Shipbuilding

“We’re grateful to have a committed and dedicated Board and Executive Committee who are passionate about advancing our mission of ensuring all people with disabilities are able to lead dignified, productive lives of their choosing as fully accepted members of society,” said Kasia Grzelkowski, President and CEO of VersAbility Resources.

VersAbility Resources serves more than 1,700 people with disabilities and their families, providing programs in early childhood, student services, day support, residential and four diverse employment programs. Its service area includes all of Hampton Roads and the 10 counties on the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck.


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