Rivers will work closely with student services, career services and the academic departments to implement policies, programming, events and services that support student needs, their academic success and retention.
“I want to really understand what makes students advance in their majors and what makes them drop out in their majors and see what kind of programming we can put in place to help retain those students,” she said. “That’s uppermost in my mind - what we can do to retain our students as much as possible.”
Her direct reports will include the offices of student services, career services, outreach, diversity and inclusion and events coordination.
Rivers has been with the College of Engineering since it was only nine months old, starting as a student assistant to the dean’s office and earning her way through the ranks of student adviser, coordinator of advising, then director of student services. Throughout her 25-year career with the college, she also earned a bachelor’s degree, a masters degree and a doctoral degree from VCU, all while working full time.
Her academic career with VCU and professional career with the College of Engineering give Rivers the ability to relate first-hand to the student experience, an asset she believes will be valuable in this position. “I’ve experienced it from all sides at this point,” she said. “I’ve spent most of my adult life here and I really see this as a way to make some real, meaningful contributions to the school.”
“Jennifer’s background and commitment to our students make her a great student advocate and a great fit for this role,” said Gary C. Tepper, Ph.D., interim dean of VCU Engineering. “I am confident our students will benefit, both from her experience as a VCU student and from her understanding of the college.”
Rivers said she was first influenced in this role by a former supervisor who passed away while serving in a similar position, affording her an opportunity to step up and assume some of the responsibilities.
“After that, I really had the fire in the belly to serve students in a different way, from academic advising to policies that make sense, to step up and make headway in areas of retention and whatever opportunities I had to influence recruitment.”
In that pivotal moment, she made a long-term commitment to advance these goals. Now, she is being given an opportunity to honor that commitment.
Rivers is part of several leadership transitions taking place in the college, including: