Vice president of student services and equity advancement, Germanna Community College, Fredericksburg
Commencement season is Tiffany Ray’s favorite time of year. That’s when students walk across the stage to get their degrees, and she can see “live and in color” how her work is reshaping lives.
In 2017, the year before Ray arrived at Germanna as its chief diversity officer, the Fredericksburg community college graduated just four African Americans out of a student body of 7,000. “We were obviously leaving students behind,” says Ray, a Hampton native and Old Dominion University alumna.
After holding executive roles at ODU, William & Mary and Virginia Tech, Ray was determined to change that dismal statistic, and she has done so through a combination of outreach, curriculum development and student engagement. Black student enrollment has grown 25%, part of an overall 15.6% enrollment jump in the past four years.
The Aspen Institute selected Ray for its 2022-23 Aspen Rising Presidents class, which prepares the next generation of community college presidents. She also is part of ODU’s Strome College of Business’ DEI committee and a board member for the Rappahannock United Way.
At age 37, Ray realizes that she is young to be in such a critical position. “I did a lot really quickly,” she says, crediting her success to two things: “Lead with ‘Yes, I’ll do it,’” and being a “deep listener. People will tell you exactly what they need if you listen,” she says.