Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson will be the guest speaker at Northern Virginia Community College’s 44th Commencement on Sunday, May 16. More than 3,400 students are graduating this spring and eligible to participate in the ceremony that begins at 2 p.m. in George Mason University’s Patriot Center. The event is open to the public.
As a community college alumnus, Robinson shares a common bond with the graduates. Robinson’s first stop in higher education was at El Camino Community College in Torrance, Calif., where he earned an associate degree. Building on that foundation, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Howard University and a master’s degree at Harvard University.
When announcing his choice for Secretary of Education, Gov. Bob McDonnell highlighted Robinson’s efforts to improve access to education for others.
“Few individuals in America are as committed to providing positive educational opportunities for all our young people, in all our communities, as Gerard Robinson,” McDonnell said. “He understands the issue both personally and professionally. Gerard’s life story, from growing up in a working-class family in Los Angeles to receiving his master’s degree in education from Harvard, is an inspiration to us all. He has dedicated his career to helping young people across the country receive the same educational opportunities that were crucial to his own success.”
Before becoming Secretary of Education, Robinson was the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission to actively support parental choice to empower families and to increase quality educational options for black children.
Prior to that position, Robinson served as a senior research associate for the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas from 2006 to 2007, and as a senior fellow at the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University from 2004 to 2006. As a senior fellow, he assisted in reform efforts related to Milwaukee’s private and public school choice programs and provided testimony before a Wisconsin legislative hearing on “Closing the Achievement Gap.”
Robinson also was a member of the Wisconsin team that worked with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers on a U.S. Department of Education funded project that resulted in the publication of “Quality Charter School Authorizing in Wisconsin: Authorizer & Charter School Accountability Under No Child Left Behind” (2006).
Robinson serves on the board of several organizations, including the Policy Advisory Council at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Advisory Committee for the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, the Georgia Charter School Commission, the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, and the U.S. Department of Education’s National Charter School Resource Center.
Robinson’s professional endeavors have included numerous initiatives involving urban school reform and policy development. As executive director of a nonprofit organization in New York City, he opened a charter school in New Jersey. He participated in the crafting of public policy through his fellowship with the California State Senate, as a resource person in the Virginia General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives, and as a legislative liaison for the superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Robinson also was an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles and a teacher in the pre-college academic program at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, N.J.
Robinson has given many formal and informal presentations about education and public policy before audiences in the United States and abroad. He is also a prolific author with many publications to his credit.
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.