Campus News

Employees invited to VPA open forum: Nevill speaks of the importance of IT, digital learning, supporting students through technology

Maya Hall

Editor-in-Chief

Tom Nevill, a Springfield, Illinois, native, was the third of three candidates invited by the college to meet with employees at an open forum in El Dorado on Friday, April 23. President Kim Krull first introduced Nevill, then went on to list his qualifications and achievements before having him come up to the podium to introduce himself. 

In 2005, Tom Nevill moved to Brownsville, Texas, where he started working at the University of Texas. At this institution, he founded the percussion program. Courtesy Butler Community College

“He has over 20 years of higher education experience…,” Krull said. “Currently sits as the founding dean of Arts and Digital Media at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas, where he most recently led an initiative for Austin Community College to be the first Adobe Creative campus at a community college in the United States. He is also co-chair of the Arts and Digital Media Communication area of study team for planning the district-wide 20’ to 25’ Academic Master Plan… Dr. Nevill founded the internationally recognized professional studies program at the University of Texas at Brownsville… He has a bachelor’s of music degree from Eastern Illinois University, and earned his doctorate of musical arts and master’s degree in percussion performance from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.” 

Nevill then came up to the podium to introduce himself and talk about his background. He then spoke about his experience at being first welcomed at Butler. 

“The opportunity to come here especially as I have gotten to know, with the marathon day that it has been, is really just getting to know the culture here and the wonderful people; it has been nothing but positive and upbeat…,” Nevill said. “It was very appealing from what I was reading, and it checks a lot of boxes for me personally. Also the opportunity to work with a group of faculty staff that I have met and even some of the students that I have met today, it has been really warm and welcoming, and I am really excited about the opportunity to usher in the new era of academics here.” 

Nevill’s first experience at the community college level was as a dean at Guilford Technical Community College. Then the vice-presidential candidate moved to Brownsville, Texas, to Pima, Arizona, where he oversaw performing arts. Nevill now works at Austin, Texas, as the dean of arts and digital media. 

“All the cool kids are in my division,” he said. “We do everything from animation and motion graphics to game design, radio/television, film, commercial music…” 

Daniel Higdon, assistant professor of engineering technology, asked about what changes Nevill expected to see in higher education and how institutions should respond to this change. 

“I think you’re (Butler) posed in a good spot because you have really strong IT support and infrastructure and that is going to continue to evolve, too,” Nevilll said. “Apple just this week released all their new gadgets and ideas, but if you get the opportunity to work or talk with some of these companies, they give you ideas of what is coming because they are providing us these tools we are working with. If you get an idea of where they are going with things, you can sort of get an idea of ‘well, maybe we need to be thinking about that.’ Mobile learning is happening. Some schools have gone to a one-to-one mobile initiative. They have done some great work of scaling one-to-one devices with students and faculty. Now it’s not always effective; … there are certain disciplines where it doesn’t lend itself well.” 

During Nevill’s time as the dean of arts and digital media, he spoke of how Austin Community College continues to engage their students.  

“….we really put a lot of emphasis on collaboration, and we designed a platform for students to collaborate with one another, and we are calling it Creative Collab Connect,” Nevill said. “It’s just a way for students that have a project idea, and they need to work with a student, maybe outside of their discipline or even in their own discipline. An example that I use is one of our photography students works with our drama students that are in set design, so they are going to build sets for productions, so we need to teach students how to take photos of those sets because that is going to be a part of their portfolio. It’s this great opportunity for students to collaborate, so we are looking at the idea of making it intentional design.” 

Nevill explains that the Creative Collab Connect was started by the faculty at Austin Community College.  

Toward the end of the open forum, Krull reminded Nevill of the early college academies that Butler offers, which the institution he works at also has in common. For instance, Austin partnered with Austin schools to offer graphic design classes as well as offering hip-hop dance classes.  

Nevill offered closing remarks. 

“I really appreciate the opportunity, your time, and your energy and being a part of this process,” he said. “It’s a very important decision for the college to make for the next vice president of academics, and it’s an exciting time to be here.” 

The vice president of academics (VPA) will be announced to the Board of Trustees at the May board meeting on Tuesday, May 11. For more information on the VPA search, visit this linke:  Vice President of Academics Search | Butler Community College (butlercc.edu).  

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