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Faculty Profiles - Tom Edmunds and Virginia Smith

Tom Edmunds, Assistant Professor of Computer ScienceDr. Tom Edmunds
Tom Edmunds has found a home at RVCC. “Every fall, I just have this overwhelming feeling that this is where I belong,” says the assistant professor, who’s been teaching in the College’s Computer Science Department for 15 years.

Ironically, Tom’s interest in computers was sparked while taking a college math course—not one in computer science. The class was located in the building where the computers where housed, and “I saw all the lights blinking. I wanted to know more about it.” Tom began taking computer science electives during his senior year at Penn State University, and after completing his undergraduate degree in math, he received both an M.S. and a Ph.D. in computer science from the university.

While a graduate student at Penn State, Tom worked in the school’s Computer Center and also served as a teaching assistant for programming courses. When Tom got married and the couple’s first child was born, he began working at the Computer Center full-time. It was then that the center’s director told him: “Go out and get some experience.” Tom listened, and he spent the next 25 years at Bell Labs where he had a successful career in networking and security.

After retiring from Bell Labs, the Washington resident taught a few courses at Northampton Community College before joining RVCC’s Computer Science Department in 1999.

“Even though I’m a scientist I’m a firm believer in a liberal arts education,” he says. “I think it’s essential.” Tom encourages his students to take writing classes and emphasizes the importance of soft skills, especially when applying for jobs. And he’s enjoyed helping several former students find employment over the years.

The two-time department chair credits his professional experience as a great benefit to his students. When teaching a networking class, for example, “I know what I’m talking about because I’ve built networks.” The strength of RVCC, he says, is that many professors have similar real-life experience and students value that in the classroom.

Tom says he has “great faculty to work with” at RVCC and he’s impressed with the quality of the new people being hired. “It’s a very positive environment. There’s an energy on campus,” he says, that’s focused on learning and excellence. He’s especially proud of the Cisco Networking Academy that he started at RVCC in 2000.

As for the future, he’d love to see more women majoring in computer science at RVCC, where fewer than five percent of the department’s majors are female.

In the meantime, his favorite part of his job is “just being in the classroom with the students and the active interchanging of ideas…. Sometimes I think I learn more from the students than they do from me.”

Virginia Smith, Instructor of Interior DesignVirginia Smith
Virginia Smith credits her father, a machine designer, for her career choice. “I think I’m a teacher because of the way he taught me… He made me love figuring stuff out.”

It was the problem-solving aspect of interior design that drew her to the field, says Virginia, who has been coordinating RVCC’s degree program since its inception in 2011. “I like the balance of the logic and the aesthetic.”

After receiving a B.F.A. in printmaking from the University of Hartford, Virginia worked in a variety of design fields including environmental graphics, exhibit design, commercial design, and even some residential design. From these experiences, Virginia says, she learned that she enjoys designing on computers and thrives on meeting deadlines.

Virginia received an M.S. in interior design from Drexel University and then taught both undergraduate and graduate courses there, as well as at Philadelphia University. She began teaching at RVCC in 2010.

“I love it here,” says Virginia. “I am utterly enamored by the idea of affordable, quality education.” She describes her colleagues in the Visual and Performing Arts Department as “very accessible” and “very positive” and her students are her “inspiration.” Virginia is especially excited that many of her students have received impressive scholarships to such four-year colleges as Pratt Institute and the New York School of Interior Design.

Some of Virginia’s students received some practical experience while they were still at RVCC as they helped collaborate on the design of the interior space, as well as furniture and color selection, of the Ray Bateman Center for Student Life and Leadership. Working on the student center “was a great opportunity for students to see the actual collaboration that happens on a project. They got to experience real-world constraints, including costs, deadlines, changes of direction and real opinions of their client and the vendors. This is a big aspect to design that is not easy to replicate in the classroom,” Virginia said before the center’s February opening.

Virginia encourages her interior design students to “love the work” itself and not just focus on the end product. She also emphasizes that their projects will not always be a great success and they must learn to handle negative reactions from a boss or client. “You have to take that criticism and learn more from it and not let it shut you down,” says Virginia, who also runs her own design business, Breathe Design.

Virginia is very happy with her position at RVCC. Every day, she says, “I get to share with 10 or 15 people this work that I love.”

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