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April 3, 2018
It’s only logical that a former psychology teacher might unconsciously invoke Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when describing priorities for his new role as associate vice president for academic affairs at Piedmont Technical College (PTC). First and foremost, Dr. Darrin Campen is focused on the needs of more than 4,000 students across seven campuses. Related partnerships with high schools and diverse industries bring needs management to an even more complex level.
“I need to make sure that relationships are working,” he said. “We have 10 school districts across seven counties. That is a gigantic service area. All locations have different needs.”
Of the total PTC student body, some 16 percent (650+) are Dual Enrollment students taking college courses while still in high school. “We need to make sure students are supported, regardless of which campus they are on.”
Early in his career, Campen served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves, taught conversational English in Japan, worked as a staff psychologist in the North Carolina State Prison System and as a psychology instructor at Chowan University in North Carolina. In 2001, he joined the faculty of Aiken Technical College (ATC) as program coordinator of psychology. He continued to serve ATC as department chair of history and social sciences from 2007 through 2010.
“When I went to Aiken, that is when I really fell in love with the mission of technical and community colleges,” Campen said. “The access mission is a very noble one. I am a blue-collar person and a first-generation college graduate. I think we can do more in the technical college system to transform lives in a significant way.”
In 2010, opportunity came calling from north of the border, and Campen accepted a position as dean of social sciences at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD. Four years later, he was named college-wide dean of education and social services at Montgomery. But something was pulling him south again.
“I wanted to get below the sweet tea line again,” he quipped. “I was ready for a change, and when I interviewed with Piedmont Tech’s leadership team, it just felt right. I realized that this is where I belong.”
Campen earned his bachelor’s in psychology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, and his master’s in psychology from New Mexico Highland University in Las Vegas. He went on to earn his education specialist degree and his doctorate, both in counselor education, from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Outside of academics, Campen feels that life experiences provide unique insights and build character that can put people on the path to success.
Campen enjoyed his early experience with the Marines and carries forward many of the values that service instilled. “The skills that are needed for leadership in the military are similar to the ones needed anywhere else,” he said. “It’s about the mission, creating vision, inspiring people and getting them to work together as a team. Military leadership, however, tends to be top-down. In higher education, we tend to be much more collaborative. The lessons I carried over from the military were the importance of teamwork and persistence.”
Of his three years as a young teacher in Japan, Campen said that cultural immersion, like workplace immersion facilitated through PTC, can be one of the most effective teachers.
“It was one of the greatest, eye-opening experiences of my life. I would definitely recommend to young people to live in another country for six months or longer,” Campen said. “It’s important occasionally to go outside of your comfort zone.”
Piedmont Technical College Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Darrin Campen