The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. Photo by Dwayne Yancey

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville has announced its search for its first president, a new position created by the board of trustees.

According to a release from the institute, Dr. Betty Jo Foster will serve as Interim President for the newly formed role. Current Executive Director Mark Gignac will continue with certain administrative and operational responsibilities under the new structure. The expansion of executive leadership is a result of extensive growth in the level of activity of IALR, as well as strategic succession planning, according to a release from the institute.

“The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research has served as a regional catalyst for economic growth and transformation of Southern Virginia since 2002, and we are committed to ensuring this legacy continues for many more decades to come,” said Roy Ford Jr., chair of the IALR board of trustees in a statement. “While the board recognizes and appreciates the accomplishments of IALR under the leadership of Mark Gignac, our recent completion of a seven-month strategic planning process uncovered the need for expanded top management resources to provide increased strategic leadership. The addition of a president will help better balance and focus responsibilities while fulfilling our strategy of intentional, well-executed succession planning.”

IALR has formed a seven-member search committee to identify, interview and recommend candidates for the position. It has also chosen Korn Ferry in Washington, D.C., to conduct a national search. The firm will work with community stakeholders to gather input regarding the preferred attributes and qualifications for the new president, according to the release. The president will provide high-level, strategic leadership, and the goal is to fill the position in 2022.

Foster will serve as interim president, effective Jan. 5. She was formerly Chair of the IALR board of trustees as well as having served as Interim President for both Danville Community College and Central Virginia Community College. In addition, she was the Interim President and CEO for the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.

IALR recently completed a seven-month strategic planning process. According to a release from the institute, “the work involved input from various internal and external stakeholders, including the entire board and all employees as well as many others, and resulted in the following strategic themes, all requiring significant strategic oversight:  Virginia’s go-to partner for business and economic growth, center of excellence for education and workforce development, globally competitive business ecosystem, collaborative team success, excellence in board leadership and decision making, strategic expansion of applied research, and culture of learning.”

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research’s goal is to serve as a regional catalyst for economic transformation with applied research, advanced learning, economic development, advanced manufacturing and conference services. Its footprint includes the counties of Patrick, Henry, Franklin, Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg along with the cities of Martinsville and Danville. For more information, visit