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A "cycle of transformation" for community colleges

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 – your weekly round-up of the latest community college news from across North Carolina and the country. If you’re not signed up for Awake58’s weekly newsletter, click here to do so. Our last edition asked you to tell us how we are doing. You may read that edition by clicking here.

The Dallas Herring Lecture last week came with a big grant announcement for the Belk Center… The system presidential search committee will meet on Nov. 16… More details on the latest N.C. Reconnect cohort released… We explore what 2022 election results could mean for the entire educational continuum…

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research hosted the annual Dallas Herring Lecture last week, along with North Carolina State University’s College of Education. The lecture offered Alamo Colleges District Chancellor Mike Flores an opportunity to walk attendees through Alamo’s “cycle of transformation,” including diverse pathways for students, holistic student supports, and more.

The big news of the day – the announcement of a $25 million grant to the Belk Center from the John M. Belk Endowment – came just a few hours before the Dallas Herring lecture.

Typically I would use this intro section to walk you through other news from across the community college landscape, but this week I would like to share the following message from Belk Center Executive Director Audrey Jaeger’s closing remarks at the Dallas Herring Lecture:

And now, as we conclude this event, I want to share with you a few last words from Dallas Herring himself that I think will resonate with you. In a letter to Guy Phillips in October 1958, he wrote, “As I look back over the past eight years during which I have been active in school affairs, I realize how my natural tendency to impatience, to relentless driving ahead, sometimes even to bitterness toward the things and the individuals who seem at the time to be obstructing progress, may be difficult for others to understand. I am not sure I understand it myself, except that time seems inordinately short to me and so much good is there ahead just waiting to be done.

I think, if we’re honest, perhaps we see a bit of ourselves in him. Impatience, bitterness, frustration – with individuals seeking to maintain the status quo. And yet – at the same time – they have a very real commitment to making progress.

So let us remember that we are not, and never have been, alone in this.

And let us, like Herring, press on and to borrow a phrase from my friend, MC,  ‘keep pounding’ – knowing that time seems inordinately short to me and so much good is there ahead just waiting to be done.

“So much good is there ahead just waiting to be done.” Indeed.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

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EdNC reads

The Dallas Herring Lecture and a big grant for the Belk Center

Chancellor of the Alamo Colleges District Dr. Mike Flores delivered the 2022 Dallas Herring Lecture last week, focusing on advancing social mobility and equity.

Flores noted that as enrollment declines continue, it is important to focus on what he called the true competition for colleges: poverty.

During his speech, Flores outlined Alamo’s full “cycle of transformation.” You can read Hannah’s full write-up by clicking here. Here’s an excerpt from the recap:

Enrollment matters because it shows how a college is reaching more students, Flores said. And during the pandemic, Black, Brown, and low-income students were disproportionately impacted by enrollment and attainment declines. In North Carolina, for example, Black men suffered the largest enrollment decline in 2020, with traditional degree-seeking enrollment falling 14% from the year prior for this group.

“The past few years has provided challenges for each and every one of us,” Flores said.

But colleges should view poverty as their competition, not other colleges, he said.

“We have to look at who we serve, and what do they look like?” he said. “What are some of the challenges that they confront?”

Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Technical Community College and this year’s featured respondent for the 2022 Dallas Herring Lecture, highlighted models being implemented in North Carolina’s community colleges to advance equity. Spriggs, a low-income, first-generation student herself, emphasized the power of education.

“I hope that my story and the other stories you’ve heard serve as exemplar personal examples of the power of education to transform not just one life, but generations of lives,” she said. “Now is the best time for community colleges to courageously challenge the status quo and lead the work of creating a more equitable future for each and every North Carolinian.”

Lenoir Community College President Rusty Hunt also penned a response this week. You can find his perspective here. In his perspective Hunt wrote: “To say it takes a village is an understatement, for we must expand our village to help boost the economy, to bring skilled workers to high-demand jobs, to continue to serve and change with the times. No longer can we adopt, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ attitudes.”

The John M. Belk Endowment announced a significant gift to the Belk Center before the start of the lecture – $25 million over 10 years.

MC Belk Pilon, the President and Chair of JMBE, delivered the announcement of the grant:

“We were created because we know education is the single most important means to greater equity, personal fulfillment, economic success, and community vitality,” she said. “That is why it has been our honor to support and partner with Dr. Jaeger and the Belk Center team since the Center’s formation with the shared goal of improving and accelerating the success of North Carolina’s community colleges and their students.”

Additional details on the investment can be found here.

N.C. Reconnect adds five more community colleges to its adult learner initiative

As we reported last week, N.C. Reconnect has announced their latest cohort. BrunswickCatawba ValleyCollege of The AlbemarleDavidson-Davie, and Edgecombe community colleges will make up the third cohort of the adult-learner initiative.

Emily’s latest piece on the work helps place the work to date in context:

As college leaders from the first two cohorts highlighted specific strategies that were working on their campuses, it was clear that attracting, enrolling, and retaining adult learners is a multi-faceted approach.

“We realized early on that there’s probably no silver bullet to reaching adult learners – ever. There are multiple things that maybe have silver-bullet-like qualities,” said Mike Krause, a senior advisor at JMBE.

The Belk Center’s Adult Learner Guidebook – a resource that offers promising practices and lessons learned from cohort one – echoes Krause’s sentiments that no one strategy will bring adult learners back to community college campuses. Rather, reaching and engaging adult learners includes evaluating processes, systems, and policies on community college campuses and being willing to make changes if those operational models do not meet the needs of students.

For the rest of Emily’s piece, click here.

Coastal Carolina Community College supports career transitions for service members

Onslow County has a significant military presence. Coastal Carolina Community College serves veterans as they transition into civilian life. Liz Bell’s recent Impact58 visit of the college included a focus on the variety of programs they offer to “serve those who serve us,” as one Coastal Carolina administrator said.

Bell explored the economic impact of the college through the prism of these programs:

A recent economic impact report found that the community college added $106.9 million in income to Onslow County in the 2019-20 fiscal year and supported one out of 50 jobs in its service area.

On the day EdNC visited, the next linemen class was learning CPR to work towards their Heart Safe certifications. The assistant teacher Seth Carlberg had graduated from the program while still active in the military in April. He worked in the industry and then came to work in the program.

“It’s amazing,” Carlberg said. “They provide a great example and provide all the certifications everyone needs. They got me a job immediately. My entire class all has jobs.”

Heatherly, who has been at the college for more than 30 years, said he has seen the relationship between the community and the military strengthen tremendously.

“There is not, in their opinions, a better community-military relationship than we have here,” he said he hears often from service members who have experience at bases all over the world. “So that is our identity.”

For her full article, click here.

Craven Community College’s Volt Center is a workforce development powerhouse

Katie Dukes visited Craven Community College as part of our ongoing Impact58 tour. Her time at Craven included a visit to the Volt Center to take a look at the economic impact of the Center — including their work on job-training for local employers:

Under the leadership of Eddie Foster, dean of the Volt Center, Brianna Johnson oversees some of the center’s job-training efforts. She described the center’s partnership with Bosch.

In a three-day class, students learn the basic skill sets of manufacturing by practicing on an assembly line set up in the Volt Center. Johnson also helps them develop what she describes as “soft skills” during the course.

“A lot of the people I have who come through my three-day class come from really disenfranchised backgrounds,” Johnson said. “And so getting that extra time on how do I build a resume? How do I introduce myself in an interview? How do I shake someone’s hand? Those sorts of skills are really, really helpful.”

Johnson has helped more than 70 students get local jobs that typically pay family-sustaining wages since May 2022. One student’s experience stands out to her.

“I had a guy who had gotten out of prison on Friday,” Johnson said. “He walks in early on Monday morning, and he’s like, ‘I want to go work at Bosch. My grandma sent me to take this class.’ And I said, ‘You’re in luck, it’s just about to start.’”

“By Wednesday, he had a job,” Johnson said.

For more on Katie’s visit to the Volt Center, click here.

Around NC

ICYMI: EducationNC is turning 8, and we are thinking about our work and our impact in North Carolina. How are we doing? What changes or improvements would you like to see? Please let us know what you think by taking this brief survey. Plus, leave your name and email in the final question for a chance to receive one of five $100 Amazon gift cards. The survey will close on Friday, December 2. Click here to share your thoughts! Thank you in advance for your feedback.

You might be curious how the 2022 election results would impact the educational continuum. Our own Alex Granados has a brief look at potential impacts that is worth your time. You can read it by clicking here.

Bond results are also coming in from across the state.

In Durham: “Durham County voters overwhelmingly supported a $112.7 million bond referendum Tuesday that will construct two state-of-the-art facilities for healthcare and life sciences training” at Durham Technical Community College.

And in Wake, at Wake Technical Community College: “Wake County will soon have innovative new training facilities for health care, life sciences, cybersecurity and industrial professions, as well as a new permanent Western Wake Campus, thanks to passage of the Wake Tech Workforce Forward bond. Voters overwhelmingly approved the $353 million bond in Tuesday’s election, enabling the college to grow to meet the demand for skilled workers in high-demand fields. The referendum passed with 70% support.”

The N.C. State Board of Community Colleges Presidential Search Committee will meet this week:

The presidential Search Committee will meet virtually on Nov. 16 at 9 a.m. View Agenda 

The meeting is open to the public, but some portions may be conducted in closed session, pursuant to state law. The meeting will be livestreamed on the N.C. Community College System Office YouTube channel.  

We’ll continue to cover the process.

The State Board of Community Colleges will also meet this week:

Committee meetings – Nov. 17, beginning at 9:30 a.m. View agenda.

Board meeting – Nov. 18, beginning at 9:00 a.m. View agenda.

The meetings will be held at the North Carolina Community College System Office, at 200 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27603. The meetings will also be livestreamed on the N.C. Community College System Office YouTube channel.

myFutureNC released their 2022 county attainment profiles last week. Check out the latest information for your county by clicking here.

The North Carolina Community College Faculty Association has released two more podcast episodes. You can find them here.

Duke Energy announced grants to 11 North Carolina community colleges to support their workforce development efforts.

Brunswick County landed a new company in recent months due in part to Brunswick Community College’s promise to launch an apprenticeship program: “We always wanted to do an apprenticeship program and we could never get it to fully happen in California,” said company CEO Norbert Kozar, “so we jumped at the chance when BCC presented it.”

Carteret Community College‘s culinary program’s connection to French cuisine is something the foodie in me loves. Recently two French chefs visited the college and their community to bring the exchange program to our shores. I wish I had been invited!

Halifax Community College‘s presidential selection process has entered the deliberations stage after a series of forums with their previously announced finalists this week.

The Fayetteville Observer published a profile on incoming Fayetteville Technical Community College President Mark Sorrells. The profile shares how Sorrells began his career in education as an instructor at Haywood Community College — and then walks you through a career path that ultimately led to the FTCC presidency he’ll start this coming January.

A Richmond County manufacturer announced an expansion that will include 100 new jobs — and Richmond Community College will provide the necessary customized training, according to press reports.

Other higher education reads

Listening to students, helping them persist

Student persistence rates is a near-constant topic of interest as I travel to community colleges across North Carolina. In case you missed this recent study on what students say most helps them persist, I wanted to flag it for you:

What helps community college students stay in college? Connections with others, engaging instructors, support services, and clarity about their academic goals and what they need to achieve them.

That’s what the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) at the University of Texas, Austin heard when it talked with some Texas two-year college students about potential barriers to continuing their education. CCCSE compiled the feedback in a new report released on Thursday that aims to guide community colleges in helping students to persist with their education.

The remainder of the write-up from Community College Daily can be found here. The full report is located here. And if you missed it, here’s our August report by Emily and Hannah on what N.C. community colleges are doing to keep students enrolled.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.