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A State Board of Community Colleges meeting recap

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 – your weekly round-up of the latest community college news from across North Carolina and the country. This is Emily. If you’re not signed up for Awake58’s weekly newsletter, click here to do so. If you missed our last edition, you may read it by clicking here.

The latest from the State Board of Community Colleges… More Impact 58 stories… A recap from the first NC10 HBCU conference… Perspective pieces from two community college presidents… myFutureNC releases latest county attainment profiles… A short clip about JMBE’s investment announcement of $25 million to the Belk Center…

As November comes to a close and themes of gratitude take shape, I am reminded of my own educational journey. When I started my academic career at one of the 58 community colleges, I had serious doubts about my ability to complete a credential. I almost quit – twice. 

So why didn’t I? 

That answer is simple – it was the people. When my own messages rooted in fear were loud, the sounds of hope and encouragement from those serving the college were louder. I will always be grateful for the educators in this state who invested in me – and who truly helped change my life’s trajectory. 

While on the topic of gratitude, team EdNC would like to thank the great 58 for allowing us on your campuses this fall. We’ll wrap our Impact 58 tour in a few weeks. This week we have stories from Caldwell, Johnston, and Roanoke-Chowan community colleges. You can find all the impact stories here. 

Our team had a full week of travel. Hannah attended the State Board of Community Colleges’ November meeting. I had the opportunity to join fellow Hunt Institute ElevateNC cohort members in Memphis, TN. Alex visited Randolph Community College. Nation, Rupen, and others attended the first NC10 HBCU conference at St. Augustine’s University.

Check out Hannah’s recap from the State Board of Community Colleges’ November meeting, including an allocation of $16 million to support the Bioscience industry, updates on the strategic plan, and the search for the next system president. The presidential search committee will meet again Nov. 30.

Rupen Fofaria writes about the first NC10 HBCU conference. Check out highlights from the conference here.

Earlier this month, MC Belk Pilon from John M. Belk Endowment announced a $25 million investment to support the work of NC State’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research. Check out this short clip about the investment.

myFutureNC released the latest county attainment profiles – including postsecondary completion updates. Read more here

Dr. Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Technical Community College, was this year’s respondent for the annual Dallas Herring Lecture. You can read her remarks here. And Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood writes about the role community colleges play in building the talent pipeline of our state’s health care system. 

We’ll be pausing Awake58 next week. Look for our next edition Dec. 6. 


With gratitude,

Emily Thomas 

Policy Analyst –


EdNC reads

10 N.C. community colleges to receive $15 million for biosciences

During the second-to-last State Board of Community Colleges meeting of 2022, Board members allocated more than $16 million to support the bioscience industry, planned for implementing the first year of the new strategic plan, and discussed the search for a system president.

The Board approved the allocation of nearly $16.5 million to 10 community colleges and the system office to support the bioscience industry sector as part of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. Fifteen million will go to the 10 colleges, and $1.4 million will be retained by the system office to administer the grant.

Earlier this month, the Board voted on a vendor to search for a new president of the NCCCS, Search Committee Co-Chairperson Shirley Carraway said. The committee will meet with that vendor once the firm is approved by the state Department of Administration. At that point, the name of the firm will be made public, the system said.

The presidential search committee meets next on Nov. 30. Moving forward, the committee will build an official presidential profile for the search using input from a statewide survey and the hired search firm. The Board received over 1,300 responses to its survey, the system said, and aims to hire a new president in the spring. You can read more about the timeline of the presidential search here.

Thinking and dreaming big — the NC10 begin action on journey of partnership

North Carolina’s 10 historically Black colleges and universities, called the NC10, are starting an unprecedented journey together, building on shared values and missions to create partnerships.

Last year, the 10 institutions made a presentation to four nonprofits – Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED), the Hunt InstitutemyFutureNC, and EdNC – during a listening tour. When that effort culminated in a “Listening to the NC10” convening at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham one year ago, leaders from the NC10 decided to keep going.

On Wednesday, about 100 gathered at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh to celebrate a formal beginning for that work. The first NC10 HBCU Conference, themed “Partners in Progress,” was hosted by CREED.

There’s a unique window of opportunity, CREED Executive Director James E. Ford said, to increase the state’s focus on the NC10’s value – including the importance of their success and contributions to the state’s culture and need for a diverse talent pipeline.

“Individuals committed to collaboration on that day,” Ford said of the convening last year. “They formed an advisory council working group, selected a mission and vision statement, identified goals, and now are hosting their first conference to operationalize those ideas.”

Updates from Impact 58

How one North Carolina county engineered an economic comeback

When we traveled to Caldwell County recently to hear more about the impact of Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute (CCC&TI), we heard from business, education, and government leaders who remember those days because their home county was hit as hard as any county in the state.

Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission (EDC), laid out the facts during our conversation:

  • The county lost roughly 10,000 jobs from 2002 to 2010.
  • Unemployment rose from 2% to 17.6% in 2010.
  • Roughly 7 million square feet of industrial space was vacant.
  • The poverty rate for the county increased to 20.8% in 2010.

Today, Murray can trumpet rosier numbers, including a 37% increase in private sector wages since 2015, a 15.3% increase in median household income as of the latest census, and a 42% reduction in the poverty rate since 2013.

“We are the authors of our own comeback,” Murray declared — the “Caldwell Comeback,” as several residents we met with dubbed it.

How did this comeback happen? CCC&TI President Mark Poarch’s answer is simple: “Partners matter. Caldwell County is a special place due to our partnerships.”

Read more about Caldwell Community College’s partnerships.

Johnston Community College invests in biotechnology, connects students to high-paying jobs

Juan Galindo first learned about Johnston Community College’s (JCC) BioWork certificate program during a conversation with his bank teller.

Her son, in his mid-thirties, wanted to change careers, the teller told Galindo. After completing the BioWork program, manufacturing company Grifols hired him with just his certificate.

“She told me about that, and I was kind of like, ‘You know, I’ve always been kind of interested in biology, technology,” Galindo, 22, said. “That’s when I applied for the same certificate program. And I kind of stuck by it.”

The dream for the Bio Blend program started as an idea for how to meet emerging advanced technological workforce needs.

“The college wanted to pilot the idea that if we blended the skills –if we took these applied engineering students who might go into maintenance roles at Caterpillar, Coyote, or Duke Energy – and we had them take the BioWork class so that they know how to properly gown and work in an aseptic environment in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, then that would that better prepare them for more options.”- Julie Griffin, Bio Blend career coach at JCC

Since launching the program, 25 students have participated – 14 in the first cohort and 11 in the second cohort.

More than half of those students (53%) secured jobs with internship supervisors or at their internship site. Eighty-six percent of the first cohort enrolled in the second year of the program. Today, 10 out of those 12 work in biopharmaceutical manufacturing. One of the other students delayed plans due to a military obligation, and the other found employment in non-biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

Check out Johnston Community College’s impact story.

From working poor to working for himself: How Roanoke-Chowan Community College transformed one life

Andre Lassiter sat in a conference room in Myrtle Beach, fighting back tears.

His whole world, as he reflected in that moment, had seemed tied to the housing authority where he grew up. Still, he had never accepted that he was destined for a life of poverty. And he had never realized that the community college down the street could make such a difference.

It all dawned on him, though, in that conference room. And he was overwhelmed by shock, then sadness, and, finally, gratitude.

“What can I do now to help other people like me that came out of impoverished situations?” Lassiter recalls thinking. “It’s a war against them. Single mom, living in public housing, all of the odds that’s against the Black male. But education still is, and will always be, a game changer. So that’s my fight.”

Read Lassiter’s story here.

Around NC

Halifax Community College announces new president, Dr. Patrena B. Elliott.

Isothermal Community College received a $15,000 grant from Duke Energy Foundation to create powerful communities in Rutherford and Polk counties through the Protective Relay Technician Program.

Cleveland Community College received $25,000 from Duke Energy Foundation to support its Electrical Lineworker Academy.

Duke Energy funds “starter packs” at Blue Ridge to aid adult and minority learners.

Robeson Community College will host a college transfer fair Nov. 28.

Surry Community College is one of 11 community colleges to receive a grant from Strada Education Network to participate in opportunities to learn from other community college-employer partnerships.

Other higher education reads

ASHE Conference Urges Humanization of Higher Education

Dr. Joy Gaston Gayles opened the 47th annual conference for the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) in Las Vegas with a call to disrupt the systemic oppression keeping marginalized populations from accessing higher education and burning out academics working toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“If we want to disrupt systemic oppression, we need a model that prioritizes care, empathy, love, authenticity, healing, hope, collectivity, solidarity, and community,” said Gaston Gayles, president of ASHE and distinguished graduate professor and senior advisor for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at North Carolina State University. “These values run contrary to systemic oppression. In order to enact human values, we have to start with ourselves. Critical self-reflection is a radical form of resistance.”

The conference theme this year is humanizing higher education, and hundreds of scholars from across the country gathered here to share their research, resources, and make connections.

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.