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Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. Nation here. If you missed last week’s Awake58 about adult learners, you can find it on our website.

2024 award winners across the NCCCS will be recognized this week… The State Board of Community Colleges meets on Thursday and Friday… Richmond Community College President Dr. Dale McInnis pens a perspective making the case for Propel NC… During Community College Month, Blue Ridge Community President Dr. Laura Leatherwood has a perspective out articulating some of the values that community colleges provide…

The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) will celebrate its 2024 award winners on Wednesday – and the State Board of Community Colleges will meet on Thursday and Friday. We will have coverage of the State Board meeting in next week’s Awake58.

Our own Alli Lindenberg profiled two award winners this week. I loved this portion from her profile of Catawba Valley Community College’s Christy Lefevers:

“I know what those instructors did for me, and I think I’ve been on a mission to do that. When I see students, I think about the 18-year-old Christy that was nervous and didn’t know what she wanted to do and didn’t know anyone that had gone to college. It’s been my goal to help those students know this is just a stepping stone for you and there are other options, you know, you can definitely go on. There are other things you can do and help them dream bigger because people did that for me,” said Lefevers.

Lefevers advice to help students “dream bigger” resonated deeply with me.

You should also take time to learn more about “Mr. Humility,” who won the system’s excellence in teaching award.

You can expect conversations across the system to include discussion of the Propel NC funding model. Richmond Community College President Dr. Dale McInnis was one of the architects of Propel NC, and this week he wrote a perspective for EdNC about the model. These lines stood out when I read it for the first time: “The change from tiers to workforce sectors does more than bring in new dollars and simplify our categories. It changes our business model at the college level.”

You can find McInnis’ perspective on our website.

Thank you for reading!

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

Perspective | The case for Propel NC

Richmond Community College President Dr. Dale McInnis makes the case for Propel NC, the system’s new funding model proposal. His perspective also offers a compelling, behind-the-scenes look on how the proposal was developed.

McInnis and other system leaders have worked diligently in recent months to develop the proposed funding model – and now they are working hard to make the case for Propel with the General Assembly.

“The patient is on the operating table; we don’t have 18 months to wait.”

That was State Board of Community Colleges Chairman Tom Looney’s response to the proposal at the August 2023 Finance Committee meeting to develop a new funding model for our colleges by January 2025. Looney then asked a group of college presidents in the audience how long it would take to develop an improved funding model for all 58 colleges. He asked if we could deliver it “at the speed of the business” to have it ready for the General Assembly in time for the short session set to begin in April 2024.

We accepted the challenge, assembling a team of presidents who developed a conceptual framework and timeline and worked with the system office staff to model and refine a four-pronged approach. The proposal was unanimously approved by the presidents in December, the Trustees Association in January, and the State Board of Community Colleges in February.

McInnis also makes the case for why the changes are necessary for the system.

We will be able to make program and course decisions based on the quantified labor market value that education brings to the student as recognized by our state’s employers. The choice of offering a degree or short-term certificate will be driven by the value proposition for the student and the needs of the employers.

When the degree is expected by the employer, we can offer the best degree in the world. But if the degree is not required, we will be able to afford the same faculty to provide the credential providing the skills and knowledge that employers value, saving students money and time and increasing the number of students who attain a degree or credential.

The base allocations for all colleges have not been adjusted for inflation since the 1980’s, and the requested increase recognizes the fixed and variable costs every college bears to support student success and provide operational stability and excellence.

Our colleges have no way to predict the next year’s enrollment, since we register students right up until the first day of classes. When a college does see a surge in enrollment, they often lack the available funding to meet the challenges of unexpected classes and sections. Having a stable, predictable source of supplemental funding from an Enrollment Growth Reserve would help offset these additional costs so no one is turned away from a high demand course.

You can find the full perspective on

This first-generation college graduate is inspiring students to dream bigger

Meet Christy Lefevers, the associate dean for workforce connectivity at Catawba Valley Community College. Lefevers was just named the 2024 Staff of the Year award winner from the State Board of Community Colleges.

As a first-generation college student, it was important to both Lefevers and her parents that she attend college. The expectation in her family was that she work hard and attend community college. For Lefevers and her family, that college was Western Piedmont Community College in the town where she was born and raised.

“When I think about the community college system, one of my very first memories is my dad getting his GED through the community college in Morganton at Western Piedmont Community College,” said Lefevers.

As a little girl, she remembers going to see the fireworks display every Fourth of July at the college. Her family would take a picnic blanket and look out at the rolling hills. It’s a treasured memory for her.

“No one in my family had ever gone to college. My mom would sometimes say things like, ‘One day you’re gonna go to school there.’ With my kids, I’m like, ‘One day, you’re gonna go to university.’ My parents I don’t think even knew for me to dream that big. I didn’t know to dream that big,” said Lefevers.

Alli shares more details on Lefevers’ career path and her “why” in this excellent feature.

‘Mr. Humility’ wins statewide award in teaching

Alli also profiled Jere Miles, the lead instructor of information technology at Wilkes Community College. He won the 2024 Excellence in Teaching Award from the State Board of Community Colleges.

When asked why he was chosen for the 2024 Excellence in Teaching Award from the State Board of Community Colleges, Jere Miles was unsure. Miles, the dean of the business and public service technologies division at Wilkes Community College, has spent 15 years in various roles on campus. He’s known for his unconventional teaching style, passion for helping students succeed, and his humility.

“When I was first nominated for this, and I had to prepare for the state interviews and all that, I kind of didn’t want to because I honestly thought that I’m the most unqualified person for this. Everybody’s gonna have done so many more things than I’ve done. Because all I’ve done is just, in my opinion, what I needed to do for my students,” said Miles.

During his time so far at Wilkes, Miles has created a simulation gaming program from scratch and wrote a textbook to accompany it. He was the driving force behind getting funding and building a lab to accompany the program.

Because of Miles, Wilkes Community College holds a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) designation from the National Security Agency, which only a handful of colleges and universities across the state have.

For more of Miles’ story, check out Alli’s feature on our site. This quote particularly stood out to me: “I was just doing what my students needed, so I guess this really validates that what I’m doing is actually of value,” said Miles.

April is community college month. Here are two perspectives.

We published two perspectives in the last week regarding community colleges.

Perspective | Celebrating community college month: What value do community colleges bring?

The first perspective is from Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood, who shares her thoughts on community college month and the value that community colleges bring to our state:

“In education, we like to talk about the idea of “investing in yourself,” and this concept implies a return on that investment (ROI) in the form of knowledge, skills and — in time — financial reward. Financially speaking, it’s hard to beat the ROI of a two-year community college, because we do everything we can to reduce financial barriers to entry, making higher education available to people from all backgrounds and socioeconomic situations. Whether they are pursuing a workforce credential or planning to transfer to a four-year university, community colleges help students avoid debt.”

President Leatherwood goes on to outline other contributions from our community college system. You’ll find the full piece on our website.

The second perspective comes from Ben Coulter of Western Governors University.

Perspective | Helping community college students obtain bachelor’s degrees

Coulter outlines why he believes four-year universities and community colleges must work more closely together to ensure student completion and success through transfer pathways.

We can, and must, improve support and pathways for the nearly 80% of community college students who wish to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree and enhance their career prospects and lifetime earnings potential. I encourage leaders at all community colleges and four-year institutions to collaborate on solutions that promote completion of associate degrees, improve transfer pathways, create more dual-enrollment opportunities, and re-engage adult learners who have dropped out. Working together, we can improve bachelor’s degree completion rates for transfer students statewide.

Read on for Coulter’s full perspective, including highlights of the NC Reconnect program.

Around NC

Awards dinner this week | The North Carolina Community Colleges System Awards Dinner and Celebration 2024 will be held this week. The dinner is co-hosted by the NC State Board of Community Colleges, NC Community College System, and the NC Community Colleges Foundation. Congratulations to all of the award winners! We will have additional features on the winners to come.

State Board of Community Colleges will meet this week | The State Board will meet on Thursday and Friday. The details can be found below:

  • Committee Meetings: April 18 at 11 a.m. View agenda.
    North Carolina Community College System Office, 200 W Jones Street,Raleigh, NC 27603
  • Board Meeting: April 19 at 9 a.m. View agenda.
    North Carolina Community College System Office, 200 W Jones Street.

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

Randolph CC will launch an AI Center | The Randolph County Commissioners allocated funding for Randolph Community College to launch a Applied Industrial AI Center on campus. Randolph CC President Dr. Shah Ardalan shared part of the vision for the center in a local article: “AI is going to replace people that are not going to learn how to use it. So I wanted to make sure that our students and this community is exposed to it and they’re going to learn how to use it.”

Wayne CC joins NC Reconnect | The Goldsboro Daily News has an article examining Wayne Community College’s participation in NC Reconnect. Wayne CC President Dr. Patricia Pfeiffer was quoted: “We want more adult learners to acquire the skills, credentials, and degrees they need for a better job, a bigger paycheck, and an even brighter future for themselves and their families. Wayne has become a nationally recognized expert in supporting apprenticeships and with short-term training programs that can be completed in 16 weeks or less. This Better Skills. Better Jobs. Better Future. campaign will help us inform adult learners in the region of the unique offerings Wayne can make available to lead them to an even more desirable career.”

New transfer pathway at Central Piedmont | Leaders of Central Piedmont Community College and Lees-McRae College signed an agreement last week establishing a guaranteed admission program, providing Central Piedmont students a new transfer pathway to a bachelor’s degree. According to Central Piedmont: “The Lees-McRae Guaranteed Admission Program (GAP) will automatically admit Central Piedmont students who have earned an Associate of Arts, Associate in Science, Associate in Applied Science or Associate in Fine Arts degree and meet specific grade-point-average requirements. Students in the program also will be eligible to receive merit scholarships up to 50 percent of Lees-McRae’s annual tuition.”

Other higher education reads

Can Virginia colleges offer a model to California on getting community college students to earn university degrees?

EdSource takes a look at dual admission program ADVANCE, through the story of a student named Steve Perez. ADVANCE is a partnership between Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University. It is worth a read. Take a look at these statistics:

Officials say the ADVANCE program perfected that transfer partnership. Since launching in 2018, just over 1,500 students in the program have successfully transferred to Mason, including 415 this past fall. More than 90% of students in the program graduate within two years of transferring to Mason.

The program stands out nationally, even earning kudos from the federal Department of Education for solving a widespread problem of a cumbersome transfer process that stymies students in community college.

In California, most community college students who want to get a bachelor’s degree never transfer. Without adequate support, they often struggle to keep track of courses, ending up with too many credits but lacking required classes. One study found that as few as 2.5% of students intending to transfer do so within two years, and only 23% do so within four years.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.