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What you need to know about vaccine mandates

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Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. We appreciate you allowing us into your inbox. If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.

We explore what could happen with vaccine mandates… Emily Thomas profiles Cleveland Community College… myFutureNC announced new advisory board members… The Hunt Institute is looking for the next class of John M Belk Impact Fellows…

Welcome to another week of Awake58. We appreciate you welcoming us into your inbox.

The spring semester is underway for community colleges across the state. As you begin a new semester, we hope that you will let us know what stories we ought to cover, what ideas we should lift up to the rest of the state, and the challenges we need to share with policymakers. Please take this short, two-question survey to tell us what matters to you and what you think we should be reporting on this year.

Take the survey here.

In a hearing last week, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the question of whether the federal government can require employees of organizations with at least 100 workers to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or produce proof that they have tested negative. My colleague Alex Granados has a primer on what you need to know about vaccine mandates in this moment. Click here to give his piece a read.

Even as the omicron variant reminds us that the pandemic is far from over, in-person classes for incarcerated individuals have resumed. This is part of Emily Thomas’ latest story from Cleveland Community College.

Cleveland CC officially took ownership of Cleveland Correctional Center in the summer of 2021, and Emily looks at how they’ve turned it into an educational facility. She points out the importance of returning to in-person learning for incarcerated individuals:

Ruppe said when COVID is not an issue, there are up to 68 inmates onsite at the facility. He hopes when classes resume at the end of January that they’ll be able return to normal student capacity. 

And that’s partly because of the impact these educational programs have on inmates.

2013 meta-analysis by RAND Corporation concluded that inmates who participated in educational programs had 43% lower odds of recidivating. And the odds of obtaining employment after their release increased by 13% among those who participated in educational programs.

For Emily’s full article, click here.

Thank you for reading Awake58 this week. We look forward to hearing your ideas for our coverage in 2022.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —


EdNC reads

What you need to know about vaccine mandates

One frequent topic of conversation as I’ve spoken with community college staff and administrators across the state has been the potential implementation of vaccine mandates. This conversation, as my colleague Alex Granados reports, is due to, “an emergency directive put out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that requires any workplace with 100 or more employees to require their workers be vaccinated or have them show negative tests weekly. In addition, the unvaccinated would be required to wear face masks.”

If the Supreme Court ultimately upholds the mandate, North Carolina K-12 districts and higher education institutions with more than 100 employees will have to require employees to either be vaccinated or participate in weekly testing and wear a mask on campus.

Alex’s piece explores the potential implications of a future ruling. Give it a read by clicking here.

What’s new at Cleveland Community College

Emily Thomas’ piece goes beyond the importance of the return to in-person instruction for incarcerated individuals and looks at what else is new at Cleveland Community College.

For one, the college is now moving to offer a standalone nursing program for the first time:

Beginning in fall 2022, the college will offer its first-ever standalone nursing program.

For three decades, Cleveland Community College has been part of the Foothills Nursing Consortium (FNC) with two other community colleges, Isothermal and McDowell Technical. Students in the consortium complete classes at all three sites during their program.

The consortium was originally started so that all three colleges could combine resources and share costs in hopes of improving the quality of their nursing programs.

But Hurst said the consortium has created barriers for students through the years. And eliminating those barriers was one of the reasons Cleveland Community College opted to pursue a standalone program.

“Our students, depending on where they live in Cleveland County, could end up having to drive an hour to go to McDowell classes,” Hurst said. “And in some cases, they had to do clinicals in those areas.”

The distance and lack of consistent transportation for some students proved to be a challenge.

Give Emily’s article a read to see some of the other news from Cleveland Community College, including a sneak peek at some of the technology the college is now deploying.

As President Hurst told Emily in the fall, “I think daily we struggle to change the image of community college and what that means to moms and dads and high school students – and that is not less than. It’s a great path forward – whether you want to move on to a university or move directly into the workforce.”

Trailblazer profile: Hilda Pinnix-Ragland

The Trailblazer project from the Belk Center is designed “to highlight and celebrate the work of Asian, Black, Indigenous, and Latin leaders in the North Carolina Community College System, specifically focusing on current and former community college presidents.”

One trailblazer profiled is Hilda Pinnix-Ragland. Pinnix-Ragland was the first woman and first person of color to chair the North Carolina Community College State Board. She served on the board from 1999 until 2013.

In the profile, Pinnix-Ragland shared, “I love the fact that there were 58 community colleges throughout 100 of our counties. I was on a mission to go to every community college and to visit every county. If one county did not have access, then under my reign, I would try to change that.”

During her tenure, she visited all 58 colleges several times.

The profile also shares the story of the 2009 vote that led to undocumented immigrants being able to attend community college in our state:

“Often people will ask me, ‘Hilda, were you scared?’ I wasn’t scared,” says Pinnix-Ragland. “I was the first African American to run the construction, maintenance and restoration of the power system. I was a woman and a hardhead. I wasn’t scared when it came to community colleges. I just knew that I wasn’t walking alone and I felt good. I felt good about the cause, the mission and education. Our family was one of the first to integrate schools. I was escorted to school by the U.S. Marshals in Orange County. So maybe I just have tough skin. Maybe I’m just kind of crazy. But I wasn’t scared.”

For the full profile, click here.

Perspectives from our John M Belk Impact Fellows

We are grateful to the Hunt Institute and the John M Belk Endowment for the opportunity to host two John M Belk Impact Fellows this spring. Alessandra Quattrocchi is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Michelle Marshall is a student at Sandhills Community College. Both Alessandra and Michelle have shared guest perspectives with us in recent weeks.

Perspective | New Year’s resolutions from a soon-to-be college graduate

In this piece, Alessandra reflects on her resolutions as she prepares to graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill after multiple academic years impacted by COVID-19. Alessandra writes:

Even if I never make it back inside the classroom, I do not wish to stray too far from education. While I am unsure what path I will take after graduation, I hope that by integrating my interests in education into my field, I will be able to channel the radiating feeling of joy from within the classroom into my work. As a student, I have always been so passionate about my schoolwork, something I attribute to my genuine love of learning. I hope that wherever I go next, that passion does not subside.

Perspective | A healthier wish for my academic goals this year

Michelle Marshall shares her own resolutions for the year ahead. Michelle plans to change her perspective on how she approaches her studies this year:

My relationship with my academics has been too unhealthy for far too long, and in 2022 my resolution is just to let myself enjoy my education and the feats I am able — or unable — to achieve. I plan to obtain this wish by not waiting for January 1st, but by changing how I view myself and my academics now. I have not waited for the new year to come, because for me, my new year starts every single time I decide to choose something for myself.

Perspective | COVID-19 sparks mental health crisis on college campuses nationwide 

Alessandra’s most recent perspective focuses on the importance of higher education institutions investing in mental health. In recent months, UNC-Chapel Hill’s student community suffered through several deaths by suicide. Alessandra uses this moment to provide a somber reminder of what is important for our colleges to consider moving forward:

Colleges must engage with their students and understand the sources of their stress so that they can be properly remedied. Importantly, on-campus counseling services should be accessible and equitable, such that students can seek and receive help whenever needed. Though it seems like we have made it to the other end of the pandemic, we cannot ignore the long-term effects COVID-19 has had on students. Now is a crucial time to start putting the mental health of students at the center of the conversation.

Around NC

The Hunt Institute reminds us that applications are due January 28 for the 2022-2023 cohort of John M Belk Impact Fellows. They note: “Applications received after this date will be considered on a rolling basis. Please share with students currently enrolled in community college, undergraduate programs, and graduate programs in North Carolina to apply for this 10-month, hands-on learning experience. Learn what current fellows are up to at their nonprofit placements in our new video. You can find the application here.”

myFutureNC announced new advisory board members recently. New members include Bladen Community College president Amanda Lee, Caldwell Community College president Mark Poarch, Cleveland Community College president Jason Hurst, Blue Ridge Community College president Laura Leatherwood, Central Piedmont Community College president Kandi Deitemeyer, Pitt Community College president Lawrence Rouse, and Surry Community College president David Shockley.

Paul Wiles, the former president and CEO of Novant Health, penned an op-ed for Higher Ed Works weighing in on a unified governance model.

Cape Fear Community College will require masks at all indoor locations, as will Pitt Community College this spring. Fayetteville Tech will move some course offerings online to deal with the latest COVID-19 surge.

Catawba Valley Community College will use virtual reality technology to teach English as a Second Language.

Central Carolina Community College, Randolph Community College, and Sandhills Community College are joining together to offer a truck-driving training course this spring.

Our best wishes go out to longtime Awake58 reader James Hogan who is the new Assistant Vice Chancellor for Engagement at Western Carolina University. Until recently, Hogan served as the vice president of advancement for Mitchell Community College.

Other higher education reads

WEBINAR | How Colleges Help Students Succeed Beyond Graduation

Strada Education will host a webinar on January 19 focused on “helping students succeed beyond graduation.”

According to Strada: “Equity challenges continue to prevent many students from gaining access to college, completing postsecondary education, and experiencing economic mobility and other outcomes beyond completion of college. In fall 2021, through Strada’s Beyond Completion Challenge, nearly 30 universities or systems examined how well they were preparing their students for success after graduation and designed innovative solutions to improve those outcomes. Join us to learn more about the key principles and themes identified by these institutions to strengthen connections between education and employment. In addition to national research insights, leaders from these institutions will discuss how they are leading improvement efforts in their systems and on their campuses.”

You may RSVP by clicking here.

A handful of colleges are finally providing training in a way consumers want it: fast

The Hechinger Report takes a look at colleges that are adapting course schedules and length to better serve students:

“The pandemic has increased the sense of urgency. Priorities have shifted. Looking at these options for students on how they can accelerate their time to completion is more important than it’s ever been.” 

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.