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Who will lead the search for the next system president?

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 – your weekly round-up of the latest community college news from across North Carolina and the country. Our last edition featured a host of Impact 58 stories, from College of the Albemarle to Surry Community College to Blue Ridge Community College. You may read it by clicking here.

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week for their annual retreat… We now know who will make up the selection committee for the next system president… Dr. Mark Sorrells named the new president of Fayetteville Technical Community College… U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cordona visited Guilford Technical Community College last week…

The State Board of Community Colleges disclosed the names of those making up the search committee for the next system head – and shared a few more details about their process last week during the state board retreat. The committee will hold a meeting this week to approve a request for proposal for search firms to lead the process:

The full Board voted on Friday to give the search committee delegated authority to approve the completed RFP. The Board will consider the selected firm at its November meeting, if not before. The RFP must then be approved by the state Department of Administration.

“Selecting a firm will have a critical impact on the search calendar and ultimately, on the speed at which we can acquire a new president,” Search Committee Co-chair Dr. Shirley Carraway said. “This is the beginning of this process.”

The process will continue on Wednesday. The committee will be co-chaired by Dr. Shirley Carraway and Hari Nath. The remaining members include representatives from the State Board, a representative from the Trustee’s Association, Coastal Carolina Community College President David Heatherly as the representative from the President’s Association, and N.C. Community College Foundation board member Grant Godwin. For the full list, click here.

As some of you may know, our EdNC team is fanning out across the state visiting all 58 community colleges this fall. EdNC Editor-in-Chief Mebane Rash explains the “why” of this work in a piece we just published: “We blitz to test our own assumptions. We blitz to deepen our relationships with the leadership, faculty, and students at the community colleges. We blitz to conduct qualitative and quantitative research to inform our news and storytelling. We blitz to continue to get to know the communities we serve.”

Molly’s recent visit to Wilson Community College is an example of the content that we are producing as we travel. Among other issues, we are examining the economic impact of our colleges, faculty pay, Career and College Promise, and early childhood education.

We will host an event thanking you for your hospitality this fall — and for your service to your students, our state, and our shared future — at the upcoming community college conference on Oct. 10 at Sam Jones BBQ in Raleigh. You can sign-up to join us at the event by clicking here.

Thank you for reading Awake58 again this week. We appreciate your continued support.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

RSVP now: Our Impact58 Welcome BBQ

EdNC invites you to join us at Sam Jones BBQ beginning at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 10 for a welcome reception for attendees of the 2022 N.C. Community College System Conference. We will have delicious BBQ, chicken, side dishes, banana pudding, and drinks on hand. We’ll also have live music!

We are excited to welcome you to the Triangle — and to the first in-person system conference since 2018.

This event is a small token of our appreciation for all of you opening up your campuses to us for the Impact58 blitz — and for all of our other visits over the years.

RSVP here

Here’s who is searching for a new North Carolina Community College System president

As we mentioned above, the search committee for the next system president has been named — and the process is now officially underway to identify the next system president.

The bipartisan search committee is made up of the following individuals:


  • Dr. Shirley Carraway
  • Hari Nath

The committee

  • Interim System President Dr. Bill Carver
  • Dr. Ray Russell
  • Ann Whitford
  • Wade Bryan “Bobby” Irwin Jr.
  • Sen. Sam Searcy
  • Burr Sullivan
  • LaTasha Bradford
  • David Heatherly
  • Grant Godwin
  • Grayson Whitt
  • Julie Ryan

For more details on each member, click here to read the full article.

The State Board and committee have promised a transparent process. The next step is this Wednesday when they will approve the request for proposal for a search firm.

We will continue to report on the process throughout — and we welcome your thoughts on how we can cover the search, the issues that you think the next system president should tackle first, and the criteria you think should matter as the committee weighs the pros and cons of the candidate. You may reply directly to this email with your thoughts. We look forward to reading them.

Blitz 2.0: Why EdNC is visiting all 58 community colleges

In August 2018, we traveled to all 58 colleges in our first EdNC blitz. We also launched this newsletter. Four years later, we are blitzing again. This time, we are taking our team out to each college in the 58 to explore key issues, reintroduce ourselves, and deepen our knowledge of your communities.

EdNC Editor-in-Chief Mebane Rash shares some of what we’re learning on faculty pay:

President Pamela Senegal at Piedmont Community College wonders if now is the time for a leapfrog investment in faculty pay.

“Is it keeping pace with inflation? I’m not sure that it is. Is it keeping pace with increases for health care? I’m not sure that it is,” she says. “What might be required is instead of incremental changes a leapfrog investment… There might be a real opportunity in this next long session to do something really powerful to really move North Carolina ahead.”

And early childhood education:

North Carolina’s community college system plays two significant roles in early care and education: preparing the teacher workforce and providing child care to students and communities.

Community college by community college, EdNC is studying trends, challenges, and opportunities in training the early childhood workforce; whether colleges provide child care to students, faculty, and the community; and the need for drop-in child care for adult learners.

For more on what we’re learning about economic impacts and Career and College Promise, click here to read her full piece.

Public safety program ‘changes your life’ at Wilson Community College

A key portion of our Impact58 blitz includes examining the individual economic impact stories from each college. The recent economic impact study found a $19 billion dollar annual economic impact for North Carolina.

Molly traveled to Wilson Community College for the blitz recently to learn about the public safety program’s impact:

Students who’ve gone through the public safety program at Wilson Community College (WCC) contributed $9.2 million to the Wilson County economy in fiscal year 2019-20, according to a recent economic impact study from Emsi Burning Glass.

“This figure represents the increased wages collected by former students active today in the county workforce as a direct result of their education, the increased output of businesses that employ these students, and the multiplier effects that occur,” the report states.

WCC’s public safety program leads to a variety of occupations, including police and sheriffs patrol officers. According to the report, the median annual wage in these occupations was $52,583 in 2020.

Over their lifetime, students coming out of the public safety program increase their earnings by $277,900, leading to a return on their investment of $5.40 for every dollar they spend on the program.

For the full story from Wilson — including a fantastic feature on WCC student Demetric Carius — click here.

U.S. Education Secretary highlights Guilford Tech as example for other community colleges

First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona are touring schools and colleges across the country as part of what they have dubbed the “Road to Success Back to School Bus Tour.” Cardona visited Guilford Technical Community College during their stop in Greensboro:

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona calls Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) the “gold standard” for community colleges.

He said what’s happening on GTCC campuses is what President Joe Biden’s administration wants to see happening across the country: a connection between community colleges, the K-12 system, four-year institutions, and the workforce and labor market.

“It’s a good example of what it looks like to get a school that connects different systems together,” Cardona said, adding later: “A lot of the folks that graduate with these high-skill, high paying jobs are earning a lot. They don’t have college debt, and they’re doing exceptionally well.”

For more information on the visit, click here.

Around NC

Among the other updates from the State Board, they approved an array of new courses: “The N.C. State Board of Community Colleges (NCSBCC) today at its planned meeting approved 19 new credential-aligned short-term workforce development courses, including 15 to support the state’s fast-growing information technology (IT) sector. The courses were developed to provide short-term training opportunities leading to industry-recognized credentials aligned with high-demand, family-sustaining wage careers.”

The recent announcement that Wolfspeed — a semiconductor and chip manufacturer — will bring a f$5 billion investment to Siler City with a new large-scale manufacturing facility marks the largest economic development win in state history, according to a release from the system office. Wolfspeed will hire for 1,800 positions in Chatham County over the next five years.

The Build Back Better (BBB) Regional Challenge culminated with 21 grant announcements last week — and the Accelerate N.C. – Life Sciences Manufacturing Coalition project was a winner. The project, which has 10 participating community colleges, will receive $25 million, “to strengthen its life sciences manufacturing cluster by investing in a more robust pipeline of biotech talent across the state and expanding those opportunities to underserved and historically excluded communities.”

The Dallas Herring Lecture is coming up in early November — and Forsyth Technical Community College President Janet Spriggs was named the respondent for the lecture.

Fayetteville Technical Community College announced Dr. Mark Sorrells as their next president. Sorrells has served in the role of senior vice president for academic and student services for FTCC since January 2019. “Cumberland County is a ‘can do’ community,” he said. “I’m eager to continue serving with other community leaders to improve the higher education and economic opportunities that are available to the community and to enhance the social mobility of our citizens.”

Beaufort County Community College SGA President Jaques Williams was profiled by the Washington Daily News.

John Hauser discusses the “State of Gaston College” with the rotary club recently — and he is optimistic about the future of the college.

Guilford Technical Community College named a new program director for the culinary arts with a global resume.

Lenoir Community College and UNC Health Lenoir announced a new scholarship: “Students entering or currently in the nursing program for both Registered Nursing (RN) and Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) can apply and interview for a partial or full scholarship. Student attributes include financial need, drive and compassion to care for patients and their families, and scholastic ability and success.”

Pitt Community College’s innovations during the pandemic continue to pay dividends, according to WNCT.

The RockATop apprenticeship program was featured in Spectrum Local News, including a student profile: “Four-year college wasn’t for me. I wanted to start working, and this was a nice easy way to introduce me to college, give me knowledge, give me schooling, give me a diploma, and give me four years working experience.”

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is moving forward with the construction process on buildings that were approved by a local bond. Rowan-Cabarrus is also responding to local layoffs by a local manufacturer.

Other higher education reads

How Community Colleges Have Pivoted in the Pandemic

TIME Magazine featured two community college presidents discussing the shifts community colleges made during the pivot — and Blue Ridge Community College President Laura Leatherwood was one of them. The entire interview is worth your time, but here is Leatherwood’s answer on declining enrollments nationally:

For many years, census data such as birth rates were indicating that colleges nationwide would soon be experiencing enrollment declines. The pandemic exacerbated this problem for many institutions, but it was far from surprising.

Understanding that demographic changes were coming, we intentionally worked to engage students throughout the pandemic. Whenever possible, we kept our doors open and resources available. We also increased our outreach to critical and underrepresented populations such as potential adult learners. Our staff and faculty also worked hard to keep lines of communication open with our students.

This has ultimately led to our enrollment increasing in recent semesters, but we do not take that for granted. Like all community colleges, we must continually work to distinguish our institution, meet needs in timely and creative ways, and consider our decisions through the lens of the student experience.

For the full piece, click here.

One state offers lessons in how to cope with the college enrollment crisis

The enrollment conversation also led me to this piece profiling the work of Maine to combat enrollment declines over the last decade:

It’s been much harder work here than in many other places. With the highest median age of any state, Maine has seen an estimated 10 percent decline over the last 10 years in its number of new high school graduates — precisely the people Richards needs.

Yet UMaine has managed to increase its undergraduate enrollment during that period by about 5 percent. And the state’s community colleges, which depend on the same dwindling supply of learners, are reporting record numbers of applications for the fall.

The university has done this by luring out-of-staters with in-state tuition prices and by breaking with long-standing attitudes through which higher education sometimes alienates rather than embraces prospective applicants.

Meanwhile, the community colleges have been offering training that’s comparatively cheap or free, faster paced than typical credential programs and at places and times convenient for people who have families and jobs.

For more from Maine, click here.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.