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‘Difference maker’ Mark Sorrells works to strengthen state’s cyber ecosystem

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  • While @marksorrells8 is known statewide and nationally for his leadership in cyber, when @EducationNC met with him @FAYTECHCC he was all about the students.
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Mark Sorrells is the president of Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC). He is also the co-executive director of the Carolina Cyber Network. And, in Nov. 2023, the NC Tech Association named Sorrells its Tech Difference Maker of the Year.

“Our job is to put a talent development pipeline out there to help secure the interests of our public and private companies across the state,” Sorrells said when accepting the award.

On Wednesday, March 20, 2024, this difference maker welcomed National Cyber Director Harry Coker Jr. to North Carolina. The Office of the National Cyber Director is located in the White House and advises the president on cybersecurity policy and strategy.

National Cyber Director visits FTCC

The day-long event showcased the work happening in North Carolina to strengthen the state’s cyber ecosystem, spotlighted best practices building the nation’s cyber workforce, and encouraged veterans, military-connected spouses, and students to pursue good-paying jobs in cyber.

FTCC President Dr. Mark Sorrells speaks at the podium during a public event encouraging military veterans to pursue careers in cybersecurity. Courtesy of FTCC

According to a press release, more than 18,000 cyber jobs are available across North Carolina in critical industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, education, and finance.

“The partnership between Fayetteville Technical Community College, as part of the Carolina Cyber Network, serves as a beacon — creating a robust ecosystem that helps expand opportunities for all students — and especially impressive is the support for military spouses and upskilling and reskilling of transitioning veterans in the cyber workforce here in North Carolina and across the country,” said Coker .

The Carolina Cyber Network is a coalition of 18 two-year and four-year colleges and universities in North Carolina that focuses on training workers for the critical cybersecurity needs of the state’s public and private sectors, according to the press release.

Sorrells said, “We really appreciate your participation in this very important conversation as we work to create greater resiliency in our state, in our nation, to protect our national interests (in cybersecurity).”

FTCC has been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security, and Sorrells was invited to speak at the 2023 National Cybersecurity Education Colloquium.

Sorrells leadership is grounded in students and place

While Sorrells is known statewide and nationally for his leadership in cyber, when I visited Sorrells at Fayetteville Tech in Sept. 2023, his first priority was students.

The very first thing he wanted to talk to me about was the YES initiative: You + Effort = Success. “The mission of The Y.E.S Initiative is to increase the engagement and success rates of students at Fayetteville Technical Community College by way of mentoring through exposure to academic, social, and career-based activities and opportunities,” according to the FTCC website.

“We mentor each other,” Sorrells said as he introduced me to the student he works with through his own commitment to YES.

Sorrells wanted me to see the success closet and the food pantry.

He worried about the wellness of students, educators, and the community.

And he had a big time showing me the new swift water rescue center.

Courtesy of FTCC

Sorrells previously worked at the Golden LEAF Foundation, and it was interesting to see the difference his leadership has made at different points in his career.

Mebane Rash/EdNC

When he is not at FTCC, you can find Sorrells on the farm where he grew up in Haywood County.

Read more about Sorrells and his leadership in this article, “Farm boy to college president” by City View.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.