Scott Ralls is coming home.
Wake Technical Community College named Ralls as its next president on Tuesday, with the change effective May 2019. Wake Tech’s Board of Trustees and the State Board of Community Colleges voted Tuesday afternoon to approve the hire.
Ralls, who has spent the past three years as president of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), was born in Charlotte, raised in the North Carolina mountains and has worked in Wake County much of his life. After six years at the helm of Craven Community College, Ralls was named president of the North Carolina Community College System in 2007 and served eight years in that post before leaving for NOVA.
“For me it’s very much a homecoming – in a couple of ways,” said Ralls, whose wife and kids still live in the Triangle as his youngest son finishes up his senior year at Broughton. “I feel such philosophical attachment to the North Carolina community college Dallas Herring notion of taking people where they are and carrying them as far as they can go. And Wake Tech, as the state’s largest community college, plays an incredible role in that. It’s such an innovative college.”
“It’s difficult for me to leave a place like NOVA, and there are very few places that I would leave for. But the opportunity to be at Wake Tech and back in North Carolina was too big of an attraction for me.”
Ralls was chosen from a pool of three finalists, who included Natalie Harder, chancellor of South Louisiana Community College, and Andrew Bowne, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. Those finalists emerged from an initial pool of 60 applicants.
Ralls will become Wake Tech’s fourth president, succeeding Dr. Stephen Scott, who led the college for 15 years before his retirement in August. Dr. Bill Aiken is currently serving as interim president.
“Scott Ralls is the right person at the right time for Wake Tech,” Wake Tech Board Chair Tom Looney said, “and I’m thrilled about his selection. With his extensive record of achievement and leadership at one of the nation’s largest community colleges, he will be able to build on Wake Tech’s solid foundation and continue its tradition of excellence.”
At NOVA, Ralls created a new Information and Engineering Technology Division and led the construction of three new advanced training facilities. He helped grow NOVA’s cybersecurity program into one of the largest and fastest growing in the nation, and established the first Cloud Computing associate degree program in the country, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS). He also created a workforce division at NOVA, fostering innovative relationships that included the first east coast apprenticeship program with AWS.
Ralls will spend the next three months wrapping up his tenure as president at NOVA, one of the largest and most internationally-diverse community colleges in the nation. And he hopes to draw on his experiences there as he leads Wake Tech into the future — a future which will likely include more state budget cuts and challenges with enrollment.
But Ralls isn’t worried. He’s experienced tough times as a leader in this community before — after all, he jokes he became system president the day the Great Recession started. But he’s watched the community come together and excel, and he believes community colleges have always played a large role in that.
“The thing that I marveled at was the resiliency and the dedication of community college people,” said Ralls, who was named one of the Washington Region Power 100 Leaders by Washington Business Journal in 2017. “I used to like to say, the road to recovery was running right through the community college system in North Carolina.”
And Ralls will once more be on that road.
NOTES: The State Board of Community Colleges voted to approve two other community college presidents on Tuesday.
Dr. Rachel Desmarais was chosen as the next president of Vance-Granville Community College. The executive vice president and chief operating officer of Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem since 2015, Desmarais becomes the seventh president in the 49-year history of the college.
Dr. Amanda Lee was selected as the next president of Bladen Community College. Most recently the Chief of Staff and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky, Lee previously served as President of Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC.