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Explore how one college is dealing with COVID-19. Share your thoughts and questions.

Welcome to Awake58! If you missed last week’s edition exploring the initial responses to COVID-19, click here.

Three new college presidents were approved at the State Board meeting … Five temporary amendments were also approved in an effort to allow colleges to respond to COVID-19 … We explored your questions around dual enrollment students during this time … We explored Haywood Community College … We conducted the first interview with John Gossett after he was named president of A-B Tech …

The last week has felt like a year for me. I’m sure the same is true for you. Our thoughts are with you all as you shift to remote instruction, while working to support students during such a challenging time.

Last week, Forsyth Tech announced an initiative called Forsyth Tech Cares as part of its response to COVID-19. This work is part of the college’s larger effort to react to the challenge of social isolation, even as we practice social distancing. I caught up with Forsyth Tech president Janet Spriggs to hear more on the college’s response. I had three big takeaways from our conversation:

  1. The college is moving quickly to meet essential needs in a responsive fashion
  2. It is zeroing in on delivering education remotely — not just online
  3. It is reminding people of the importance of social distancing, while also fighting social isolation through Forsyth Tech Cares

For specifics on what the strategy looks like, check out our full story:

Click here for the full story

One of the issues we spotlight in our piece with Janet is the challenge for students (and faculty) who lack internet access, laptops, or both. As we move forward with our coverage, please let us know if you have any thoughts or ideas for how colleges might tackle the connectivity challenge. 

We’ve heard from some colleges that are moving access points to the outer ring of their campus buildings in hopes they will provide better WiFi coverage in their parking lots for students. Others are keeping their libraries open, while maintaining social distance, in hopes that students without devices can access the internet for coursework. 

And please check out the next section of the newsletter for questions you might have about COVIDd-19 and our community colleges.

Please stay safe. And know that we are here.

Best regards,

Nation Hahn

Director of Growth –

What COVID-19 questions do you have?

What do you want to know about community colleges and COVID-19? wants to answer your questions. We’ve rolled out a new series called Ask and Answer that has explored questions about dual enrollment students, the relief school districts are seeking, and more.

To share your questions, click here.

Three new presidents named at the State Board meeting

John Hauser was approved to become the next president of Gaston College. He replaces Patricia Skinner, who recently retired from the college after more than 25 years.

Joel Welch was approved as the new president of Western Piedmont Community College. He follows Michael Helmick, who will retire June 30 after serving for 10 years at the college.

John Gossett was approved to be the president of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. Gossett will be the college’s seventh president. He replaces Dennis King, the president for the past six years. Interim President Joseph Barwick will continue to serve until July.

In addition, the State Board approved five temporary amendments in an effort to support colleges during COVID-19. The amendments:

  • Give colleges the same flexibility they have during adverse weather to make up instructional days
  • Allow colleges to “apply tuition, registration fees, and others fees” that students paid for spring 2020 classes to future courses if they can’t complete their classes
  • Let colleges use student activity fees to mitigate COVID-19 impacts
  • Allow colleges to use instructional technology fees to mitigate COVID-19 impacts and let them use those fees to buy computers and other forms of technology for employees
  • Let colleges use excess revenue from bookstores to mitigate COVID-19 impacts.

For more on the amendments and the new presidents, check out our piece from the State Board meeting.

John Gossett named president at A-B Tech

McDowell Tech president John Gossett will become president of A-B Tech on July 1. John graciously granted his first interview after being named to the role. We had met when we visited McDowell last spring to better understand its approach to using career and technical education and unique K-12 partnerships to combat dropouts. 

Gossett would tell me, “What keeps me up at night are the issues our students face outside the classroom. Food insecurity is an issue for all higher education. Housing is an issue for our community, so MTCC is in the room helping a group of different agencies address the problem through grants for workforce housing units. Transportation, health care, disenfranchised students, access to broadband … the list goes on. Is food and housing and transportation within our stated mission? Not specifically, but if students are worried about hunger, where they are going to sleep or how they are going to get to school, then studying their subject won’t be a priority. I am sure that Madison and Buncombe county residents face the same barriers to success, so we will be at the table helping the communities address the issues.”

We also touched on COVID-19. Check out the full interview by clicking here.

Common threads: How creativity, lifelong learning, and family define Haywood Community College

Haywood Community College has established a name for itself through its nationally recognized programs in crafts, forestry, and fish and wildlife. These programs reflect the unique culture and heritage of the area and draw people from across the country to attend the college, my colleague Alli Lindenberg reports.

Alli even managed to spend time with their lumberjack team!

Beyond the unique course offerings, the piece also explores HCC’s new tuition-free guarantee. The guarantee is a last-dollar scholarship for qualifying high school graduates from Haywood County. For more information on the guarantee program and the course offerings, check out Alli’s piece!

Support from the Belk Center: Moving instruction online

Michelle Bartlett, Carrol Warren, and others at the Belk Center are providing resources to community college faculty as they move course offerings online. We wanted to share the following note and details from Michelle:

“We set up an online Zoom session where faculty from any community college in North Carolina could attend remotely.  

“The session reassured faculty that they don’t need to have a fancy online classroom, rather to focus on the basics.  Revisit the learning objectives for the course and think about what the students really need to know. Place content, assignments, and assessments in the course that relate to those learning objectives.  We discussed free and user-friendly tools that can be used in the classroom to engage students so they don’t feel like they are learning alone.  

“We also reminded the faculty that while they didn’t prep for an online class, and this sudden shift may cause some anxiety, it is also important to remember that the students didn’t select to enroll in an online course and they are anxious as well. It is critical that faculty reach out and connect with students to ensure the faculty’s focus on the students’ success to keep them from dropping the course.  Second, to be the calm captain of the ship during these challenging waters to help students get through the remainder of the semester. Students may be dealing with job loss, illness, increased financial strain, anxiety, children at home, etc. while a sudden shift to online may not be ideal, I am grateful for the opportunities technology provides to keep the semester, and more importantly our students, moving forward.”

The next session is Friday, March 20, at 1 p.m., and any community college employee can join by visiting or by dialing 1-929-205-8782 and using meeting code 195 677 096.

Other resources

The Hunt Institute has collected resources for supporting students during COVID-19 for institutions of higher education, including a look at elements of the social safety net.

My colleague Liz Bell has put together a list of tips for those of you who are suddenly stuck at home with young children. One key tip that might work for all of us: Create a schedule and stick with it. Liz will continue to monitor potential closures of child care centers and other impacts as the story continues.

Our own Alli Lindenberg launched a new podcast called Hope Starts Here last week. Check out the first episode by clicking here, and let us know if you have any ideas for solutions to feature!

Our own Mebane Rash wrote last week, “We know disruption prompts systems change. Remember Katrina and the impact on the schools in New Orleans? Closer to home, remember Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence and how our schools in eastern North Carolina responded and then changed in response to the crisis?

“At EdNC, we are documenting the process of systems change now underway in schools across North Carolina. Our students’ experience of learning is changing, and the changes will beg the question … what is the role of the school building going forward? The role of our teachers and schools leaders will change. And our system of education will change also. Right now, the system is working to find the right balance of statewide guidance and local flexibility.”

Check out the full webinar to see her answers — and those of other leaders.

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.