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Four NC community college leaders selected for Aspen Institute’s first New Presidents Fellowship

The Aspen Institute has announced the inaugural 25-strong class of Aspen New Presidents Fellowship for Community College Excellence, and four of the presidents are from North Carolina.

  • Lisa Chapman, Central Carolina Community College.
  • Maria Pharr, South Piedmont Community College.
  • Pamela Senegal, Piedmont Community College.
  • Janet Spriggs, Forsyth Tech Community College.

According to the Aspen Institute, the New Presidents Fellowship is designed to support community college presidents in the first five years of their presidency in an effort to “accelerate transformational change on behalf of their students.”

“We know more than ever before how community colleges actually improve outcomes for students, both in and after college. And the urgency for them to do so is increasing — especially for students of color and low-income students. These fellows have shown they are fully, urgently committed to excellence and equity, and we look forward to working alongside them,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of Aspen’s College Excellence Program, in a press release.

The program aims to meet a growing need in the community college sector. According to Aspen, nearly 80% of community college presidents nationwide aim to retire in the next decade. Presidential turnover and transition is a hot topic in North Carolina as well. Since 2015, 36 of the 58 community colleges in North Carolina have named new presidents. At this moment, seven community colleges are searching for a new president, including Western Piedmont Community College and Asheville Buncombe Technical College.

Lisa Chapman told EdNC, “It is such an honor to be included in this inaugural cohort. Everything we do at Central Carolina is organized around learning first and student success. As we continue to improve on the equity of our services, working within the college family and alongside our community partners, I look forward to learning from and sharing with our Aspen partners as well as other national leaders regarding best practices and am grateful for this opportunity.”

Chapman is in her first year as president at Central Carolina Community College, although she spent 27 years at Central Carolina and 32 years in the NC Community College system overall. Chapman began her career as a biologist, served on the faculty at Central Carolina, and ultimately served as Chief Academic Officer of the institution. She would go on to work at the NC Community College system office as Chief Academic Officer.

Maria Pharr began her presidency at South Piedmont Community College in January of 2017. Before serving as president, Pharr served in a variety of roles across the community college space, including serving as executive director of BioNetwork and Life Science Initiatives immediately before assuming the presidency at South Piedmont.

Pamela Senegal became president of Piedmont Community College in July 2017. Before becoming president of Piedmont, Senegal served as vice president of economic and community development at Central Carolina Community College. At Central Carolina, Senegal also served as dean of career and technical programs and assistant to the president for Hispanic community outreach.

Janet Spriggs joined Forsyth Tech as president in January of 2019. Before that, Spriggs served in a variety of leadership roles in seven years at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and fifteen years at Carteret Community College. She was also named a rising presidents fellow in the 2018-2019 Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community.

For more information on the program, check out the Aspen Institute’s website.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC.