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How will community colleges handle COVID-19 this fall?

Welcome to Awake58!  If you missed last week’s newsletter discussing Peter Hans being named president-elect of UNC system, click here. If you were forwarded this newsletter, please click here to subscribe.

The State Board of Community Colleges announced their selection committee as they look to pick a replacement for Peter Hans… The State Board also appropriated funds for Catawba Valley CC’s Manufacturing Solutions Center to help ramp up producing PPE… The General Assembly will adjourn July 11 but be back in September… 

The news of NC Community College system head Peter Hans being named president-elect of the UNC system will launch a process to name a new head for the system. At the State Board of Community Colleges meeting on Friday, the beginnings of the selection committee were named by the Board. The committee named thus far includes:

Bob Stephens, Chair

William Holder, Vice Chair

Catherine Edmonds

Lisa Estep

Sam Powell

Jerry Vaughan

Bill McBrayer

Breeden Blackwell

The committee holds spots for one or two presidents or board of trustees members who could be named later, according to our senior reporter Alex Granados who joined the meeting on Friday.

The news of transition in the system office comes at the same time that every college is grappling with the impact of COVID-19 and what instruction will look like this fall.  

We had a chance to visit Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute last week to see how face-to-face instruction on the workforce development side has been going this summer. We also had a chance to visit with CCC&TI president Mark Poarch and some of his leadership team to hear their thoughts on how they can safely serve their students and communities.

Click here for the story

Poarch put part of the challenge in context when he told us, “We have 25 buildings across four different pieces of property, so to make sure that if we try to do safety checks in every building, then that would mean that we would have to staff every building for 12 to 14 hours a day.”

We would love to hear from you as it relates to the pandemic and your own college. Please feel free to reply directly to this email or text COLLEGE to 73224 to share your thoughts.

And, in an update from the General Assembly, our senior reporter Alex Granados reports Senate Bill 816 has passed the General Assembly and is now on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. Senate Bill 816 would provide $41.5 million to fund enrollment growth using money from the federal government earmarked to battle COVID-19 impacts.

We will not be sending Awake58 next week as we pause for a brief summer break for July 4th. We will be back with you in mid-July. Thank you for reading!

See you out on the road,


Director of Growth,

President Michael Helmick looks back (and ahead) as he retires from Western Piedmont

We were excited to be back out on the road last week. We visited with folks from Catawba Valley Community College, McDowell Tech, Western Piedmont Community College, and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute to understand where things stand with their colleges during the pandemic and look ahead to the fall semester.

After 30 years in education, Michael Helmick is set to retire as president of Western Piedmont Community College (WPCC) today. We visited Helmick just days before his retirement to hear his perspective on the institution’s accomplishments during his tenure, the challenges facing the college during the pandemic, and more.

Helmick pointed to a number of milestones during his tenure at WPCC, including building renovations, a deepened collaborative relationship with Catawba Valley Community College that he says is unique in the state, the college’s partnership with Burke Development Inc. on the Work in Burke initiative to address the need for talent recruitment and retention for local industry, and the arrival of the western campus of NC School of Science and Math in Morganton.

Click here to listen to the interview! Helmick also gave us a fun take on what he is going to do in retirement.

Collaboration, community, and the challenge of a pandemic: John Gossett reflects on his tenure at MTCC

John Gossett has served McDowell Tech in a variety of roles since 2012. On July 1, his 32-year career in the North Carolina Community College system will take him to A-B Tech, where he will serve as its seventh president.

We had a chance to catch up with John during our swing of western colleges. Gossett shared stories from his time as president of McDowell Tech, the challenges of the pandemic for his college and others, and what is on his mind as he prepares to take over as president of A-B Tech.

As he looked back on his tenure, Gossett told us, “When you asked what I was proud of at MTCC, I’m proud of the relationships we built with our community partners — economic development, Chamber of Commerce, K12, county commission, city leaders.  I think our standing in the community has improved, which is so important for community colleges in rural NC. “

Give the full interview a listen by clicking here!

Around NC 

1. Duke Energy recently announced it has awarded $903,828 in grants to support apprenticeship job training programs. According to the company’s press release, the grants fulfill the company’s 2017 commitment to fund $5 million in apprenticeship programs at community colleges across the state. Since 2004, Duke Energy has provided a total of $45 million in funding to North Carolina community colleges.

“North Carolina’s community colleges are essential to train the workforce that businesses rely on,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, in the release. “As we partner to bring more companies to North Carolina and build a smarter energy future, community colleges are critical to upgrade workforce skills to meet new job demands.”

2. According to a press release from the system office, “the State Board of Community Colleges approved an allocation of up to $500,000 to Catawba Valley Community College for the Manufacturing Solutions Center to establish a personal protective equipment testing laboratory. The funding was made available through the 2020 COVID-19 Recovery Act. Funding additional equipment for mask and gown testing will allow the center to create a national PPE lab to test fabrics quickly, develop a database of approved mask and gown fabrics for medical use and help U.S. companies make medical grade PPE.”

3. Isothermal Community College and former Lt. Governor Walter Dalton announced his retirement from Isothermal come February, 2021. In a statement to Isothermal’s trustees, Dalton wrote, “I will be approaching my 72nd birthday and I want to enjoy as many springs as I can and enjoy them with my family, who have stood beside me and behind me through every phase of my professional life as an attorney, an elected public servant, and as an educator.”

Dalton’s message closed with words that I wanted to share with all of you: “In this and all things mentioned, it took a team effort and the devotion and dedication of our faculty and staff is unparalleled,” Dalton said. “They believe in ‘taking our students from where they are and taking them as far as they want to go.’ They also work hard to meet the ‘Challenge of Change’ which our students and our community face.  These phrases were spoken in 1963 by Dallas Herring, the architect of North Carolina’s Community College System.  As long as we adhere to that vision, we cannot go wrong.”

4. My colleague Alex Granados writes, “The General Assembly finished up most of its work this week, but it’s not gone for good. An adjournment resolution passed by both chambers puts the date of adjournment of the legislature at July 11, with lawmakers coming back on September 2. According to The NC Insider, the General Assembly will hold skeletal sessions until July 11.” Check out Alex’s article for more on what passed and what didn’t!

5. We recently held a virtual town hall on CARES Act, the implications for community colleges, and the decision points facing institutions and their leaders. Kenneth L. Ender, Ph.D., who currently serves as Professor of Practice in the Belk Center for Community College Leadership at NC State University and was a past president of a college, shared his perspective on key takeaways facing individual colleges in this perspective. Ender ends his piece by asking, “As we rebuild our systems to better withstand the next unprecedented event, we must ask the question constantly: How can this system support all members of our community?”

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.