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Listen | Trailblazer Profiles: Celebrating leaders of color in the North Carolina Community College System

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In this Awake58 podcast episode, we sat down with Dr. Audrey J. “A.J.” Jaeger to learn more about a special project from the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research.

The Trailblazer Profiles project highlights and celebrates the work of Asian, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx leaders in the North Carolina Community College System, specifically focusing on current and former community college presidents.

As Jaeger explains in the episode, the Belk Center believes that by highlighting and documenting the work of executive leaders, they will recenter the conversations around who is recognized as important in the history of the community college system in North Carolina.

The profiles will also highlight the urgency and opportunity for community colleges to develop and hire presidents who reflect the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the students in the communities they serve. The Belk Center hopes the Trailblazer Profiles will inspire support for diversifying the executive leadership pipeline.

Jaeger discusses several profiles in the podcast episode. One in particular is that of Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, the first woman and first Black woman to chair the State Board of Community Colleges.

During each interview, Jaeger asked, “What does being a trailblazer mean to you?” Pinnix-Ragland responded:

“If you blaze a trail for yourself alone, you’ve done nothing. If you blaze a trail and widen it for others to walk through, around, under, and you walk beside, then you’ve made progress. But it’s up to each one of us to bring others along, and to ask them to do the same.”

Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, former Chair of the State Board of Community Colleges

Listen to the episode to learn more about the Trailblazer Profiles project, how the stories are being documented, and the Belk Center’s continued work around equity. Jaeger noted this important work is a collective effort of a Belk Center team including Dre’Sha Singleton, Erin O’Quinn, and former staff member, Kenzie Bell.

To view the Belk Center’s Trailblazer Profiles page, click here. And stay tuned to as we republish the Trailblazer Profiles as they are released.

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is the Director of Postsecondary Attainment for EducationNC.

Alli Lindenberg

Alli Lindenberg is an executive fellow for EducationNC.