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EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

We want to know what community college students think

Welcome to another week of Awake58! If you were forwarded this email, be sure to subscribe by clicking here.

Hello, y’all. Welcome to 2020!

It’s great to be back in your inboxes and back to work. I hope your break was lovely. 

We’ve been working hard in recent weeks to redesign our newsletters, as well as launch our new website at The new site is designed to make it easier for you to access our content, share your stories, and spend time with our content from the past five years.

Please check out the new website and let us know what you think.

Check out

You’ll also notice that the newsletter is now being presented in a slightly different format. We will continue to tweak it in the weeks ahead. Look out for a user survey that will allow you to weigh in on its direction.

Looking ahead to 2020

We are beginning to map out the year ahead as we plan travel for our team, additional student-focused town halls, and even a mini-documentary.

As we look ahead, we have some questions for you all:

What stories do you want us to cover this year?

Are you excited about an event and think we should be present?

What is going on at your college that we ought to know?

What questions can we answer for you?

What keeps you up at night?

What are your big dreams for our state and our college?

Click here to read our 2020 thoughts

Expect enrollment numbers to continue to drive debate, expect myFutureNC to begin to localize its efforts and push forward with the conversation around the statewide attainment goal, and expect apprenticeships and short-term workforce development efforts to get even more attention.

What did I miss? Let us know!
For additional 2020 predictions in higher education, check out this piece from Inside Higher Ed that predicts free community college will expand to more states. Another 2020 trend to watch is how often community colleges come up on the presidential campaign trail as they already have through the campaign of Michael Bloomberg.

Reply directly to this email with your thoughts. We’re listening.
And as we look ahead, I wrote a piece exploring some key themes we expect to take center stage in 2020, and I hope you might take the time to give it a read.

JUST LAUNCHED: A virtual town hall for community college students

In 2019, began holding student town halls at community colleges across North Carolina. We have been  showing up to have real conversations with students across the state. Now, we’re expanding access to the town hall experience with this virtual adaptation.

Please forward the link to the virtual town hall to as many of your students as you believe will be interested. We want to know more about the issues that matter to them and we will lift their responses up to people in power across North Carolina.

A conversation with  College of the Albemarle president Jack Bagwell

Jack Bagwell was named president of the College of the Albemarle this fall by the board of trustees. We had a chance to catch up with him immediately after the holiday break.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself and what experiences from your past prepared you for this role.

Dr. Bagwell: I never knew I wanted to be a community college educator. It was something I fell into. I had trained for many years, worked on degrees to work in the environmental/ecological field…got into an environmental lab and hated it. (‘Hate” is not a strong enough word for how I felt about the job that I had) … But at the same time I started teaching anatomy and physiology courses at a local community college part-time and loved it. It was wonderful, and I looked forward to my part-time job more than my full-time job…. So from an adjunct faculty member in 1991 to full-time faculty member, to associate dean to dean, to associate VP to vice president to president, it’s been all about the people that we work with, the students that we serve. I found my calling without knowing I was looking for it. So, that’s what got me into the community college world and the more I’ve done the more I’ve enjoyed it and that’s where my passion has developed.

  1. During a forum ahead of your selection, you mentioned the need to reach older, non-traditional students. You are new to the role, but do you have thoughts on how COA might do so?

Dr. Bagwell: We need to examine our programs, examine the way we offer our programs, to make sure that we are serving the population that we need to serve. Our CCP/dual enrollment population has been growing, and that’s a positive thing, but we need to make sure that we are not letting the adult population stand by as we pass them by. Looking at how we offer, what we offer, when we offer, how often we offer…all of those things are going to be vital, and I think it starts with examination of programs. I think it was Deming who said, “Every system is delivering the results it was designed to deliver.” I’m paraphrasing, that’s a “Bagwellian” paraphrase of that quote, but if we are not serving the adult population we have to ask ourselves if it’s because, inadvertently, we have not designed the things that we could have to maximize that enrollment. So we need to do some introspection.

  1. You also discussed the need for COA to reflect the diversity of the communities the institution serves. What are some of your initial thoughts on how COA might do so?

Dr. Bagwell: COA is a geographically diverse institution with seven counties and a very large service area. From that perspective, we need to make sure we are serving all the different geographic areas, but beyond that, there are different cultures in the different counties, different ethnic socioeconomic groups that we want to be sure are representing through the work that we do. Again, going back to my previous answer, we need to examine our programs to see if we have done something inadvertently that we could rectify. We have to make sure our faculty and staff are living the brand when we are out in the community and that we are welcoming to every group … age, race, gender … every group that needs our services. And they all do; they all need COA. They all need a community college education. But we have to be open to changes and looking at ourselves under a microscope internally and seeing if there’s something we’ve done, not done, could do better, and it really all comes down to continuous improvement. If we are not attracting that adult population, why? We could use various processes, but we have to get to a root cause analysis of why we don’t have more adult learners. Why we aren’t serving more adults in our population. We have a strong online program and a strong representation with our four campuses, but if it is something that, if we can control it, we should control it.

Perspective: The 2010s were great for attainment

As myFutureNC jumpstarts the statewide conversation on attainment, this piece from is worth a read. Chad Aldeman from Bellwether Education Partners shares this key point: “College attainment rates rose just 1 or 2 percentage points per decade for the first half of the 20th century and only began to pick up in the 1970s. Although the most recent data only go through 2018, the 2010s have already seen a gain of 5.1 percentage points, more than the gains in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.”

Aldeman does note that policymakers (and our education system!) must tackle both achievement and attainment.

In the news: Brunswick Community College

CC Daily is out with a piece exploring rural community colleges that are getting creative with workforce development in terms of both programs and how they are making the programs accessible for students of diverse economic backgrounds. Brunswick Community College is spotlighted for the Brunswick Guarantee scholarship program, and Career and College Promise. But the bulk of the spotlight is on its work in jumpstarting its building trades program, which includes funding to support students’ transportation needs, books, and even child care. For more on Brunswick CC and other programs from around the country, check out the piece. Let us know if you have a similar story for us to tell!

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.