NCSU and North Carolina’s Community Colleges: A Vital Partnership

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Congratulations to my friend, mentor, and predecessor, Dr. Phail Wynn, Jr., on being named the Distinguished Alumnus for 2016 by the College of Education at North Carolina State University. Dr. Wynn was honored by the College for his 30-plus years of service at Durham Technical Community College, including 27 years as president.  He was the first African-American to serve as president of a North Carolina Community College.  Given his experience and service, Dr. Wynn was further honored to be the commencement speaker at the December 2016 graduation exercises for the College of Education.

The College of Education’s recognition of Dr. Wynn is only the latest example of the deep, rich, and long-standing relationship between North Carolina State University and our state community colleges.  Established in the tradition of the land grant institution authorized by the Morrill Act of 1862, North Carolina State aspires to “[bridge] the divides between academic disciplines and [train] high-caliber students to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”  To carry out this aspiration, N.C. State works to “forge powerful partnerships with government, industry, nonprofits and academia to remake our world for the better.”  Nowhere is this aspiration better articulated than in the N.C. State School of Education and its commitment to prepare tomorrow’s community college leaders.

This commitment first emerged more than 50 years ago with the establishment of the Adult and Community College Education Department in 1963.  Graduates of that program have provided decades of community college leadership in North Carolina and beyond.  Dr. Wynn is one of several dozen NCSU alumni who have become community college presidents, while hundreds more have served in other critical executive, administrative, and faculty leadership roles at two-year colleges across the country.  Today nearly 20 N.C. State graduates are leading community colleges in North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Kentucky and elsewhere.

In addition to the on-campus graduate programs leading to the masters’ degree, the doctorate in education, and the Ph.D in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development, the School of Education further strengthened its commitment to developing community college leaders through “Envisioning Excellence.”  Supported in part by the Belk Endowment and in collaboration with the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, Envisioning Excellence provides community college leaders with the tools needed to navigate an environment where greater accountability, higher expectations for student success, and enhanced competition for scarce resources intersect. Envisioning Excellence is a multi-faceted program that includes two continuing professional education programs for community college professionals, as well as the doctorate in education offered at off-campus locations in Charlotte and Raleigh.

Continuing Professional Education: Offered in conjunction with the North Carolina Community College System, the Department Chairs Institute (DCI) prepares community college faculty members as they assume administrative and leadership roles. In addition, the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) offers case study-based workshops focused on issues specific to community colleges in North Carolina senior-level college leaders and institutional teams. Specialized coaching also is available.

Doctorate in Education: For several years, N.C. State has offered the Education Doctorate degree to cohorts of working professionals in Charlotte.  Beginning in May, the university will add a second cohort program on the campus of Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh.  Informed by research from the Aspen Institute, North Carolina State’s Education Doctorate program focuses on qualities found in highly effective community college presidents.  These qualities include a deep commitment to student access and success; a willingness to take significant risks to advance student success; the ability to create lasting change within the college; a strong, broad, and strategic vision for the college; and the ability to raise and allocate resources aligned with the success agenda (from “Crisis and Opportunity: Aligning the Community College Presidency with Student Success” published by the Aspen Institute in 2013).

As a member of NC State’s Envisioning Excellence Advisory Board, I am delighted that the College of Education chose to recognize Phail Wynn, Jr. as their Outstanding Alumnus for 2016.  That recognition, along with the comprehensive array of professional development and degree programs offered by the University for the development of leadership talent for two-year colleges, demonstrate North Carolina State’s commitment to a comprehensive partnership with the North Carolina Community College System – a partnership greatly value and appreciate.