Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Spotlight on Community College Leaders: SBCC Chairman Burr Sullivan

Posted on: October 19th, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

Spotlight on Community College Leaders:

State Board of Community Colleges Chairman Burr Sullivan

With a mind for business and a heart for education, Burr Sullivan has hit the ground running as the new Chairman of the State Board of Community Colleges.  He was elected Chairman in September for a two-year term, and he is optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead for the System and its students.

A native of West Virginia, Sullivan graduated form Marshall University and became an Army officer in May 1968.  He served in Vietnam as an infantry platoon leader and then came to North Carolina where he earned an MBA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His was the sixth graduating class at UNC-CH’s MBA Program, now Kenan-Flagler.

His career led him to Lexington where he served as a division controller for Burlington Industries –one of the largest and most diversified manufacturers of textile products in the world.  He worked on the financial side of the company and then launched his own business venture in 1979 with the purchase of Dorsett Printing Corporation, which made packaging products for manufacturers in the Southeast, then around the country, and then all over the world as global markets opened.

Sullivan sold the company in 2007 and tried to retire, but says “that was the most boring six months of my life.”   Then, local business leaders came calling.  He was asked to lead the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce to a better economic situation as it was struggling during the recession at that time.  He is credited with ultimately saving the Chamber in Lexington from closing its doors.  It took him two years to turn things around, but he stayed there six more years because he enjoyed building coalitions among business partners and liked working with young people.

He quickly discovered that one of the strongest business partners – and strongest economic drivers – in the Lexington area was Davidson County Community College (now Davidson-Davie Community College).    Under his leadership, the Chamber worked with the community college to determine the best customized training programs needed to optimize the success of larger businesses in the area.  He also directed other businesses to the Small Business Center, which Sullivan lauds as a key tool to helping smaller companies grow, thrive, and learn new skills.  Sullivan was recognized by Davidson-Davie CC with an honorary degree in May, 2021 for his 50 years of community service.

At the state level, Sullivan was asked by then NC Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco  and the General Assembly to serve on the North Carolina Economic Investment Committee (EIC), which evaluates potential Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) projects and makes decisions on business recruitment incentive funding.

“Serving on the EIC was truly an eye-opening experience,” Sullivan said.  “It was amazing to see how community colleges were so important to new companies that were considering a move to the state.  In fact, that was the first question:  ‘Can your State deliver a trained workforce to my business?’   We heard that over and over.  And, ultimately, it’s the community colleges that enable North Carolina to deliver that trained workforce so that our state can recruit businesses and bring jobs to the state—-or help existing industries expand.”

As the new leader of the State Board of Community Colleges, one of his first priorities is to schedule regional meetings for individual State Board members  and senior staff to travel throughout North Carolina to engage local Trustees, Presidents and other community college leaders and  hear what they believe to be the System’s future priorities.

“We want to get input at these regional meetings to help us to develop a new  Strategic Plan for the System, which will begin in July 2022 and continue through July 2026,” Sullivan said.  “The State Board is a group of volunteers, like the local Boards of Trustees are volunteers.  We all come to the table wanting to help people and impact their lives in a positive way.”

More information will be distributed in the next few weeks about the regional meetings.  “We will be learning by listening and interacting” Sullivan said.  “The State Board wants to learn more about opportunities/challenges facing our colleges, and we want our colleges to learn more about our Board.     If we can all continue to work collaboratively for the same goals of supporting our colleges and our students, then I know that we can make a real difference – TOGETHER.”

2021 Leadership Seminar Documents

Posted on: October 7th, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

The following are the Handouts from the presentations at the 2021 Leadership Seminar:

Final Report from the NCCCS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force

DEI Task Force Final Report

Orientation for New Trustees

Effective Board and Trustees 

General Luncheon Session – John Davis Political Report

Political Trends and Public Policy Implications

Finance 101

FTE, Funding Formulas, What does it all mean?

Issues Impacting Rural Community Colleges

Rural Colleges Presentation


Moseley Architects – Design Build Projects (NCACCT Business Partner Article)

Posted on: August 20th, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

Design-Build Projects


What is the Design-Build delivery method?  

The best construction projects on college campuses result in facilities that fully meet the needs of faculty and students alike. To achieve this, campus leaders must first choose how to approach their construction project, which starts by deciding on a project delivery method. The project delivery method is outlined by a contractual agreement defining the roles, responsibilities, and integration level of the three primary parties in a construction project: the owner, contractor, and architect. Choosing the right project delivery method for your campus is critical to fostering an efficient process resulting in a project that maximizes value while also meeting both your program and aesthetic needs. There are benefits and challenges to every project delivery method, but some are more poised than others to engage with community college owners in a streamlined, transparent, and integrated way.

In North Carolina, the Community College System and the State Construction Office (SCO) offer the option for colleges to utilize the Design-Build project delivery method as an alternative to the more traditional Design-Bid-Build (DBB) — also known as low-bid-method. Unlike traditional DBB projects, where the contractor is not involved in the design, a Design-Build project incorporates the owner, architect, and contractor early in the design process via a sole source contract. As a result, it encourages problem solving with all team members’ full ownership from design through construction. This occurs when the contractor brings critical trade partners into the process for a fully integrated design without surprises in the field. Consequently, the only change orders experienced through a Design-Build delivery method should be a result from clear changes in scope.

How do you know if the Design-Build delivery method is the right fit for your campus?  

Exploring the Design-Build delivery method starts by having an open dialogue with the SCO. The SCO will help identify potential challenges and advantages for your specific project. One of the benefits of the Design-Build process is having a simplified contractual structure, meaning your staff will only have one point-of-contact for the entire project. The contractor is typically the primary point-of-contact in a Design-Build agreement, while the architect and engineers work as consultants under the contractor’s prime agreement. With an experienced team, a Design-Build process streamlines communication for the college and can virtually eliminate design change-orders in the project. Because of this integrated team approach, Design-Build projects enjoy the benefit of real-time feedback from the contractor regarding constructability, material lead times, cost, and sequencing. This helps to maximize the budget and value, often accelerating the project completion in comparison to a traditional DBB process.

What are the drawbacks to Design-Build?  

With a Design-Build project, selecting a team committed to being collaborative and transparent is essential and can mitigate most drawbacks. Unlike other states which select Design-Build teams based on price, North Carolina institutions choose Design-Build teams based solely on qualifications. Making qualification-based decisions is advantageous for our community colleges because it gives more freedom in determining what is most important in a Design-Build team for each institution. We have included other items to consider when selecting a Design-Build team below.

  1. Does the team have successful Design-Build experience with the State Construction Office?
  2. Do the contractor and architect have successful experience working together on any project delivery method?
  3. Does the architect have relevant experience for your building program?
  4. Does the team commit to a fully transparent and collaborative process?

With the right team, this integrated approach can foster an environment of collaboration, transparency, and buy-in from everybody, resulting in a streamlined project that maximizes the budget.

Moseley Architects had the privilege of partnering with Wayne Community College (WCC), one of the great 58 community colleges, to realize two projects through the Design-Build delivery method. Our first project with WCC was featured at the 2020 State Construction Conference and can be viewed by scanning the code below.


As architects dedicated to student-first educational design, Moseley Architects is committed to our North Carolina Community College System. We welcome any opportunity to engage and discuss if Design-Build is right for you and your college. ­­

Written by Brad Lockwood, AIA, Stephanie Cooper, AIA, and Suzanne McDade, AIA of Moseley Architects

Aviso – Partnering with NCCCS to Help Students Succeed (NCACCT Business Partner Article)

Posted on: June 11th, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

Aviso logo for NC_

Aviso – Partnering with NCCCS to Help Students Succeed

Since 2012, Aviso Retention has partnered with NCCCS to identify at-risk students and to provide technology-enabled holistic student support through predictive analytics, early alerting, messaging, and reporting features – built upon best practices – to increase student retention and degree completion. From the time of our initial partnership with NCCCS, Aviso has gone from working with 33 NCCCS colleges to 42 out of the 58 in the community college system. This increase is a direct result of our record of success in implementing and training two-year community colleges and technical colleges with our innovative programs and ground-breaking research, such as the Minority Male Success Initiative and our First in the World research.

The Minority Male Success Initiative (MMSI) was developed to focus on increasing the progression and completion rates of minority male students and to help strengthen minority male student outcomes by encouraging participation and collaboration among student participants, peers, college departments, and administration.

In developing the program, Aviso is partnering with 11 NCCCS colleges for a three-year commitment to assess and augment the student success rates of minority male students. To this end, Aviso is helping partner colleges to configure software that will meet their unique needs and to track specific student cohort groups of new minority male students and other at-risk groups.

This spring, with the conclusion of the first year of the MMSI program partnership, Aviso analyzed the collected data from the Aviso Predict data warehouse, which was used to build and support the various risk models associated with assigning and displaying student risk profiles. The data also contained many points of interest that could be used when examining the long-term impact of student success initiatives on campus.

The completion of the first year of the MMSI program found positive outcomes for minority males both in terms of course completion and persistence. Minority male students who were part of the MMSI program were found to have a 1.8% increase in course completion and a 1.5% increase in persistence.

Preliminary results demonstrated:

1. Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Persistence Decreased

Minority male persistence rates are closer to white male persistence rates than previously noted. This is good news, possibly pointing to evidence that use of Aviso Engage, an equity solution that makes it easy to reach out to students, helps to identify issues preventing students from succeeding, and develop strategies to address them.

2. Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Course Completion Decreased
Course completion rates also decreased between historical and impact terms. The ongoing gaps, in part, were likely as a result of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All these gaps decreased from historical terms, but still have room for improvement.

Preliminary results from the MMSI program suggest that success coaching through the MMSI program is an effective way to help ensure minority male students persevere in their studies and complete their academic programs. These findings also suggest that by partnering with Aviso and implementing software programs that meet each learning institution’s unique needs, partner institutions were successfully able to track cohorts of new and returning male minority students and other at-risk groups.

Aviso has also been committed to research efforts to determine if proactive and individualized success coaching at 10 NCCCS colleges improved student retention. The First in the World (FITW) program used a unique combination of targeted student success coaching, predictive analytics, technology supports, and business process changes to discover if this combination of efforts had the potential to significantly improve student success.

Key findings of the FITW research program include:

*Impacts of success coaching grow larger over time.

*Male students and black students experience larger benefits from coaching.

*Strong institutional support and low coach turnover increase the impacts of success coaching on student retention and completion.

The FITW research program yielded impressive results for participating colleges:

*9% increase in longer-term retention for students who had success coaches.

*12% increase in credential completion for students who had the same coach for the duration of the study.

*18% increase in likelihood to stay enrolled for two academic years for black students assigned to a coach.

*9% increase in credential completion for students who had success coaches.

Aviso is devoted to helping NCCCS colleges be able to easily identify at-risk students who may benefit from student success initiatives. We have been grateful for the partnership that we have forged with NCCCS and will continue to support our NCCCS partnerships as they move forward.

Learning institutions that are interested in learning more about Aviso’s industry-leading student retention programs can contact us today. Aviso programs are easy to integrate, intuitive to learn, and scalable for any size institution or budget. Please visit for more information.

Spotlight on Community College Leaders: Richmond CC Trustee Claudia Robinette

Posted on: June 11th, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

Spotlight on Community College Leaders:                                                             Richmond Community College Trustee Claudia Robinette

By Ashley Blizzard, NCACCP/NCACCT Communication Coordinator & Events Manager

A Richmond Community College (RCC) trustee since 1998, Claudia Robinette’s appreciation for the community colleges began when she saw how her mother’s job as a basic skills instructor at RCC improved the lives of students—both financially and professionally. In spite of her being aware of how community colleges could change lives for individuals, after becoming a trustee, she was surprised to learn the extent to which community colleges impact local communities. She realized that if it were not for the community colleges, a large group of people would not be educated or have the job skills necessary to provide for their families.

Robinette is extremely proud of the leadership and staff at RCC. She is impressed at how RCC attracts such quality people to teach and to be a part of RCC’s staff, stating that some even travel as far as two hours to get to work. She values the college’s ability to adjust to situations like the pandemic in order to produce the best results for the school’s students and community.

Her admiration for community college students seems to be similar to the pride she has for the RCC leadership and staff. When asked who she most admires, she said she had thought about that for a while and always came back to this response: “Every time I go to the community college and see the students who are working—many of whom have families—and are still going to the community college and trying to do something good for their families, they are who I most admire.” Robinette admits she does not know that she would be able to do that herself; it takes a lot of commitment.

At RCC, Robinette would like to see the college add more training space for students. “It’s important to look for things that are on the horizon that can keep the college, community and students moving with the times,” she says. She believes we need to be adaptable to the job market and ready for whatever the future holds in order for people to find better and higher-paying jobs. She also believes it is key to work and partner with private enterprise to create programs for training potential employees in shorter periods of time like community colleges can. “Companies realize that about community colleges,” says Robinette, which in turn, helps our economic development. She says that quick training benefits employees, employers and the community.

Robinette also praises the community colleges’ abilities to culturally enrich communities and to improve peoples’ qualities of life, citing events held at RCC’s Cole Auditorium. The college is an “identity for a community. It’s not just a school; it’s a source of pride for everyone,” says Robinette.

Like many of her fellow NCACCT executive board members, Robinette believes enrollment and funding are two of the biggest challenges for community colleges right now. When asked about advice she would give to newly appointed trustees, she first said to become educated on the community college system as much as possible and to be involved with the North Carolina Association of Community College Trustees. She also said, “Attend the conferences, read the literature, and keep up to speed with what’s going on in the community colleges. You have an obligation to be involved and to support the local community college by attending things like graduations and other functions. It means a lot to staff and students.” Additionally, Robinette reminds trustees to realize the role of a trustee and the role of the president. “Don’t be a micromanager,” says Robinette.

Robinette and her husband of 36 years, Kenneth, own C.F. Smith Property Group, a commercial real estate firm with properties primarily throughout the Carolinas. Her family is what she is most proud of in life. The Robinettes have an adult son, Neil, who lives in Pinehurst with his wife, Catherine, and their two children, Claudia and Beverly. The Robinettes’ daughter, Gabrielle Goodwin, lives in Waxhaw with her husband, Matt, and their two children, Madelyn and Grey.

In her free time, Robinette enjoys traveling, reading, walking at the mountains and the beach (her two favorite places to relax) and spending time with family and friends. Since Robinette enjoys traveling, she says she would really like to visit some of her family’s ancestors in Scotland and Ireland and see where they lived. Additionally, although she has visited many of the 50 states in the United States, she would like to visit them all. Finally on her bucket list, she says she wants to learn how to ride a horse so she can do that with her family and not be awkward like when she tried to do some trail riding recently in Blowing Rock!

A couple of interesting facts about Robinette include that she lived in Colombia, South America for about a year and a half after enjoying living there while interning with a pharmaceutical company. She returned to Colombia after her internship and taught English at a learning center. The other interesting item to note about Robinette is that she flew a plane at the age of 15. Her father flew a plane, so Robinette also wanted to learn to fly. She took flying lessons and soloed before she was ever able to drive a car! However, her interest in flying waned when a cross wind came up during a landing one day. She said she would not do it now again for anything!

When questioned about the best advice she has ever received, Robinette had a few she wanted to share. First she said her father always said, “Give me the bad news because the good news will never hurt you.” He also said, “The best money earned is the money that you save.” Finally, Robinette’s own personal advice: Always read the instructions before you start doing something.

Finally, Robinette wanted to share that she believes that our future is definitely going to be dependent upon our community colleges, especially now. “People don’t have to have a four-year degree to necessarily be successful,” she says. “I think the stigma is gradually going away.” Robinette is also on the board at Wingate University, so she sees higher education from both the community college and the university perspectives. She says the agreements between the community colleges for students to transfer to universities helps make the higher education process seamless. The possibilities for students are “exciting,” says Robinette.

An Evaluation of Boards of Trustees – During and After the Pandemic (NCACCT Business Partner Article)

Posted on: April 5th, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

An Evaluation of Boards of Trustees—During and After the Pandemic

By Dr. Joseph Barwick and Dr. Michael Taylor – Executive Leadership Associates, LLP

In its almost 60-year history, the North Carolina Community College System has faced some significant challenges beyond the normal ups and downs associated with enrollments and budgets. For example, in 1990, Operation Desert Storm took many of its military students out of the classroom. Hurricanes that play havoc with the coast almost every fall have also disrupted the schedules of community colleges over the years, including Hugo in 1989 and Florence in 2018. The great recession of 2008-2009 saw budgets cut and enrollments spike.

Yet it is safe to say nothing has impacted the entire system, or the entire world for that matter, as COVID-19. When Governor Roy Cooper announced on March 14, 2020, that North Carolina public schools were closing, it was obvious community colleges would soon follow. Just four days later, then system’s president Peter Hans made it official: almost all instruction would move online.

A system that prides itself on being able to nimbly deliver education quickly to individuals, business, and industry had to totally change directions. It goes without saying, nobody had a Global Pandemic Emergency Plan in the files. For a system with 58 colleges serving approximately 700,000 students, March 2020 created a whole new ball game.

A significant portion of community college instruction was already online prior to campuses closing, but almost of all of those students were taking online instruction by choice. By necessity, online instruction became not a choice, but a requirement to stay enrolled.

As the role of the student changed dramatically, so did the role of the community college trustee. Most trustee orientations do not include a seminar on how to support a college president during a global pandemic. Additionally, it is likely that at the start of the pandemic, many trustees were not familiar with virtual meetings.

However, the broad role of the trustee remains the same: to hire and support a president; and to serve both a fiduciary and a policy-making function at the college. But during this pandemic, that role has become more challenging. Some examples of issues trustees have had to address are further explained below.

–The board has always had a responsibility for the fiscal well-being of the institution. This past year, the trustees also assumed a responsibility for the physical well-being of students, faculty, and staff at the college.

–A trustee board should always work as a unit. Trustees’ power is collective in nature, not vested in individual trustees. Under the new “rules of engagement,” meetings became virtual.  Board unity was more important than ever, but also more difficult to achieve.

–The role of hiring and evaluating a president became more difficult. During the hiring process, Zoom interviews sometimes took the place of in-person conversations and campus visits.  Evaluating the college chief executive also depends on interpersonal interaction with the president, but that too became problematic.

–North Carolina Session Law 115D, which governs community colleges, including how trustees are appointed, stipulates in section 12(b) that trustees must reside in the administrative area of the college. Clearly, the intent is that Boards of Trustees not only represent the college in the community it serves, but they also have a duty to bring the community’s needs, challenges and opportunities to the college. Trustees are required to approve ALL new programs as an assurance that college programming addresses only the needs of the community it serves. Now is a good time for Boards to do a serious self-assessment as to how well they maintained that link between college and community during this disruption. For example, did the Board exchange pandemic information shared by the governor and department of public health that changed daily? Did the Board share information in terms of how these mandates would impact the college and ways the college might respond as a community resource?

–Our system was designed to allow the local college to address local needs. As the pandemic progressed, community colleges responded with different approaches designed by the local president and implemented by the staff. Was the Board in agreement that the local approach was the best for the community within the resources available? Was the Board listening to the local business community in order to support the president as the college had to rethink and revamp how it delivered workforce training, small business support, and even programs preparing essential workers, such as nurses, EMTs and CNAs? Is the Board knowledgeable enough to legislatively advocate for the college so the college is held harmless for the impact on enrollment? Regardless of whether Boards “meet” monthly or quarterly, Board connection with both their college and the community is constant. There has never been a better time for Boards to take that “big picture” look at how strong and effective that link is now.

–As normal systems of instructional delivery changed, ensuring the college had a plan to monitor institutional effectiveness became even more important this past year. Do trustees know how this massive shift from in-person, in-class instruction to mostly online instruction impacted the effectiveness of their college?

Hopefully, the pandemic is grinding to a laborious demise. However, the college and the community it serves now have to start picking up the pieces. This means accelerated workforce training and preparing the campuses for what is hopefully, an influx of students. Remember, students have been working in isolation and juggling family and personal responsibilities in preeminent ways. An essential question to ask now is: How did we do as a Board? That question leads to the next big question: Where do we go from here?

Part of a trustees’ responsibility is to be a visionary for their college. If ever there was a time to be that visionary, it is now.


Dr. Joseph Barwick and Dr. Michael Taylor are two of the partners in Executive Leadership Associates, LLP, and former NC community college presidents (Carteret CC and Stanly CC respectively).  Dr. Barwick was also interim president at A-B Tech when the pandemic hit.  Visit to learn more.

Registration for the 2021 Virtual Law/Legislative Seminar is Open!

Posted on: April 5th, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

Registration is now open for the VIRTUAL 2021 NCACCT Law/Legislative Seminar.  The seminar will be held online on Friday, April 23

Click here for more information.

Spotlight on Community College Leaders: Piedmont CC Trustee James Woody

Posted on: February 3rd, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

Spotlight on Community College Leaders:                                                              Piedmont Community College Trustee James Woody

By Ashley Blizzard, NCACCP/NCACCT Communication Coordinator & Events Manager

James Woody, trustee at Piedmont Community College (PCC), has simple, but sound advice for new trustees: 1) Get to know your fellow board members; 2) Work together for what is best for the students; 3) Support the college by participating in school and foundation-sponsored events; and 4) Be involved in the community.

Woody has been a trustee for five years and has been on PCC’s foundation board for 30 years. His interest in community colleges began when he became an adjunct professor for Durham Technical Community College in the 60s; he taught blueprint reading in the evenings. At that same time, he was teaching drafting and basic electricity in the public school system. However, he later left the teaching profession and moved into the construction business.

The dedicated professors at the community colleges have been an inspiration to Woody. He says he appreciates seeing “people give so much of their lives to their local schools.”

Concerns Woody has right now for the North Carolina Community Colleges are the need for salary increases for our instructors and staff and being able to continue to offer first-class programs with limited face-to-face contact due to Covid-19. He stated there are certain areas of instruction that need practical, face-to-face experience like nursing, welding and construction; those are difficult to do online.

The community college is important to Woody because of Dallas Herring’s statement about how we “take people from where they are to where they want to go.” Woody states that community colleges offer a wide range of educational opportunities—from obtaining GEDs to associate’s degrees to moving onto universities. “Today’s time is different from so many years ago,” says Woody. “A person needs more than just a high school education. You can’t do it unless you have the training and education. We are here to offer them those services,” says Woody.

Woody is most proud of how his community respects PCC and the fact that PCC is so adaptable. “People in the two counties we serve realize they have a gem in this school,” says Woody. He is also proud of how quickly the college adapts to changing needs. When a new industry comes into the area, he appreciates how the college finds out what type of education that industry requires and then has the people who can serve those educational needs. He says PCC’s ability to adjust to shifting demands is “exemplary,” especially during the pandemic.

Two advancements Woody would like to see at PCC are first, an increase in salary for their employees. Second, he stated that as a low-income area with limited access to funds, his school has a difficult time raising money to build new buildings or to even maintain existing facilities. He would like for that to change.

When he is not participating in school or community activities, Mr. Woody may be found at home working in his yard or tinkering with his (rather large) model train. (It is approximately 26 feet wide by 18 feet long.) He and his wife also enjoy spending time at their condominium in North Myrtle Beach. As president of the Homeowners’ Association there, he utilizes his construction background to assist with some of the construction the condominiums are going through now.

A time in his life he would love to repeat was when he was on the State Board and was selected to be a part of a study group that was studying the government-run community college system in Thailand. Woody said he enjoyed traveling the country, observing the people and wildlife, observing the different cultures, and getting involved with local trustees and elected officials. He described the experience as “awe-inspiring.”

As for a bucket list, Woody says his bucket his full. However, he still enjoys traveling and appreciates he was able to do that during his time working for Chandler Concrete Company.

You may be surprised to learn a few things about Woody. First, he was born and raised in a funeral home. His father was the funeral home director, and the family lived upstairs over the business. In those days, most births occurred at home. Second, Woody officially did not graduate from college (the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) until he was in his early 70s. Knowing he had almost completed his requirements to graduate at UNC-CH, his wife encouraged him to finish. He completed the requirements and received his Bachelor of Arts in Geography in the mail. (However, his major was in Geology—not Geography.) UNC corrected the mistake, and Woody returned the Geography diploma. Woody jokes he should have kept it so he could claim he had earned two diplomas from Chapel Hill.

Woody is proud of his family, school and church. He and his wife, Darcus, have two adopted children, Deanne (husband, Rob and granddaughter, Hayleigh) and James III (wife, Heather and grandson, Campbell). The best advice he has ever received: “Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.”

Best Practices for Boards of Trustees Hiring a Firm to Assist with a Presidential Search (NCACCT Business Partner Article)

Posted on: February 2nd, 2021 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

Best Practices for Boards of Trustees Hiring a Firm

 to Assist with a Presidential Search

by Kennon Briggs, ACCT Presidential Search Consultant

and Julie Golder, ACCT Vice President for Search Services


A Board of Trustees’ legal authority is defined in both North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) and State Board of Community College Code (SBCCC). The clearest expression of a local Board’s authority is found in N.C.G.S. 115D-20.  This statute enumerates the powers and duties of each local Board in the North Carolina Community College System.


The first power delegated to the local Board is the election of a President. The significance of this authority being delegated to the local Board reflects the intent of the General Assembly that the Board would unquestionably be the governing body of the College, but through a model of shared governance, would employ a President to manage the daily operations of and provide executive leadership to the institution. It has been generally understood that perhaps the most important decision the local Board will ever make is the selection of its President.


In the presidential selection process, local Boards often seek a search firm to assist them with the selection of a President. While there are different models which can lead to a successful outcome and there is State Board policy that governs the search process, it should be understood that the Board owns and is responsible for the process.


Setting the stage for an open, transparent, equitable and participatory process is the essential foundation of a strong and healthy presidential search. As such, both the search process itself and the process to identify a Board’s search firm should be a competitive process. Competition is healthy and helps ensure the best possible presidential “fit” and outcome. A Board should consider working with its Procurement Officer, and if necessary its General Counsel, to fully understand internal and statewide regulations and guidelines. The Board will want to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) for search services. The Board should also consider the following:


Before selecting a search firm, the Board should request and call references. Ask references about the outcomes of their searches, firm responsiveness, communication strategy, and any other concerns the Board may have. Also, to be fair and consistent, the same questions should be posed to each reference.


Search firms provide a variety of services. Therefore, as the Board assesses potential firms, they should consider the following:


In partnership with the College Attorney, the Board should review the outgoing president’s contract. The full Board should be familiar with the contract, seek advice on where it needs improvement , discuss compensation, and be compliant with State Board Code.

Keep in mind with respect to search firms: “Cheap can ultimately be expensive.” This is true with both presidential compensation, hiring the right firm and selecting the best consultant.

In summary, a Board of Trustees should take their time, be intentional, and select the search firm that that will result in selection of the best fit for the Board, college and community.


Julie Golder ( / 202.384.5816) is Vice President for Search Services and Kennon Briggs ( / 919.621.7988) is a Presidential Search Consultant at the Association of Community Colleges Trustees (ACCT) in Washington, D.C.  ACCT is the national membership organization for Boards of Trustees and an NCACCT Business Partner. Both Ms. Golder and Mr. Briggs are available to provide additional information or respond to questions about the search process.

Spotlight on Community College Leaders: Surry CC Trustee Gene Rees

Posted on: November 16th, 2020 by Caroline Hipple No Comments

Spotlight on Community College Leaders:                                                                Surry Community College Trustee Gene Rees

By Ashley Blizzard, NCACCP/NCACCT Communication Coordinator & Events Manager

“Having a successful and vibrant community college…[is] one of the required building blocks for a county to move forward, just like a hospital, public schools, [a] healthy downtown, livability and amenities,” says Gene Rees, a 15-year trustee at Surry Community College (SCC). Following in his father’s footsteps, at least when it comes to community college involvement, Rees says his father had also served as a trustee at Surry from its earliest days. Similarly, both Gene and his father had close personal and professional relationships with college leadership, which helped build a special affection and love for Surry Community College and the work it does.

Rees is a second-generation clothing store owner, has an industrial uniform laundry business and is involved in historic preservation redevelopment. He says he looks at community colleges through the eyes of a business owner. According to Rees, SCC’s efforts to produce well-trained, successful professionals has paid off, which Rees knows first-hand after having hired at least a dozen SCC accounting majors over the years. Most all of those he hired went on to get their CPA or other, more-advanced training. Rees says other employers could say the same for jobs in nursing, mechatronics, welding, viticulture/enology, etc. Surry Community College produces well-trained graduates and certificate holders. “Our businesses would not survive or would have to relocate without the SCC employee-training pipeline,” said Rees.

As an SCC trustee, Rees has been impressed how a board of 15 trustees, each with very different life experiences and skill sets, as well as different political persuasions, can work together as one.  “It’s what makes a great board and a great college,” says Rees, which is something he feels they have at Surry Community College. He went on to say, “We all understand that our role as trustee requires a single-minded focus on what is best for the students, and we each try to bring our individual skills to help in that regard.”

Rees is clearly appreciative of the SCC faculty and staff. He is very proud of their president, Dr. David Shockley, and his entire leadership team, and like so many of his fellow NCACCT Executive Board members have said, he is equally proud of the groundskeepers and the facilities, food service and security staff. “These folks are unheralded,” he said, “but they make Surry Community look good and enticing for prospective students every day of the year. They are the unsung heroes at our school.”

Rees wants SCC to continue to reach more people and to be included in every dinner table discussion about improving one’s personal or professional life. To a large degree, he believes this narrative will determine Surry Community Colleges’ future success and growth, as well as the economic growth of the community. Rees jokes that he still has chats with Dr. Shockley that they need a campus in Mount Airy, which is where most of the county’s residents live but is geographically located in the corner of the county. Logistically, he says it is challenging to operate multiple locations, but the question remains, as it does at numerous North Carolina community colleges: How do we make the college most convenient for most of our population?

His advice to new trustees is this: Attend as many state and national meetings and seminars as you can, and listen a lot during the first few meetings. He says it is important to “place great value” on board dynamics, to respect fellow trustees, and to be cordial and respectful to your college president and staff. A sense of humor is important, as well as “bringing in a big dose of trustee humility to each meeting,” he says. Lastly, Rees says, “Remember that board dysfunction equals college dysfunction.”

During the pandemic, Rees wants to remind new trustees that once meetings are in person, being a trustee will be a lot more fun. “We have all done the Zoom and phone meetings, and they are a poor substitute for the face-to-face meetings, but we have to do them,” he says. But he says to be patient until the in-person meetings begin again. Rees is thankful that SCC’s board recently had its first in-person meeting in the school’s huge viticulture center. The trustees across from him looked really small because they were about 70 feet away, but Rees said it was great to be able to at least see each other in person.

Two challenges Rees believes NC community colleges have to contend with right now are relevance and preservation of the smallest community colleges in our most rural counties. On the subject of relevance, Rees asked several questions concerning continuing education like, “How can we design a certificate or degree program that perfectly overlays job opportunities in our community? Are our classes tailored well enough for out-of-the-gate student success in the job market? Do we supplement con-ed programs with necessary soft skills with things like how to interview, punctuality, workplace professionalism, customer/client/patient focus?” Academically, Rees stated that even with the articulation agreements in place between the community college and university systems, our academic rigor must equal or exceed the four-year schools. “We know our transfer students hold a higher GPA and have a higher graduation rate than the conventional university students, but the community college stigma will only go away when our academic rigor is widely perceived to equal that of the university system,” he says. Additionally, he says community colleges cannot just be less expensive; they must be on academic parity with the university system.

Regarding preserving the smallest community colleges in our most rural counties, Rees notes that it is a well-known fact our state has numerous small colleges in which the full-time equivalent (FTE) is costly, and some would say, inefficient. From a statewide or systemwide point of view, some think it makes economic sense to consolidate some of the smallest schools to larger, neighboring schools. However, Rees says the economic viability of these small towns is inextricably linked to the presence of a healthy community college. As he puts it, these small-town community colleges are an “economic lifeline to our smallest communities.” This is a matter that Rees believes needs thoughtful study and consideration.

Outside of work and his community college involvement, Rees likes to play at charity golf tournaments a few times a year. He says he grew up near a golf course and was relatively good at it until he was about 12 years old, at which point he “continued to get worse” until he all but gave it up around the age of 35. Additionally, until a couple of years ago, he was a very active distance runner. However, a knee injury shifted his running to biking around the mountains near Mount Airy. Rees also has an affinity for snow skiing. “Every vacation is the best vacation,” he says. However, the best part of a vacation for him is when he gets to walk up a snow-covered, knife-edge ridge at 13,000 feet or so on a clear day, strapping on his skis and heading down untouched snow. He also says that while he has seen many beautiful places all over the world, he never tires of driving along the New River in Alleghany County, especially in the fall.

Rees says he really does not have a bucket list. After some health issues a few years ago, he said he contemplated one. However, he realized he wanted to do what he had been doing up until that point in his life, which was working hard, making new friends and making a difference in their little community. Rees says he is pretty content.

There are two things of which Rees is truly proud. The first is his wife, to whom he has been married for 20 years. The second is his historic preservation redevelopment work, particularly in Mount Airy. He is proud to have been able to play a small role in the economic vitality of Mount Airy for the next generation.

A few things you may be surprised to learn about Rees are: 1) If you happen to be shorter than him, you wouldn’t know that he is “pretty bald on top.” 2) His wife has eight cats, and 3) He’s never taken a single puff from a cigarette.

Finally, when asked what the best advice he has ever received was, Rees said, “Understand the concept of compound interest at a very young age.” Prudent advice from a great businessman.