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Forum speakers: Dixon would make great chancellor

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June Gibbs, an Elizabeth City State University alum, speaks at a community forum held by the ECSU Chancellor Search Committee, upstairs at Arts of the Albemarle's The Center, Tuesday evening.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Speakers at a second community forum on the search for the next chancellor at Elizabeth City State University said Tuesday that interim Chancellor Karrie Dixon is doing a good job and would make a great chancellor.

Anthony Price said Dixon is doing a good job, adding that, as a former vice president for the University of North Carolina System, she also knows the UNC system well. Price also said Dixon’s leadership is already paying off for ECSU.

“I can see some changes on the campus now,” he said.

Price, who identified himself as someone who has been both a student and an employee at ECSU, said the next chancellor needs to understand that ECSU is a small school and two of the most important functions are admissions and alumni relations. The chancellor also needs to understand the culture of ECSU and be able to raise more money for scholarships, he said.

Tuesday’s forum, held at Arts of the Albemarle’s The Center, was the latest in a series of forums for ECSU faculty, staff, students and alumni as well as the community held by the ECSU Chancellor Search Committee. Hosted by Elizabeth City City Manager Rich Olson and River City Community Development Corp. President Lenora Jarvis Mackey, Tuesday’s forum was geared to receive input from community residents.

Dixon also got a vote of confidence from Keith Rivers, an ECSU graduate and president of the Pasquotank County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Rivers said the university’s next chancellor needs to understand how to navigate the University of North Carolina System — something Dixon already knows how to do.

The chancellor also needs to be someone who will stay and offer stability, Rivers said. The university’s next leader also needs to exude confidence, have fundraising ability, and be able to communicate and work alongside people from diverse backgrounds, he said.

“They need to be able to play with a variety of people in the sandbox, so to speak,” Rivers said.

He said Dixon fits the bill for what ECSU needs. “She has demonstrated everything that I would think we would want in a chancellor,” he said.

Rivers cited positive statements students have made about Dixon. “From what I gather the students adore her and they respect her,” he said.

As he considers the characteristics needed in a chancellor, Rivers said, “those characteristics I think are already here. They are already sitting here.”

Rivers said if Dixon doesn’t apply for the chancellor’s job the committee needs to find someone very much like her.

It’s not known whether Dixon will be a candidate for the chancellor position.

“It’s too early for anybody to discuss whether they are going to apply,” ECSU spokesman Robert Kelly-Goss said.

Kelly-Goss noted the Chancellor Search Committee is not slated to complete its leadership profile and job description for the next chancellor until later this month.

The university has set a tentative timetable of naming a chancellor in January 2019 and having the person on campus in February.

At Tuesday’s forum, Price said ECSU needs a chancellor who will engage with the university’s Alumni Association.

“That’s part of your job, to listen to the alumni,” he said.

June Gibbs, a 1977 graduate of ECSU, said the chancellor needs to be visible, approachable, able to relate to people at all income levels, and work closely with the local board of education. Gibbs said the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools should not be facing a teacher shortage when ECSU — known for its teacher education program — is located right here in the community.

Warren Judge, a 1997 graduate of ECSU who is executive officer of Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, said the most important characteristic in a chancellor is integrity. Other important traits are charism and being engaged with students, he said.

Judge said the next chancellor needs to help students reach the milestone of graduation; work to provide things students can do on-campus and off-campus; and teach students to dream and never give up. The chancellor “can’t come in here tiptoeing” but needs to challenge the university and the community, and needs to be about service rather than self, Judge said.

Bettie Mitchell Lyons, who arrived in Elizabeth City 23 years ago to work at ECSU, said the next chancellor needs to strengthen the relationship between the university and the larger community.

Lyons said she has been disappointed with that relationship in the past and believes that it has begun to improve recently. It’s very important that the chancellor continue working to improve that relationship, Lyons said.

Norma Hatot-King, who noted she and her husband moved to Elizabeth City from Maryland five years ago, said she would like to see a robust volunteer engagement process at ECSU. She believes it would encourage people in the community to serve as mentors for students, host students during holidays and support students in other ways.

City Councilman Johnnie Walton joined others in citing a need for a chancellor to stay for a longer tenure.

“We don’t need a ‘suitcase chancellor,’” Walton said. “It needs to be somebody who is going to unpack the bags and say ‘I am going to stay and fight this thing out,’” Walton said.

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