Enrollment, facilities, teacher education among Dixon priorities


Karrie Dixon, chancellor at Elizabeth City State University, discusses the university's goals for 2019 in the chancellor's office on campus, Friday.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Chancellor Karrie Dixon said Friday that “greatness” will be a defining characteristic for Elizabeth City State University in 2019 as the university continues to grow enrollment and renovate facilities from dormitories to the campus library.

This will also be a year that offers opportunities for staff, faculty, students, alumni and community members to have a say in the future of the university, as the chancellor and trustees develop a new strategic plan over six to eight months.

The strategic planning process will not just be in-house but will also include forums and listening sessions to get input from the community, said Dixon, who was named chancellor of ECSU on Dec. 14 after serving as interim chancellor since the retirement of Thomas Conway from the post in May.

Closely connected to the strategic planning process, according to Dixon, will be the work of an ad hoc committee that is looking at ways to strengthen ECSU’s teacher education program.

Areas of focus include boosting employee morale, enabling student success and insisting on quality in every area.

Dixon spoke to faculty and staff on Thursday about the importance of everyone rowing in the same direction.

“That means the community also,” Dixon said. “We’re going to need the support of the community.”

Dixon said she looks forward to sharing her vision with the community as she speaks to groups during the year.

A number of major renovation projects are slated for this year.

The university will be adding 100 beds for students in the fall of this year when the fully renovated Butler Hall reopens as a residence hall, Dixon said. Bias Hall will be brought back on-line as a residence hall by 2020, she said, and the design of both of those buildings will be looked at carefully to identity ways to increase common space and study space for students.

Extensive work will be done on the G.R. Little Library building this year, which will require relocating the books and staff from the library to another site on the campus. Dixon said right now the plan is to house the stacks and staff from the library in the Gilchrist Building while the Little Building is being renovated.

The university will work to ensure students still have access to books and library services, she said.

“It’s not going to be an easy process,” Dixon said. “It’s going to be different.”

There will be some inconvenience because of the temporary relocation, Dixon said, “but the construction is necessary.”

The university this year will be doing more statewide marketing and also will continue a marketing push in Virginia.

“One thing that we’re working on is our marketing and our visibility,” Dixon said.

One thing the university will promote tirelessly is its aviation program.

ECSU’s aviation program is a source of pride for the institution and is the one program more than any other that sets ECSU apart from other University of North Carolina System campuses and all the private colleges and universities in the state, Dixon said. The ECSU aviation science degree is the only four-year aviation degree offered by any institution in the state, she said.

The university will continue to work with community colleges that offer aviation-related programs in order to encourage students to continue their studies at ECSU and earn a bachelor’s degree in aviation, she said.

The university will be engaged in a lot of promotional activity to put ECSU on the map in terms of aviation, Dixon said.

Dixon said the job outlook in aviation is excellent as large numbers of airline pilots get ready to retire.

The aviation program saw 38.4 percent growth in enrollment this year, Dixon said.

Total enrollment will continue to grow, Dixon said, as people learn about the NC Promise tuition discount program that offers a tuition rate of $500 a semester for in-state students at ECSU, UNC-Pembroke and Western Carolina University.

The university is ramping up its efforts to reach transfer students and non-traditional students, including military veterans.

“We can’t just depend on the recent high school graduate pipeline,” Dixon said.

ECSU now has an online elementary education degree and is working to start new programs this year in unmanned aircraft, emergency management and homeland security.

“We’re still pushing for 2019,” Dixon said of starting the new degree programs. “We should know something very soon.”

There is no discussion going on now about changing the name of Elizabeth City State University -- the topic has sparked controversy in the past, particularly among alumni -- but Dixon said the university is looking at other ways to promote and capitalize on ECSU’s status as a campus of the University of North Carolina System.

The goal is to educate people about ECSU’s participation in the UNC System and to encourage people in Elizabeth City to take pride in having a UNC System institution located in the community and to take full advantage of the opportunities that an institution of the UNC System provides.

ECSU plans to add “UNC System” language to signs around the campus and also will include references to being a constituent institution of the UNC System in marketing and promotional materials.

“We will keep pushing the UNC System brand,” Dixon said.