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COA forums highlight diverse objectives

051519 COA Presidential Search

Kennon Briggs, a search consultant for Washington, D.C.-based ACCT, addresses College of the Albemarle faculty members and community members about the search process for COA's next president, at the COA campus in Elizabeth City, Tuesday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 16, 2019

BARCO — One of the challenges likely to confront College of The Albemarle’s next president will be navigating the tension between having a “one college” identity and meeting the individual desires of communities served by COA’s three other campuses.

Input at a series of meetings this week for COA staff and community members to weigh in on the search for the college’s next president appeared to expose that tension.

At both the Edenton-Chowan Campus in Edenton on Tuesday and the Regional Aviation and Training Center in Barco on Thursday, meeting speakers who addressed search panel members emphasized their individual campus’s needs. A speaker at the meeting at COA’s main campus in Elizabeth City, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of COA thinking of itself as “one college.”

Kennon Briggs, a consultant helping COA’s search panel find the college’s next president, said one of the themes that emerged from Wednesday’s session in Barco was a desire to align an individual campus’s curricula with the job opportunities and economic development needs in its particular community — even if it means duplicating some programs.

Currituck citizens, for example, mentioned the need for skilled tradespeople to work in new home construction in the county. Even if trades are being taught at another COA campus, Currituck and its citizens could benefit from the training being available at the Currituck campus, the speakers at Wednesday’s meeting said.

Conversely, the idea of COA becoming more unified came up at the meeting in Elizabeth City on Tuesday.

Patrick Detwiler, COA’s director of marketing, said that in the past couple of years “the idea of being one college has fragmented terribly.” He said one of the college’s challenges is keeping COA’s Dare County Campus in Manteo part of a unified college. He suggested the Dare campus often sees itself as different and on its own.

In other comments at Tuesday’s meeting, Detwiler also said the college needs to realize that students are customers and develop a customer-centered focus.

“We need to do what the customer needs and not what makes us happy internally,” Detwiler said.

He cited as an example the office hours for departments such as admissions, saying the college needs to make those services easier for students to use.

Robin Harris, dean of health sciences, also said at Tuesday’s session in Elizabeth City that COA’s next president needs to be a good communicator — with both on-campus and off-campus audiences. The president also needs to be a strong and positive leader who understands the financial processes of the community college system.

Another challenge for the next president will be maintaining the college’s academic reputation and rigor. Susan Peck, director of distance education programs, said the next president needs to be an innovative and creative thinker.

Visibility is important, including visibility on campus with students and staff, said Lucretia White, COA’s coordinator of developmental reading and English. The next president also needs to be visible in the community, she said.

Dean Roughton, the college’s dean of arts and sciences, said it would be good to find someone with experience both in a rural setting and with a multi-campus college.

Roughton also said that in building support for education in trades and what is known as career and technical education, the president needs to be able to facilitate a cultural shift in how K-12 school districts think about CTE programs.

Laura Morrison, who chairs the English and communications department, said COA also needs to help develop more teachers locally. It can do that, she said, by implementing programs that help students not only earn an associate degree in education, but also finish their bachelor’s degree in education before going on to teach in the community. She said the college has done a good job growing health sciences programs; it should find ways to do the same kinds of things in teacher education, she said.

COA is looking for a new president because its current president, Robert Wynegar, has announced plans to resign on June 30.

Briggs said Tuesday that he plans to take input from the four campus sessions — a fourth was held at the Manteo campus Wednesday afternoon — and online surveys, along with other data, and develop a draft presidential profile to submit to both the COA search committee and the Board of Trustees. The goal is to have an announcement about a new president in mid-September.

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