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OUR VIEWS

Dixon to bring stability, student-focused leadership

Dr. Karrie Dixon Photo.jpg

Dr. Karrie Dixon

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Staff, students, alumni and the Elizabeth City community couldn't agree more with Karrie Dixon's top priority of "stability for the university" at ECSU. It's something the university hasn't seen much of over the last several years.

The new chancellor has already helped in that direction during her "interim" period and as part of the leadership team the University of North Carolina Board of Governors created to stabilize and grow ECSU after its future was shaken by a series of administrative failures, leadership turbulence and enrollment declines.

Yes, stability would be a welcomed development, with Dixon quickly transitioning to a forward-thinking leader guiding ECSU’s obligations for preparing students for the jobs and careers of the future.

Dixon was unanimously selected as Elizabeth City State University’s 12th chief executive officer and its seventh chancellor during the Board of Governors meeting on Dec. 14. The announcement came after a months-long search to find a new university leader to replace Thomas Conway, who resigned last May after serving only two years as chancellor.

Dixon will be the fourth chancellor at ECSU since 2012.

Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith praised Dixon as "a high-value athlete and rock star." UNC President Margaret Spellings, who months ago recommended Dixon to direct the university leadership team, also touted her, pointing out the progress already emerging at ECSU, as the right candidate for the job.

Topping that list of upward indicators is the growth in enrollment, which had fallen from about 3,300 in 2010 to around 1,400 last year. Enrollment is again starting to move back up, with the number of students reaching nearly 1,680 this fall — an 18 percent increase over the previous year.

Helping the enrollment picture is the North Carolina Promise initiative implemented this year at three state university campuses — ECSU, Western Carolina and UNC-Pembroke. NC Promise, which was created by UNC to stimulate enrollment, offers capable students with limited financial means a golden opportunity to gain a four-year college degree with its attractive tuition — only $500 per semester for state residents and $2,500 for non-residents.

Dixon will have that added benefit to rebuild ECSU's enrollment, along with many curriculum enticements. Among them, ECSU's unique aviation science major will continue to attract students considering the widening path of public and private careers related to flight. The university's education and bio-sciences departments also are steady curriculums for placing students on a professional track.

And newer programs should also boost student interest. Drone aviation, emergency management and homeland security — programs driven by opening job fields — should provide even more incentive for high school students to look at ECSU for an education.

These are some of the tools in the tool box that Dixon and other leaders at ECSU and UNC will have to re-energize the university's enrollment and reputation as a UNC system member institution, providing students a quality education in future-relevant careers.

Accordingly, Dixon was selected because the decision-makers at UNC and ECSU believe she has the experience, leadership skills and vision to move the university in a better direction. We are encouraged by the agreement among those leaders and by what is currently transpiring at ECSU under Dixon’s watch.

She has been directing a necessary transformation. We urge her to continue in that direction, to remain committed to stability at ECSU and to insist on quality student education as the cornerstone of her priorities.

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