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Isothermal will participate in Rural College Leaders Program

By: Mike Gavin
Published: February 08, 2022

SPINDALE (Feb. 8, 2022) ––  Isothermal Community College is one of 10 North Carolina institutions set to participate in a new leadership program.The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, in partnership with Achieving the Dream, is pleased to announce the launch of the Rural College Leaders Program (RCLP) – a capacity-building program designed to close equity gaps and improve student outcomes for 10 community colleges serving rural communities in North Carolina.“The Rural College Leaders Program was designed with both the unique challenges and unique opportunities of our rural-serving institutions in mind,” says Audrey Jaeger, Ph.D., W. Dallas Herring Professor with the NC State College of Education and executive director of the Belk Center. “Through this program, we are eager to improve equitable student success that leads to greater social and economic mobility in our state’s regions. To that end, we aim to not only advance the work of our participating institutions – but to share the lessons learned with other rural-serving community colleges in North Carolina as well.”The three-year program, supported by Ascendium Education Group, will immerse community college presidents, boards of trustees and senior leadership teams in a professional learning community aimed at removing systematic barriers, improving pathways for learners and increasing completion rates for low-income students and students of color. As part of the program,  participating colleges will engage in a series of six professional learning events focused on driving transformational change through collaboration and data-driven, equity-minded decision-making. Additionally, colleges will partner with coaches from Achieving the Dream for coaching tailored to their specific community college contexts and needs. The kick off event will take place on Monday, Feb. 28, at the Belk Center. Focused on defining equity and identifying gaps in equity, the event will lay a foundation for the program’s goal of strengthening institutional capacity and developing learner-centered change agents. Presidents from each participating college and two coaches from Achieving the Dream will be in attendance. Greg Hodges, Ph.D., president of Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Va., will serve as guest speaker, sharing with the RCLP cohort about his experience promoting equitable outcomes in a rural region.“We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across North Carolina and our national partners to advance our work in support of our community and the rural communities across our state,” said Dr. Margaret Annunziata, Isothermal’s president. “We recognize that community colleges offer tremendous opportunity for our rural communities.  However, to maximize this opportunity,  we must recognize and respond to the needs of our students, providing support that allows those we serve to successfully complete credentials with labor market value and enter careers that ensure economic and social mobility.”
In subsequent events, community college leaders will collaborate to define measurable goals, leverage evidence-based practices, identify opportunities and develop action plans addressing strategic priorities. For further support, the program cohort will gather between learning events in three regional collaborative groups.
The RCLP cohort includes Carteret Community College, Catawba Valley Community College, College of the Albemarle, Davidson-Davie Community College, Isothermal Community College, McDowell Technical College, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, Stanly Community College, Vance-Granville Community College and Western Piedmont Community College. The 10 colleges were notified of their acceptance to the program on Dec. 20, 2021 following a formal application and interview process.