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COA staff: Doctorate unnecessary for next president

051519 COA Presidential Search

Kennon Briggs, a search consultant with Washington, D.C.-based ACCT, discusses the qualities and attributes that College of The Albemarle staff and members of the Elizabeth City community would like to see in COA's next president, at the community college's campus in Elizabeth City, Tuesday.

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By Reggie Ponder and Miles Layton
Staff Writers

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

College of The Albemarle staff and community members said Tuesday they don’t believe the community college’s next president absolutely has to have a doctorate if the person is a proven leader with the skills needed to move COA forward.

That was just one of the recommendations about COA’s next president that surfaced during a forum on the Elizabeth City campus hosted by Kennon Briggs, a former interim COA president who is now working with the college’s trustees as a search consultant.

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

A similar forum was held earlier in the day on the Edenton-Chowan campus and sessions are slated for today at the Dare and Currituck campuses.

It was toward the end of the Elizabeth City session Tuesday that Briggs, who works for Washington, D.C.-based ACCT, asked the audience to weigh in on the question of minimum credentials for the college president.

Is a doctorate degree necessary? he asked. Or should the college consider “non-traditional” candidates who might have experience leading companies or other kinds of organizations but not necessarily a university doctorate?

Patrick Detwiler, COA’s director of marketing, said ideally the college’s president would have experience both in education and in business.

“I would like to see someone who hasn’t been just in education,” Detwiler said. In particular, he said, it would be great for the president to have some experience running a business that is customer-driven.

Chip Hatfield, deputy engineer at the depot for the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center, said Purdue University has done a great job of contributing to job growth while growing its own enrollment because of strong ties that have been built between university, industry and community. He said it would be great to see COA play that kind of role in economic development and job growth here.

Hatfield was picking up on Briggs’ mention of the former governor of Indiana — with a law degree and a background in business — becoming president at Purdue and overseeing enormous growth at that university. Briggs cited him as an example of a very successful “non-traditional” candidate.

Dean Roughton, dean of arts and sciences, said he might be expected to say a doctorate is necessary because he has one himself. But Roughton said he would hate to see a great candidate for president “get put in the ‘out chute’” because they didn’t hold a PhD.

Robin Harris, dean of health sciences, said she agreed with Roughton that a doctorate shouldn’t be an absolute requirement for the next COA president.

Briggs said he would take input from the four campus sessions and online surveys, along with other data related to the college, 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 of the new president in mid-September.

At the forum earlier on Tuesday at the Edenton-Chowan campus in Edenton, Briggs met with civic and municipal leaders as well as members of the Edenton-Chowan Partnership.

Edenton Mayor Roland Vaughan told Briggs he wants COA’s next president to know how much Edenton and Chowan are committed to the college.

“We value the presence of the campus in such a big way,” he said. “We’ve seen help (from COA) with boat building, construction and (the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) curriculum.”

Vaughan said he believes Chowan County could also benefit from hosting COA’s two-year agricultural degree program.

“My hope is that the next president will recognize our ability to participate in and therefore need more training with our agricultural component in the local economy,” he said. “We think that this campus, as opposed to some others in the system, offers an opportunity for a great hands-on experience with the agriculture that exists in Chowan County.”

The next president also needs to know the town and Chowan County are committed to completely renovating the two-story D.F. Walker School building at the north end of the Edenton-Chowan campus, he said.

Hal Burns, general manager at Jimbo’s Jumbos, said the company employs 270 workers and has spent more than $65 million rehabilitating and expanding its Edenton facility. Burns noted other employers are either located on Peanut Drive or nearby.

Burns said he’d like to see development of COA’s agriculture program on the Edenton-Chowan campus. Noting that more than 8,000 trucks a year use Peanut Drive, he also said adding a commercial driver’s license program at Edenton-Chowan would be a boon for the region. He said both are needed now.

“The combination of the agriculture program and the potential truck driving school is a huge opportunity not three, five or seven years into the future, but maybe next week,” Burns said.

Burns said while having a four-year degree is important, COA is critical for training the skilled labor needed to fill job vacancies in the region.

“Whatever amount of education you want, you can have a world class job here,” he said.

Jerry Climer, chairman of the Edenton-Chowan Partnership, also said the region has a shortage of skilled workers that COA helps address.

“The opportunity is to produce is different type of a graduate — not necessarily the person who wants to be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, but a person who understands that if they are going to work for Daedalus Yachts, they’d better have some capacity in that field and the skills,” he said. “COA in the past has done a really nice job of working with some of our manufacturers to design programs specifically for their challenges.”

Climer said that “too often the past” some have wanted to educate students “so that they can go someplace else to get a job” when “we need them here.”

Climer said the agriculture program is a perfect illustration of what is needed.

“You could put a student here and they could learn everything there is about agriculture — from marketing to the science element to what the farmer does — and it’s the same thing for some of these other industries,” he said. “I think the opportunity is to design programs that fit this campus and the region in a way that it helps northeastern North Carolina continue to grow and keep their talent here.”

Jim Blount, owner of Blount’s Mutual Drug, asked if the search committee could relay to the presidential candidates the important role regionalism plays in COA’s service territory.

“It’s very important in terms of challenges that you ... convey to the candidates that regionalism up here is very, very important because we need to stick together and not neglect any aspect” of the region. “There’s a lot of opportunity here. ... We’re all important and there’s a growth potential in each aspect of northeastern North Carolina.”

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