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WILKESBORO, N.C. – The Wilkes Community College Board of Trustees met on Thursday, Jan. 9 at the John A. Walker Center.

Allison Phillips, vice president of Institutional Advancement, executive director of WCC Foundation and Kim Faw, vice president of Instructional Support & Student Services gave an overview of the Keys To your Success Comprehensive Campaign. The campaign is a result of the college’s strategic plan and its purpose is to raise funds to establish and support the WCC Presidential scholarship and the WCC SAGE Fellows scholarship.

The business session began with the approval of the minutes from the Dec. 13, 2019 Board of Trustees meeting.

Larry Stone in the absence of Terry Bumgarner, chair of the WCC Board of Trustees, announced the next trustee orientation/education session scheduled for March 18 in Raleigh. Stone also reminded trustees of the April 15 deadline for filing the annual Statement of Economic Interest with the N.C. State Ethics Commission.

The board approved to discontinue the Federal Aid Student Loan Program at WCC due to high default rates.

Wilkes Community College is one of 15 community colleges still offering federal direct student loans. Although student loans can be a viable way to finance college, some students become burdened with unnecessary debt and are unable to pay back their loans. When students default on loans, colleges can be penalized. Each year the federal government publishes the Cohort Default Rate, which is the percentage of borrowers who enter repayment and the members of that cohort who defaulted.

The CDR is based on students who entered repayment that federal fiscal year and defaulted during a three-year period.

The Cannon Foundation Board approved a grant to the Wilkes Community College Foundation on Dec. 10 that will be used for the Ashe Campus Expansion.

WCC also recognized the 2019 Abby and Gordon Burns Distinguished Faculty-Staff Award recipients at the meeting. The 2019 Abby and Gordon Burns Distinguished Faculty Award went to Hardin Kennedy and the 2019 Abby and Gordon Burns Distinguished Staff Member of the Year went to Chris Bare.

Wilkes Community College has taken the lead role in organizing support for an initiative called Start-Up Northwest NC to support the growth and development of entrepreneurs in the region.

WCC’s five-year strategic plan is focused on fostering economic mobility of area citizens and to ensure employers have the workforce talent they need.

The accomplishment of this goal requires leveraging the excellent broadband internet connectivity in Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany Counties. As a step toward more proactively leveraging and promoting this internet connectivity, WCC has formed a cross-county team to gather and document existing examples of how area citizens are leveraging technology to access economic opportunity.

The northwest region, led by WCC, has been selected by NC State’s Institute for Emerging Issues as a featured community in its upcoming ReCONNECT NC Forum on Leveraging Technological Opportunity, to be held Feb. 10 in Raleigh.

As part of IEI’s Community Cohort program, a team will participate in several capacity building and strategic planning sessions geared toward helping gather, share, and analyze current and future ways to expand the local teleworking economy by leveraging the areas excellent rural internet access.

The trustees reviewed biographical narratives on new employees who began work since the board last met. They are Tanya Benfield, administrative assistant for Institutional Advancement, effective Oct. 17, 2019; Sarah Triplett, EMS lead instructor, effective Nov. 1, 2019; Billy Williams, facility maintenance technician, effective Nov. 1, 2019.

Resignations announced since the last board meeting were Terry Lewis, maintenance technician, Ashe Campus, effective Sept. 13, 2019.

WCC’s annual energy consumption report submitted to the State Energy Office shows total energy costs for the college of $790,805 for FY 2019. This includes usage of electricity, natural gas, water and other utilities.

On Nov. 1, the governor signed Senate Bill 61, which provides expansion funding for community colleges for 2019/2020 year. WCC will receive additional funding for short-term workforce training and expansion of the Robert L. Strickland Career Coach program with reduced local matching requirements.

The 2019-2020 WCC Annual Fund drive began July 1, 2019, with the faculty, staff, and foundation board members. The goal is $63,000 for the campaign. As of Dec. 16, 2019, $32,064 has been contributed.

Annual fund priorities for this year include the Doc Watson Fund, which is used for student emergencies, the food pantry, GED/HI Set Scholarships, Study Abroad, WCC SkillsUSA and unrestricted funds.

The 2019–2020 Walker Center season has had three exceptional performances, including The Texas Tenors, Jimmy Fortune and Craig Campbell, and John Berry Christmas. The continued goal of The Walker Center is to balance the talent which caters to both season ticket holders while building a foundation for future supporters. Dinners before the shows are popular and remain at maximum capacity.

The remaining three shows of the season are Whitney Houston Tribute — The Greatest Love of All, The Haggard Brothers — featuring Emi Sunshine, and The Return on May 8, when the season will come to a close.

The initial 2020 lineup for MerleFest was announced on Nov. 11 and includes Willie Nelson and family, Alison Krauss, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan and The Free Mexican Air Force, Scythian, Donna the Buffalo, The Waybacks and many more.

The December announcement included John Prine, Billy Strings, Colin Hay, Kelsey Waldon, and Gangstagrass. Several acts are still under the confirmation process and will be announced later.

Additional artists will be announced in January and February which will continue to build enthusiasm as the festival grows closer.

Volunteer applications are now being accepted to work at the 2020 festival. Since most applications are coming in electronically, applications are running ahead of schedule. To date, more applications have been processed and placed than at this time last year.

During the meeting, the board endorsed the review of the Continuing Education Accountability Plan. The board also approved the following new programs: Agriculture Systems Technology and Construction Equipment Systems Technology.

Both programs are in the NC Community College system’s Mobile Equipment Maintenance and Repair pathway. They both begin with a foundation in diesel and heavy equipment technology then allow students to go on to specialize in either agricultural equipment or construction equipment in their second year of study. The first year of both programs mirrors the WCC diploma in Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology; therefore, graduates will receive a diploma in Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology as well as an Associate in Applied Science degree in either Agricultural Systems or Construction Equipment Systems.

The programs will be submitted to the NC Community College system office and the State Board of Community Colleges for final approval.

The annual meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges was held Dec. 7-10, 2019 in Houston.

The annual meeting provides a valuable opportunity to attend sessions on several timely topics, including accreditation and other issues and trends in higher education. WCC was represented at the meeting by Dr. Jeff Cox, President; Scott Johnson, Dean of Student Services; Darrell Finney, Dean of Arts and Sciences; and Nicole Fogle, Executive Director of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness and SACSCOC accreditation liaison.

Employability Services conducted a variety of workshops and participated in numerous activities during 2019 to help students develop employability and job search skills to prepare for the workforce. There were 57 workshops with 601 participants.

Through numerous career counseling events that were provided during 2019, WCC was able to assist 835 students with their career choices.

Last year WCC Career Coaches assisted 3,205 high school students, includes individual meetings and developing academic plans. As a whole, the six career coaches collectively conducted 221 group information sessions, reaching 7,356 students.

For 2019, the WCC Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program featured diverse activities and programs, along with a sizeable increase in attendance.

This increase mainly occurred due to prevention activities expanding into area public schools. Vickie Bell, Clinical Education Coordinator of WCC’s Respiratory Therapy program, initiated a cause for vaping education by presenting at Wilmington Early College High School, area high schools, and a middle school. For all 31 educational events, approximately 2,239 individuals participated.

The WCC Board of Trustees will meet again on April 9 in the John A. Walker Center Ballroom.

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