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MTCC’s Vision is Clear-Learn and Grow With Us

If this week could be summarized in two words by leaders at McDowell Technical Community College, those would unequivocally be “vision and mission.”

As Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President, officially welcomed faculty and staff back to campus during Fall Convocation on Tuesday August 10, as he focused the group on “Vision 2025,” the college’s new strategic plan, outlining for the path forward for the first half of the next decade.

MTCC’s new vision is simple: We will learn and grow while focusing on individuals, our community, and our institution.

Merritt shared institutional statistics in several areas that highlighted the opportunities to close equity gaps in access, retention, and success rates among the student population at McDowell Tech, along with community statistics that demonstrate those underserved by MTCC.

As Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President, officially welcomed faculty and staff back to campus during Fall Convocation on Tuesday August 10, as he focused the group on “Vision 2025,” the college’s new strategic plan, outlining for the path forward for the first half of the next decade.

MTCC’s new vision is simple: We will learn and grow while focusing on individuals, our community, and our institution.

Merritt shared institutional statistics in several areas that highlighted the opportunities to close equity gaps in access, retention, and success rates among the student population at McDowell Tech, along with community statistics that demonstrate those underserved by MTCC.

“We must do better as an institution, and we will do better, for those who need us most. We must reach deep into our community to form strong partnerships that help more students learn and subsequently grows the talent pipeline for our workforce partners. Education and training opportunities must be equitable and available to all,” said Merritt.

On Tuesday afternoon, Thomas Stith, President of the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS), visited for a campus tour and to talk with faculty, staff and students about the broader vision and mission of the network of 58 colleges that comprise the NC Community College System.

During his visit, Stith heard from Freddie Killough, Executive Director of the Marion Business Association, about the success of the award-winning Growing Entrepreneurs Marion (GEM) Program, a program for which McDowell Tech is a primary partner. Daniel Rodriguez and Emily Causey, co-owners of Burrito Bros and Mica Town Brewing, respectively, told Stith how GEM helped them formulate and implement productive plans for their new businesses, both are which are now in an expansion mode, with Mica Town already opening a second brewpub in Nebo, NC to complement their primary location in Marion. Rodriguez alluded to a forthcoming expansion of Burrito Bros which is expected before the end of the year.

The brief presentation from GEM dovetailed beautifully with mission and visioning statements from both McDowell Tech and the NCCCS.

“The GEM program is an example of how powerful partnerships can lead to transformation for our students and our community,” Merritt said. “Public investment in GEM since 2016 has led to dozens of businesses opening in downtown Marion and across McDowell County, along with 112 full-time jobs and 89 part-time jobs created. We need to take lessons learned from GEM and adapt those across the college.”

During a recent meeting of the North Carolina Community College Presidents Association, President Stith shared the three pillars of his Vision for NCCCS: (1) We will serve as a first choice in North Carolina for accessible and affordable higher education; (2) We will lead North Carolina’s economic recovery and sustained growth into the future; and (3) We will become a national model for diversity and inclusion.

Both McDowell Tech and NCCCS are committed to serving previously underserved populations in McDowell County and throughout the state, including racial and ethnic minorities, those in poverty, and designing career pathways that meet the needs for adult learners.

Stith is no stranger to quality improvement, minority outreach and economic development projects in business and government. He previously served as district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration and has been chief executive of several businesses and consulting firms, including the Michael Thomas Group in Durham, NC and LJP Lab, a toxicology lab and health care consulting company in Kernersville, NC.

From 2013-2017, Stith served as chief of staff to former Gov. Pat McCrory and served for eight years as a member of the Durham City Council. As a member of the Governor’s staff, he led special initiatives serving historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s), as well as recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew.

“Our community colleges are the job engine for North Carolina,” said Stith. “The ‘Great 58’ serve hundreds of thousands of students per year, and I appreciate McDowell Tech Community College’s leadership and commitment to student success as we move forward and continue to provide a pathway to opportunity for North Carolinians.”

Since becoming NCCCS President in January of this year, he has outlined several goals for the NCCCS System Office which aim to reduce barriers to higher education and workforce engagement throughout the state, particularly among minority populations. He has proposed, for example, a greater focus on the Innovative Credentials to Associates Network (ICAN), a national network focused on increasing credential attainment among adults from communities of color.

At a recent press conference announcing the NC Longleaf Commitment Grant Program, a grant-in-aid program for recent high school graduates offering two years of free college tuition, Stith told a group of attendees, “Education is a pathway to opportunity, and you’re about to have the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Merritt concluded, “The North Carolina Community College System is a pathway to opportunity for all of our citizens. With McDowell Tech’s Learn and Grow Scholarship funds still available for the 2021-2022 school year, we invite anyone willing to take this journey. Learn and grow with us.”

For more information on the Learn and Grow Scholarship Program, visit www.mcdowelltech.edu/learnandgrow/ .

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