Dr. Brian S. Merritt, President at McDowell Technical Community College, has been named Senior Vice-President and Chief Academic Officer of Programs and Student Services for the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) following a vote of the State Board of Community Colleges last Friday and approval by the Executive Committee of the McDowell Technical Community College Board of Trustees Tuesday afternoon. He was released by the Trustee’s Executive Committee from his contract with McDowell Tech effective August 31st and will assume his new role at NCCCS effective September 1st.
According to a release from NCCCS, Merritt, who has led McDowell Tech in Marion since January 2021, will be responsible for providing a strategic vision and senior leadership to the Programs and Student Services division within the System Office, in addition to the 58 community colleges across the state. He also will help lead the development of new and innovative programs that address the state’s educational and workforce development needs.
Merritt shared the news of his offer with McDowell Tech faculty and staff over the weekend. “This is not the message I expected to be writing today,” he wrote in the college’s monthly newsletter. “This is not a decision Jessi and I have taken lightly. Tears have been cried, and the word ‘gratitude’ has been uttered in our home numerous times this week as we discussed the offer. We are full of gratitude for the entire MTCC family and McDowell County for welcoming us with open arms. We have a solid team with strong momentum, and I know I will depart MTCC in great hands.”
“Dr. Merritt has done an exceptional job for McDowell Tech, and we hate to lose him, but we are honored that someone of his caliber has been tapped to be Chief Academic Officer for all 58 community colleges,” said Gary Stroud, Chair of the MTCC Board of Trustees and member of the Executive Committee of the North Carolina Association of Community College Trustees for Region 1. “His leadership, vision and ability to assemble partnerships with local and professional organizations are really paying off for our students and have pulled in a number of new grants that have allowed us to begin new programs and expand others. I look forward to seeing that same kind of leadership from Dr. Merritt in his new role at the System Office.”
Stroud highlighted just a few of Dr. Merritt’s accomplishments at McDowell Tech:
- Led efforts to create the Vision 2025 Strategic Plan and related Facilities Master Plan that reflected internal and external stakeholders’ needs and aligned with various community partners, including McDowell County Public Schools, McDowell Economic Development Association and the McDowell Chamber of Commerce.
- Led the college to significantly grow state-funded FTE in two consecutive years after the college had experienced over a decade of declines in enrollment funding.
- Significantly increased fundraising efforts, including growing the college’s grants portfolio to over $8 million in just over two and a half years.
- Worked with the Board and employees to create advanced plans for a new Health Sciences & Public Safety Building (invest.mcdowelltech.edu), reflective of both internal and external needs.
- Secured external funds to begin renovations of the One Stop Student Center and the Old Fort Workforce Education Center. Both projects are currently underway and will open in 2024.
- Improvements to public relations at the college, including development and launching a new college website and additional positions to boost the college’s community and digital presence.
• Created local and regional partnerships to maximize effectiveness with programming and training that better meets workforce needs, including bilingual instruction and addition of new curriculum programs that meet local demand.
“Dr. Merritt… has a strong reputation for success and will have an immediate connection with our System Chief Academic Officers, Presidents and System Office team,” said System President Jeff Cox. “Beyond the stellar experience Dr. Merritt brings to this role, he is just an outstanding person. He is a collaborative leader who works well in a team environment. He listens to others and seeks out the wisdom of the group before making key decisions. This kind of thoughtful, collaborative leadership is exactly what I am looking for on our Senior Team.”
Besides his senior leadership role at McDowell Tech, Merritt brings a wealth of experience in higher education at other colleges and universities across North Carolina to his new role at NCCCS. Prior to becoming President at McDowell Tech in January 2021, Merritt was Vice-President at Central Carolina Community College. He also served at North Carolina Central University, Louisburg College, and Appalachian State University.
In 2020, Merritt was one of 40 leaders chosen for the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship, a highly selective, national leadership program that prepares the next generation of community college presidents to transform institutions to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success.
Merritt received his bachelor’s degree in Secondary Social Sciences Education and a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Appalachian State University. He also earned a Doctorate of Higher Education Administration from Walden University.
“Joining NCCCS under Dr. Cox’s leadership is a tremendous opportunity to serve and help strengthen the Great 58,” Merritt said. “This position directly aligns with my background and experience in academic affairs, workforce development, student services, and institutional advancement. This System has given so much to me, and I am excited about the opportunity to give back to it.”
“I’ve seen first-hand the positive difference that a strong strategic plan can make, especially when it is aligned with the right stakeholders,” said Merritt. “The new NCCCS strategic plan is aligned with myFutureNC’s attainment goals, among other key partners, and has a set of ambitious objectives that can help our 58 colleges collectively develop a competitive and agile workforce. My time as president at McDowell Tech taught me that intentional alignment of our work with the strategic plan can inspire our faculty and staff to drive new, innovative workforce solutions for our communities.”
“We know North Carolina recently repeated as Top State in the U.S. for Business,” said Merritt. “My top priority will be to leverage the strengths of our team at the System Office and to work closely with our 58 colleges to serve our workforce and help develop talent solutions that serve our state well. I am a collaborator at heart, and I look forward to helping our System find the right balance between serving local workforce needs while also collaborating regionally and statewide to boost economic and social mobility for more North Carolinians.”