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Aspen Institute Representatives Visit Campus

Experts Will Produce Report on College's Strengths and Areas for Improvement

During an interview with PCC staff members Wednesday afternoon, Josh Wyner (second from right) asks a question about the college's academic advising practices while fellow Aspen Institute experts Mark Toner, Elaine Baker and Marc Herzog, left to right, prepare to take notes.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College employees and students met with community college experts from the prestigious Aspen Institute last week in an effort to help the college continue improving student success and services.

Earlier this year, PCC was one of eight North Carolina community colleges selected to participate in Aspen Institute’s “North Carolina Roadmap to Excellence Project.” The goal is to identify the college’s strengths and areas for improvement.

“The Aspen Institute review is a demonstration of Pitt Community College’s commitment to excellence and continuous improvement,” said PCC Vice President of Academic Affairs Tom Gould, who developed the college’s application for the project and coordinated last week’s visit. “The objective is to help PCC be the best it can be with regard to serving students and helping them achieve their educational goals.”

Four Aspen Institute experts—Elaine Baker, Marc Herzog, Josh Wyner and Mark Toner—conducted the two-day review at PCC Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Baker is an expert in career pathways for low-skilled adults and accelerated developmental education learning communities, while Herzog is chancellor emeritus of the Connecticut Community College System. Wyner is vice president and executive director of Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, and Toner is a consultant specializing in K-12 and higher education issues.

“These are experienced professionals in higher education with longstanding and recognized commitment to student achievement,” Gould said. “We will welcome their recommendations with open minds.”

During their visit, the experts gathered information on a wide-range of topics, including faculty professional development, academic advising and support, student completion and job placement, career pathways, college transfer, underserved populations and institutional culture. Gould noted that in addition to employees, the team met with students and student leaders to get their perspectives on PCC.

According to a news release from Aspen Institute, the “North Carolina Roadmap to Excellence Project’’ seeks to improve outcomes in five areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s degree completion, employment and earnings, and access and success for minority and low-income students.

“We are delighted that the president of Pitt (G. Dennis Massey) has invited us in, both to show the strong practices at Pitt that lead to student success and for us to share recommendations from elsewhere in the country,” Wyner said. “We’ve been really pleased with how forthright and positive faculty and staff have been in sharing their experiences and thoughts.”

Fourteen community colleges applied to participate in the Aspen Institute project, but only eight were accepted. In addition to PCC, community colleges selected for the project were Brunswick, Central Carolina, Cleveland, Coastal Carolina, Davidson County, Guilford Technical, and Halifax.

PCC President G. Dennis Massey said it was “an honor” for Pitt to be selected for the Aspen Institute site visit.

"Experiences like the visit from Aspen allow us to see our work in relation to national standards and practices,” Massey said. “I want to thank all the faculty, staff, students, and community members who contributed their perspectives."

Gould says the experts will develop a report for the college that summarizes their findings and includes recommendations to enhance students’ educational experiences at PCC and to facilitate student success and completion. He said the report would be ready sometime in December or January.