Belk Center Reflects on Two Years of Impact

Center celebrates second anniversary of its formal establishment

In June of 2018, the NC State College of Education announced its largest grant to-date, totaling $10,863,040 from the John M. Belk Endowment, to significantly enhance the support the university provides to community colleges in North Carolina by launching the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research. On February 27, 2020, with approval by the NC State Board of Trustees, the Belk Center was formally established.

The launch of the Belk Center has allowed NC State to deepen its support of and commitment to the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who rely on one of the state’s 58 community colleges for postsecondary education, workforce development and continuing education. 

“Establishing the Belk Center was an important step in formalizing and strengthening NC State’s ongoing support of community colleges. We recognize the critical role community colleges play in providing economic and social mobility for thousands of North Carolinians,” says Audrey “AJ” Jaeger, founding executive director of the Belk Center and W. Dallas Herring Professor of Community College Education. “In light of the pandemic, our work is perhaps now more important than ever as we ensure all individuals have an equitable opportunity to learn.”

Since its inception, the Belk Center has hosted executive leadership programs such as the Presidents’ Academy and Dallas Herring Lectures, conducted dozens of PACE Climate Surveys, launched Teaching and Learning Hubs and a Rural College Leaders Program, and spent thousands of hours conducting action research to address community college practitioner needs and provide data and information that leaders can use to make informed improvements at their institutions.

“We know we can count on the Belk Center’s support as we adapt to meet the evolving needs of our students and communities,” said Mark Poarch, president of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and president of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents. “As a trusted partner and ally, the Belk Center encourages colleges to consider the opportunities ahead of us, provides us with customized tools and resources as we bring our plans to life and convenes us so we can connect with and learn from our peers.”

Click for a closer look at our Timeline of Impact.

Over the last two years, the Belk Center’s unique position has resulted in an organizational framework, consisting of a set of three threads: creating new knowledge, convening key stakeholders and catalyzing change.

“These three threads guide our long-term aspirations as well as immediate work – and provide us with a clear path in discerning the direction we need to take moving forward,” Jaeger says. “We will continue to partner with leading organizations such as the North Carolina Community College System, Belk Endowment, Achieving the Dream and The Aspen Institute to meet the critical needs of North Carolina’s community colleges.”

“From the very beginning, we knew that the success of the Belk Center would depend on the strength of its partnerships,” said MC Belk Pilon, president and board chair of the John M. Belk Endowment. “By collaborating with the many people and groups that work for, believe in and support our state’s community colleges, the Belk Center has mobilized a network of incredible partners to redefine what’s possible for our colleges and the students they serve. We couldn’t be more excited to build on this great work in the months and years ahead.”

Looking ahead, the center has plans to expand its capacity to serve more community colleges in tackling complex issues such as student success, dual enrollment and transfer, adult learners and more.

“We are committed to working shoulder to shoulder with community college leaders across the state to ensure equitable access to postsecondary education for all North Carolinians,” Jaeger says.


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