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Belk Center Fellows attend annual DREAM Conference

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research has announced that seven Belk Center Fellows were selected to attend Achieving the Dream’s DREAM 2023 conference in Chicago from February 14-17. 

The doctoral students – who are representatives of the larger 2023 Belk Center Fellows cohort – are joining peers from more than 300 colleges across the nation to explore college transformation as a catalyst for equity and economic vitality. The conference, now in its 19th convening, also presents opportunities for attendees to exchange evidence-based strategies that drive access, momentum, mobility and community impact.

The Belk Center’s Fellows Program began in 2017 through a partnership with Achieving the Dream (ATD) and the creation of a cohort of DREAM fellows. The goal of the program is to bring together groups of doctoral students to listen and engage in national conversations surrounding community college and student success.

The program later expanded to include a partnership with the League for Innovation in the Community College and, later this spring, 10 other Belk Center Fellows will have the opportunity to attend their annual conference in Tempe, Ariz. For many of the 2023 Fellows, the ability to attend these national conferences is an excellent opportunity to learn more about their specific research interests. 

Meet the 2023 ATD DREAM Attendees

Germaine Brandt Elkins is the vice president of institutional advancement at Sandhills Community College where she has been a member of the Foundation staff for more than 15 years. Since assuming her leadership role in 2015, she has assisted in growing the Foundation’s net assets from $23 million to nearly $50 million and has successfully overseen a $15 million capital campaign. During her time at Sandhills, she has assisted many donors in establishing estate gifts, creating charitable gift annuities, and structuring many other major and planned gifts. She has presented at local, state and national professional conferences on these topics. In 2017, Brandt Elkins earned her certificate in fund raising management from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and subsequently obtained her Certified Fund Raising Executive status from CFRE International. She has an MBA from UNC Pembroke, a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UNC Wilmington, and associate’s degree in arts from Sandhills Community College. She is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at NC State’s College of Education and the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research. Brandt Elkinds is originally from Savannah, Ga., however, since before she was born her family visited Southern Pines because of their long-time ties to horse country. In 1988, her family moved to Moore County full time. In her free time, she enjoys spending quality time with her family, her husband of 19 years, Phill, and their nine-year-old daughter, Virginia.

Jody R. Call is a doctoral student in NC State’s Community College Leadership program. He is also executive director of strategic planning at Wilkes Community College (WCC). In his professional role, Call oversees WCC’s five-year strategic plan, which has the aggressive goal of doubling its completion rate from 25% to 50%. Four years in, the college is proud to have reached a 55% completion rate. Recently, Call served as team lead and project manager for NC Reconnect, the adult re-engagement and re-enrollment initiative funded by the John M. Belk Endowment. Call received his master of education in instructional technology from Appalachian State University, his bachelor’s degree in human services from Gardner-Webb University and his associate of applied science degree in electronics engineering technology from WCC. Call also taught as an adjunct faculty for WCC in the NC Department of Public Safety, as well as in information technology in the college’s business and public service technologies division. Prior to his career at WCC, Call worked 10 years in instructional technology in K-12 education, and he most recently served as chief technology officer during a 16-year career for a rural telecommunications cooperative and broadband service provider. His career interests include adult learner engagement, workforce development, community outreach and engagement and institutional research.

Robyn A. Fusaro is an instructional designer at NC State. In this role, she oversees the Department of Finance, online certificate programs and the division’s monthly newsletter. In 2020, she earned her master of education from NC State and is currently in her final year of their doctorate program. Prior to this, she received her bachelor’s degree in political science from NC State. Her research interest focuses on using qualitative methods approaches to address single mothers and their journey in higher education.

C. Brian Jones is the assistant vice president of enrollment services at Pitt Community College. In this role, he oversees the offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, Recruiting, Registrar and First-Year Experience. In 2021, he was tasked with establishing a campus Adult Learning Center that provides a one-stop location to assist adults in navigating the college student experience. Jones has spent the past 23 years working at two North Carolina community colleges, all within the student services realm. As a former director of two TRIO programs, Jones has a passion to provide students with the encouragement and resources to succeed in college and in life. He possesses bachelor’s degrees in communication and religion/philosophy and a master of education degree. He is currently pursuing a doctor of education in community college leadership from NC  State, where he has been selected as a 2022-2023 Belk Center Fellow.

Kobie Joyner serves as the department head of network and computer technologies at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, N.C. In this role, he coordinates the instructional and academic activities in the IT division by providing leadership and supervision of a managerial team that consists of associate department heads and program directors. Joyner is currently a doctoral student in the Community College Leadership program at NC State. He previously obtained a master’s degree in technology education from NC State and a bachelor’s degree in history from Winston-Salem State University. Joyner is dedicated to enthusiastic and dynamic teaching as a means of creating opportunities for IT professionals.

Cherrelle Lawrence is serving as the lead fellow at the ATD DREAM conference, representing the 2021 cohort of the Doctorate of Education program at the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research. Lawrence leads professional development and early career programs at Clarkston Consulting in Durham, N.C. She has previously served as the dean of corporate learning & professional development at Vance-Granville Community College and as the assistant director of employer relations & diversity strategies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Lawrence’s research interests focus on evaluating the effectiveness of leadership development programs for community college leaders, with a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Tiffani Polk is a CTE manager at Dallas College in Dallas, Texas. In this role, she provides comprehensive, high touch, wrap-around student support services leading to increased enrollment, retention, completion and job placement of students in high-demand technical careers to serve the workforce needs of industry. Polk brings more than 15 years of educational experience ranging from K-12 to higher education. She started her career as an English teacher and progressed through roles in community college admissions, advising, success coaching and grants management. She has a passion for developing and implementing ambitious strategies that lead to positive outcomes and experiences for adult learners as they journey from enrollment to employment. Polk’s dissertation research interests focus on evaluating the effectiveness of diversity, equity, inclusion and professional development programs for community colleges.

About the Belk Center

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, at North Carolina State University, develops and sustains exceptional community college leaders who are committed to advancing equitable college access and student success, the social and economic mobility of their colleges’ students, and the economic competitiveness of their regions. The Center provides professional development and research related to current and emerging student success opportunities and challenges facing community college leaders and policymakers in North Carolina and the nation. The Belk Center commits to dismantling systemic barriers to racial equity in education through evidence-based strategies that focus on the outcomes of Black, Latin* and American Indian students.