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Giving Back Through Mentorship

For more than six years, the Executive Mentorship Program has offered Doctor of Education students in the community college leadership program a unique opportunity to enrich their education. Through mentorship relationships with current community college executive leaders, students have the opportunity to attend key legislative and institutional meetings, examine current issues in higher education and gain exposure to best practices and professional development opportunities. 

However, as mentors and mentees often find, enrichment is a two-way street – where mentors learn from mentees and find deep satisfaction in giving back. Reflecting on their own experiences participating in the Executive Mentorship Program, community college executives acknowledge the benefits of investing in the next generation of leaders. 

“Over the course of my career in higher education, I’ve been committed to opening doors for my students through mentorship – it’s at the heart of what I love to do,” says Patrena Elliott, Ph.D., President of Halifax Community College. “I’ve been so fortunate to have the support of incredible mentors throughout my own academic and professional journey, and being a part of the executive mentorship program has been a way for me to give back all that’s been given to me.”

One of the primary goals of the program is to build a network of doctoral students, allowing space for a connection between research and practice. Program mentors achieve this by giving students the opportunity to ask questions about how the concepts they’re learning   are put into practice by community college presidents and senior leaders – and by providing career advice to help ensure they are prepared to advance their careers after completing their doctorate. 

In return, mentors have the opportunity to stay connected to doctoral education, influence the trajectory of current and future leaders, and give back to future generations of leaders.

“As a mentor in the program, it’s a really wonderful feeling to know that by supporting our students on their professional journey, we’re giving back and building confidence in the next generation of higher education leaders,” says Dr. Mark Poarch, president of Caldwell Community College. “Throughout the process, I’ve also gained confidence in myself as a community college leader, knowing that the industry and leadership knowledge I’ve shared has been so valuable to their academic experience.”

This year, the 2024 cohort welcomed seven community college executive leaders and 15 doctoral students who will serve formally for three years, but will continue to stay connected as the students graduate and take on new leadership roles.

“We’re incredibly proud of how far the Executive Mentorship Program has come over the past six years, and the valuable connections our students have made between the relationship with their mentor and their experiences inside the classroom,” says Audrey J. Jaeger, Ph.D., executive director of the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research. “Seeing the impact that the experience has made on both our mentees and mentors has been something very special.”

Learn more about our new program mentors:

Dr. John Enamait, President of Stanly Community College

Dr. John Enamait is the fifth president of Stanly Community College in Albemarle, North Carolina. Prior to this role, he served as vice president of instruction at Edgecombe Community College and as dean of the School of Business, Industry and Technology at Catawba Valley Community College. Enamait serves on the board of directors for the American Association of Community Colleges, as board chair for the Southern Association of Colleges with Associate Degrees, and is a member of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents, where he serves on the technology committee. In 2023, he was selected for the 2023-24 Aspen Presidents Fellowship.

Dr. Patrena Elliott, President of Halifax Community College 

Dr. Patrena Elliott is the sixth and first female president of Halifax Community College in Weldon, North Carolina. Prior to this appointment, she served as vice president and chief academic and student affairs officer at Robeson Community College. Throughout her career, Elliott has established academic programs from certificate to graduate level, raised millions of dollars in institutional funding, mentored countless students, and has presented extensively throughout the country. She currently holds memberships in several service organizations, including The Links, Incorporated and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated. 

Dr. Patrice Davis, Vice President for Student Services at Trident Technical College 

Dr. Patrice Davis is the vice president for student services at Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina. Over the years, she has also served as associate vice president for enrollment services at Georgia Southern University–Armstrong Campus, dean of enrollment at Forsyth Technical Community College, director of admissions at Winston-Salem State University and dean of enrollment and financial aid at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Davis is a recipient of the Phi Theta Kappa Distinguished College Administrator Award and the Salem College Alumna Service Award. She is also a YWCA What Women Bring Education Honoree and a Riley’s Institute Diversity Fellow. In 2023, she was elected as the first African American chair of the Salem Academy and College board of trustees. 

Dr. Patricia Pfeiffer, President of Wayne Community College

Dr. Patricia Pfeiffer is the ninth president of Wayne Community College in Goldsboro, North Carolina. She began her career at the college in 1994 – first as a nursing instructor, and later, as Nursing Department chair, dean of the Allied Health and Public Services Division, chief of staff and vice president of institutional effectiveness, and vice president of academic and student services. In recognition of achievements at the college, Pfeiffer was awarded the 2007 George E. Wilson Excellence in Teaching Award and named a finalist for the NC State Board of Community College’s Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2015, she received the Association of Educational Office Professionals (AEOP) and the North Carolina District 12 AEOP’s Administrator of the Year Awards.

Dr. Jack Bagwell, President of the College of The Albemarle

Dr. Jack Bagwell is the 11th president of the College of The Albemarle (COA). In his nearly 28 years as a community college educator, he has held faculty, administrative and senior leadership roles at institutions in South Carolina. Prior to his role at COA, Bagwell served as vice president for academic affairs at Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, S.C., where he was responsible for academic programming, economic development and continuing education, institutional assessment and compliance, and oversight of the college’s seven-county campuses.

Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Wake Technical Community College 

Dr. Scott Ralls is the fourth president of Wake Technical Community College, North Carolina’s largest community college. Prior to this role, he served as president of Northern Virginia Community College, president of the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS), president of Craven Community College and vice president of economic and workforce development for NCCCS. Ralls was recently appointed by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as the higher education representative to the Telecommunications Workforce Working Group and serves at the national level as co-chair of the Community College Workforce Consortium and a member of the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Public Service Award from the North Carolina Chamber and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor.

Dr. Susan Burleson, Executive Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Davidson-Davie Community College

Dr. Susan Burleson is the executive vice president of academic and student affairs at Davidson-Davie Community College. She began her career at Davidson-Davie in 2003 as faculty, and later, served the college as department chair of social sciences, and associate dean of general studies and academic support. Dr. Burleson earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from NC State, a Master of Arts in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and an Ed.D. in Adult and Community College Education from NC State.

“The Executive Mentorship Program was a transformative experience, leading to profound personal and professional growth. Under Dr. Michael Elam’s guidance, I had the opportunity to take on various leadership roles at my community college, such as vice president and president of the Faculty Senate and core coordinator of general education. The mentorship program’s exposure to community colleges’ administrative and business aspects made this growth journey possible.

Dr. Elam expanded my professional network and instilled a passion for participating in conferences and workshops dedicated to community college education. The program facilitated a unique opportunity to meet with influential figures like Peter Hans, the former North Carolina Community College System president, offering valuable insights and guidance for my career aspirations. Additionally, monthly virtual gatherings provided a supportive forum for candid conversations about leadership-related challenges and workplace survival, particularly for individuals of color, leading to remarkable success stories within North Carolina community colleges.

Dr. Elam’s legacy lives on through his enduring impact on countless lives, including myself and others who have successfully defended their dissertation with pride and gratitude for the unparalleled mentorship received. Dr. Elam’s commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with his emphasis on self-reflection and critical thinking, has left an indelible mark on those fortunate enough to experience his mentorship. Every doctoral student should have the opportunity to participate in The “Dr. Michael Elam” Executive Mentorship Experience at NC State. This program goes above and beyond to shape the leaders of tomorrow.”

– Brittany Locklear, Ed.D. (2018 Charlotte Cohort)
Biology Instructor, Bladen Community College