Skip to main content

Message from the Executive Director

Audrey Jaeger

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Globally, educators have spoken at great lengths about what a difficult time it is to be in higher education. And while that’s certainly true, it’s also an exciting and pivotal time for community colleges. Across North Carolina, and around the nation, community colleges are anchors in their communities – increasing student success and investing in tomorrow’s leaders, while also generating economic impact and extending valuable resources to their regions. During this time, the Belk Center has had the privilege of engaging North Carolina’s community colleges and collaborating to address today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. 

As one of the Belk Center’s busiest years to date, 2022-2023 allowed us to launch new initiatives, expand innovative programming and collaborate with educators, researchers and policymakers to further more equitable community college outcomes in North Carolina and beyond. Over the past year we have partnered with community colleges through:

Leadership and Learning. The Belk Center worked alongside North Carolina community colleges to deliver opportunities for leadership development and create resources that equip leaders with innovative ideas and best practices to advance student success and address pressing issues in their communities. We sustained our support of emerging leaders and new community college presidents through rural college initiatives, orientation programs and professional development opportunities through our expanded North Carolina Teaching and Learning Hubs. In 2022, the Belk Center also proudly became the new home of the North Carolina Community College Leadership Program.

Research and Insights. Through briefs, resource guides and reports, we offered North Carolina community college leaders practical research, data, and insights to inform decision-making and drive lasting change. The Belk Center’s research efforts have continued to focus on best practices for supporting transfer students and adult learners – leading to the recent launch of the second edition of our Adult Learner Guidebook. We are also excited to launch our forthcoming playbook about Surry-Yadkin Works, an innovative regional approach to work-based learning focused on the power and promise of youth apprenticeship. Through our Trailblazer Profile series, we’ve continued to highlight and celebrate the work of leaders of color in the North Carolina Community College System, which we hope will inspire support for diversifying the presidential leadership pipeline in the years ahead.

Partnerships and Convenings. In collaboration with our partners across the state – and around the country – the Belk Center created opportunities for community college stakeholders to come together and drive change. The 2022 Dallas Herring Lecture welcomed a record nearly 1,200 virtual attendees for Dr. Mike Flores’ keynote presentation “Community Colleges in Action: Advancing Equity and Enhancing Economic Mobility Using Local Collective Impact Strategies.” And in the spring, we hosted the inaugural convening of the National Community College Research Alliance and partnered with the Hunt Institute and LatinxEd to host the first convening of Avanza – a community of practice designed to provide institutional leaders with a space to discuss best practices and barriers to Latinx student success.

Throughout the pages of our website, you’ll find a lot to celebrate about our work – none of which would be possible without the support of our friends and colleagues at the John M. Belk Endowment, whose $25 million commitment will further the mission and work of the Belk Center over the next decade. We are also immensely grateful for the contributions of our external strategic partners:  the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents, the North Carolina Community College System Office, colleagues at individual colleges, LatinxEd, the University of North Carolina System Office, myFutureNC, EdNC, the Hunt Institute, the North Carolina Office of Strategic Partnerships, NC Reconnect collaborators, Achieving the Dream, Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, and the League for Innovation in the Community College, among many others. 

Together, we’ve achieved so much, and I hope that you’ll join us as we work toward more improved student outcomes and enhanced leadership opportunities at community colleges nationwide. Thank you for your dedication and continued support of the Belk Center’s mission.


Audrey J. “AJ” Jaeger, Ph.D.

Executive Director of the Belk Center
for Community College Leadership and Research
W. Dallas Herring Professor of Community College Education