Research to Action

Our research efforts to institute systemic change centers on a transition from the more traditional approaches – which are often jargon-laden and slow to reach decision-makers — to modes of scholarship that are timely, accessible and digestible. The research we conduct addresses community college practitioner needs and provides actionable data that leaders can use to make informed improvements at their institutions. Further, the broader practice-focused research agenda we develop dovetails with continuous institutional improvement efforts at North Carolina community colleges. Our current body of research focuses on key areas:

Through the PACE Climate Survey, the Belk Center works with institutions, primarily community colleges, to administer campus climate assessments for the purpose of enhancing institutional effectiveness and student success. The PACE Climate Survey for Community Colleges gathers employee perspectives on campus climate and provides institutional leaders with critical information for strategic decision making. In addition, the Home State Initiative (HSIn) is an innovative, collaborative program that bridges the PACE Team’s mission to support community colleges with NC State’s land grant mission to serve the state of North Carolina. Through HSIn, the PACE Team provides free data collection, analysis and reporting services to a select set of community colleges in rural areas of North Carolina facing declining enrollment, unsatisfactory student outcomes, and/or challenges with employee recruitment and retention, among other issues.

Finish Line Grants
In September 2019, we co-hosted the Finish Line Grants Symposium program. The support the implementation of a program is designed to provide emergency aid to community college students facing financial challenges.

We examine NC Community Colleges’ processes for using the CARES Act student emergency funds. Current reports:

International Education
We conduct research exploring the types of international education programs and experiences happening at community colleges. Current reports:

Transfer is vital to ensuring the state of North Carolina meets in the statewide attainment goal to increase the number of North Carolinians with credentials. Our  research is focused on the experiences and outcomes of students earning credits at North Carolina community colleges and how those credits are transfer into 4-year institutions. We look a policies such as Career and College Promise, a policy that allows high schools students to earn credit while in high school as well as the impact of articulation agreements, such as the comprehensive articulation agreement.

Along with our research we are also supporting Transfer Working Groups made up of representatives from the NCCCS, UNC System, the Transfer Advisory Committee, and other key stakeholders around transfer in the state to improve the experience of transfer for students. The groups met for the first time in fall of 2020 and will be sharing more details about their priorities in the upcoming months.

Briefs & Reports:

Presidential Pathways
The presidential pathways study is one of three studies that support the Executive Leadership Program at the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research. The purpose of this study is two-fold: first to provide a set of baseline data of the current presidents in the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) as of January 2020 in order to track changes in the leadership over the next several years; second, to analyze the data and identify the educational, experiential and leadership pathways of current presidents. Current report:

Strategic Plans
The Belk Center works with North Carolina’s community colleges and leaders to improve student success. To measure progress, it is critical to first capture a snapshot of activities that guide current practices, policies, and procedures at each of the North Carolina community colleges. As part of a broader research agenda to provide a descriptive analysis of executive leadership across North Carolina, this research project focused on the strategic plans developed by the college’s president, leadership team, and stakeholders as of January 2020. Current report:

Led by the University of Maryland Global Campus Program in Community College Policy and Administration and the North Carolina State University Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, the Community College Practice-Research-Policy Exchange is a national community college initiative that will work with key partners to build a two-way loop between practitioners and researchers to deliver empirical findings useful to practitioners in the field.

In collaboration with Achieving the Dream (ATD), the Belk Center supports institutional teaching and learning initiatives that further develop faculty-led inclusive instructional practices, supporting community college students as engaged learners. With attention on transforming partner institutions the Center’s work with Teaching and Learning initiatives contributes to creating an atmosphere of inquiry, reflective practices, and continuous improvement across the state of North Carolina.


The North Carolina Teaching and Learning Hubs will support full-and part-time faculty and staff educators from North Carolina community colleges in their efforts to build equity in learning and student success. Hub programs will be designed in collaboration with educators and leaders from the host and affiliated campuses to ensure that they meet regional needs and support local campus student success initiatives. In fall 2020, data was gathered from NC faculty about their interests and campus needs; ongoing feedback will be an essential element for every Hub. Hubs will offer virtual and face-to-face workshops and seminars, to help educators learn about, adopt, test and scale the evidence-based strategies that have increased equitable student success outcomes across the nation. Learn more about the Teaching and Learning Hubs here.

Current Reports:

Current Policy Briefs:



We welcome researchers to request our existing data to collaborate with us or use for a dissertation. Please see the links below regarding our process:

Please contact Holley Nichols with any questions regarding data requests.

Email Us With Questions About Our Research