Dr. Brantley Briley
President of Lenoir Community College
Distinguished 1995 NC State College of Education Alumnus
I graduated from high school in the early 1970s. From high school, I came to Lenoir Community College and completed two years before going on to ECU for my bachelor and master degrees. I returned to Lenoir for a full career. I began as faculty and rose to the position of Executive Vice President.
Now let’s fast forward to NC State. I can say with 100% certainty that if not for the training I got at the College of Education, I would not be a community college president today. I have also seen many of my peers from my student days rise to presidencies.
I received my degree in 1995. Some of the issues from that time are the same as those we face today. Doctoral coursework required us to research and discuss issues that were currently trending at that time. We had to do a literature review on these issues. Most importantly, we had a peer group that understood the context and provided lively discussion.
But 1995 was a long time ago. New issues have arisen since I walked across the stage at NCSU to receive my new doctoral diploma. What the College of Education taught me was how to research the issue, come to a full understanding, then draft a plan of attack in my own mind. Most importantly, I learned how to bring others along with me. I learned how to provide leadership to a team that could work toward a better solution than I could provide alone.
There was a “teachable moment” late one night during my doctoral studies that is indicative of the kind of things you learn during the pursuit of a doctoral degree while working full time. I was serving as a senior leader at Lenoir Community College by then and had a 90-minute commute both ways to get to and from class. That semester, I was making the drive 3 days a week. On the night in question, I left class and then went to the library to work until about 11 p.m. When I got back home it was close to 1:00 a.m. and I realized I had left my thumbdrive in the library.
I remember quite clearly thinking, this is about endurance and commitment. I sat down and began to recreate the work I had left behind on that thumbdrive. As I was finishing, my wife and children were getting up to start their day. That was a great lesson in organizational skills and an exercise on following things through to completion.
I would encourage students to research the Community College program at NC State thoroughly and to look for the hidden advantages. Find that extra richness in the contacts you make. It could be someone you had a class with or someone you passed in the library once and stopped to talk with. Remember that it is always worth taking the time to find out what they know. There is not a person in the College of Education—faculty, student, staff—that does not have something to offer that can help you be a better leader.
Finally, look for opportunities to be a leader within the program. You are not expected to be ‘seasoned’ when you start out but you are expected to get busy practicing. There is great room for growth for all us. I continue to strive for growth and improvement in my own leadership every day.
Dr. Briley left Lenoir Community College in 2000 to serve as President of Southeastern Community College. He returned to serve as President of Lenoir in 2004. Under his direction, an Advanced Machining Center was implemented in partnership with the Global Transpark. A 2+2 articulation agreement was established with Embry Riddle in Aviation and Global Logistics. Other new programs include Polysomnography, Aerostructure Management & Repair Technology, Sustainable Agriculture, Gunsmithing, and Emergency Medical Science. Dual enrollment, expanded bandwidth, effective marketing and recruiting, new construction, successful resource stewardship and grant awards have contributed to improvements in the quality of education offered at Dr. Briley’s college.