President of Robeson Community College
Distinguished 1996 NC State’s College of Education Alumna
There is no possible training that can fully prepare you to be a president. Answering to 12 bosses (the Board of Trustees), and the nuances of being the leader are different at each college. Being a good leader, however, begins with the underpinnings of a good education. Certainly the discussions of Trustee/President relations and having presidents speak to students during leadership classes was very valuable and provided a base for understanding once I did begin as president at a college where I had not worked previously. Overall, my preparation at NC State’s College of Education prepared me for the role I serve in today.
My development began in the context of great faculty who had real life experiences. Their teaching prepared me to assume each role along my career path. Communication and collaboration were emphasized in program planning. I used that training immediately for program development in continuing education and in curriculum at Wake Tech when I served there as Dean of the evening and weekend college.
Collaboration was encouraged among students in the program. We learned from each other about teaching and learning and leading. Several classes stick out in my mind for the group projects and renown speakers that we encountered. I remember well when Malcolm Knowles, a professor emeritus at the time, spoke to the graduate students in the program.
The faculty made sure we understood the governance structure of North Carolina community colleges compared to others in the nation. We were required to earn a minor in addition to our doctoral degree. My minor was in public administration and that has also helped me in communicating with other entities for the good of the community college. My course in finance provided critical understanding and skills relevant to the fiscal responsibilities as president. It is becoming more important to understand funding in terms of fundraising from non-governmental sources, such as for scholarships and to put together the funding for new building.
Mentors were important in my development. I did not begin my education because I wanted to be a president. I began my studies because I wanted a Masters degree as I was beginning to make a career in the community college system. Advancing through my education, I realized that the doctorate would prepare me to take advantage of more opportunity. By the time I graduated I wanted to be a Vice President. My aspirations changed because I began to understand what community colleges were all about, observing the opportunities presented to many citizens to obtain an education.
It was important to me to continue to work while I was a student. The Adult and CC Program was structured to facilitate professionals being able to take classes as part time graduate students. Wake Tech provided partial tuition assistance, which was greatly appreciated because I was still paying for undergraduate loans while in grad school.
I would advise students to consider taking a minor course of study during their doctoral studies. The minor will give them a way to distinguish themselves. For example, someone wanting to stay in an academic track, for dept. chair, dean, or chief academic officer, could minor in a field that could be taught at the community college. My minor in Public Administration helped me understand governance, especially at local and state levels, and has been very valuable in my leadership roles.
I would also advise students to make the most of class time. They should focus not only on learning but also on networking. Some of my colleagues finished their program before me and were role models. Some remain good friends. Pay attention and get to know people.
Finally when you get to the point of the dissertation, finish it.
Dr. Hilbert has 25 years of full time experience in the NC Community College System. Her college recently won the 2014 Southern Regional Equity Award from the Association of Community College Trustees, is a lead college in the NC Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, and received an Innovations Award at the 2015 League for Innovations in Community Colleges Conference, along with its benefactor author, p. m. terrell (Trish Terrell) for a community literacy project. Previously, Dr. Hilbert served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Pitt Community College, Vice President of Instruction and Student Support at Carteret Community College, and Dean of the Evening Division of Wake Technical Community College. She credits her time at Wake Tech for the support she got through the Foundation and professionally to pursue her doctoral degree.
Dr. Hilbert holds both doctoral and masters degrees in Adult and Community College Education from NC State, with a minor in Public Administration. Her bachelor of arts degree in Theater Education is from UNC, Greensboro, with a minor in Speech Communication.
Dr. Hilbert serves on the Lumber River Workforce Development Board, the Robeson County Committee of 100, and the Julian T. Pierce Scholarship Fundraising Event Committee for Robeson CC and UNCP. She is a member of the Robeson County Arts Council. She is currently a member of the Lumberton Rotary Club and is past president of Greenville Morning Rotary Club. Dr. Hilbert was lead investigator for a National Science Foundation grant on Science and Math for college to university transfer. She is past President of the NC Association of Community College Instructional Administrators and past president of the NC Section of the American Association of Women in Community Colleges. Dr. Hilbert served on the NC Developmental Education Initiative Steering Committee for a multi member the Community College System Curriculum Review Committee.