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NC State College of Education Celebrates Grand Opening of Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research

Attendees at the Belk Center opening

RALEIGH, N.C. — The NC State College of Education held an opening reception for its Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research* Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, at the center’s new location at 706 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Nearly 100 guests, including many statewide and community college leaders, attended the grand opening that marked the physical establishment of the Belk Center.

“This is an incredibly important day for our College of Education,” said NC State College of Education Dean Mary Ann Danowitz. “Since our inception in 1927, we have been committed to the land-grant mission, which is really to serve the people of North Carolina and to address the most pressing economic, social and education needs. Today, we’re really living out part of that land-grant mission with our Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research.”

The NC State College of Education began establishing the Belk Center in the summer of 2018 after receiving a $10.86 million grant from the John M. Belk Endowment. Audrey Jaeger, Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor and executive director of the Belk Center, shared during the opening reception that the origins for what would become the Belk Center go back about five years. At that time several community college presidents were sitting around a table in Poe Hall, home of the College of Education, talking about the future professional development of community college presidents.

“That was the journey that started about five years ago that is the end result of this Belk Center,” Jaeger said. “The presidents are our guide and our true North Star. I’m so grateful for their engagement and commitment to us and with us.”

The college received an initial $525,000 grant from the Belk Endowment in 2015 to start the Envisioning Excellence for Community College Leadership program to integrate evidence-based best practices into leadership training programs to help community college leaders improve student success and institutional performance. The college also partnered with the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in 2015 to revamp its Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program to specifically target aspiring community college presidents.

With the launch of the Belk Center in 2018, the College of Education has expanded its ability to support community colleges in three ways: furthering the preparation of future community college presidents, providing ongoing leadership development to community college executives and trustees and building capacity for evidence-based decision-making and applied research.

“All this is possible through the support of the John M. Belk Endowment,” Danowitz said. “Thank you for entrusting us and having confidence in us to carry out this important work.”

In its first year of operation, the Belk Center engaged all 58 community colleges in North Carolina a total of 285 times through various research projects and initiatives. Those initiatives include hosting the Presidents’ Academy, a statewide leadership conference where presidents and trustees discussed the role of community colleges in improving North Carolina’s economic competitiveness, creating economic mobility and meeting workforce demands. Attended by 43 community college presidents in North Carolina, the event saw the highest level of representation of community colleges at a statewide event since records have been kept.

“The establishment of the [Belk Center] has created a trusted resource and a safe place for our ecosystem to grow, learn and thrive in the future — whatever the possibilities may be,” John M. Belk Endowment President and Board Chair MC Belk Pilon said.

“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Belk Center and how we will work together to meet our state’s post-secondary needs,” Danowitz added. “I believe through our accomplishments, we will become a national leader and a model for important changes that are necessary and that through them we will be an exemplar and a prototype for other states to strengthen educational opportunities and improve the quality of life and economy across the entire country.”

*The Belk Center is currently in the planning stage. It is in compliance with NC State’s Policy on Centers and Institutes.