Skip to main content

17 Doctoral Students to Represent College of Education at National Conferences Through Belk Center Fellows Program

Belk Center Fellows who will attend the 2022 DREAM Conference meet via Zoom

When Amy Mahle ’23EDD, program chair of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and a doctoral student in the NC State College of Education Community College Leadership program, was selected as a Belk Center Fellow in 2021, she was grateful for the opportunity to engage with peers and community college leaders from across the nation.

“The chance to listen, reflect and ask questions of the top leaders [in community college education] is valuable to enhance my understanding of their experiences and viewpoints regarding issues facing community college,” Mahle said. “Their willingness to engage fellows in open dialogue illustrates their commitment to developing future leaders.” 

This year, Mahle will attend a national conference as one of 17 doctoral students accepted into the 2022 Belk Center Fellows program. Seven fellows will attend DREAM 2022—Achieving the Dream’s Annual Convening—from Feb. 14-17, while the other 10 fellows will attend the League for Innovation in Community College’s Innovation Conference from Feb. 28-March 3. 

The Belk Center’s Fellows Program began in the 2017-18 academic year through a partnership with Achieving the Dream—a non-government reform movement focused on helping community college students have better economic opportunities—and the creation of a cohort of DREAM Fellows. It has since expanded to include a partnership with the League for Innovation in Community College.

The goal of the Fellows program is to bring together a select group of doctoral students to listen and engage in national conversations surrounding community college and student success.

“As part of the important leadership development work the Belk Center does, these fellowships provide a unique learning opportunity for our future leaders to connect research and practice,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, CEO and president of Achieving the Dream and chair of the Belk Center Advisory Board. “Community colleges are powerful drivers for social mobility, breaking down barriers to equity, and increasing opportunity for students and their families. The Belk Center Fellows program is a powerful development tool for the next generation of educators who will be able to implement and share ideas about what works and how to strengthen our colleges’ contribution to students and their communities.”

“The League is excited to once again host the Belk Center Fellows at our Innovations Conference, and we applaud the Belk Center Fellows program for exploring innovation as a hallmark of community college leadership,” said Rufus Glasper, president and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College. “Innovation has a strong role in community colleges, which are a great innovation themselves as institutions that provide open access to higher education and the life-changing opportunities it offers. Community colleges embrace innovation in their work to ensure successful outcomes for students and contribute to the social and economic growth of the communities they serve, and the Innovations Conference is a premier showcase of these efforts.”

For many of the 2022 Belk Center Fellows, the program is providing an opportunity to attend a conference they may otherwise not have had access to, as well as providing their first opportunity to attend a large-scale national conference. 

Emmanuella Martin ’24EDD, who will attend DREAM 2022, said she is excited that her first national conference will have a focus on both community college student success and racial equity and is looking forward to learning new information she can bring back to her role as an academic advisor at Durham Technical Community College. 

“This opportunity will expose me to so many great leaders that can help me develop into a strong community college leader that provokes change and who never stops advocating for our students,” Martin said. “I am most looking forward to meeting with Dr. Karen Stout, president of Achieving the Dream, and getting her insight on what it means to be a community college leader in this current time.”

Kamisha Kirby ’22EDD, who works as the director of the Learning Commons at South Piedmont Community College, said attending the Innovations Conference will help her to better understand national movements and trends in academic support.

This increased understanding will be pivotal in preparing her to contribute and give back to the profession through research and action in the future. 

“Attending the Innovations Conference will allow me to see first-hand how other colleges are connecting best practices around student and instructional support, thus providing increased access and student success,” Kirby said. “I recognize that many innovations are occurring in community colleges and, collectively, our students benefit when we share ideas and best practices. 

Christine Ziemba-Tolbert ’22EDD, an instructor at Gaston College, is excited that she will be attending the Innovations Conference, although it is an opportunity she almost didn’t apply for at all.

She had put off applying to the Belk Center Fellows program during previous years as a student in the Community College Leadership program because she worried she might not be selected as a part-time student. But, with her time in the program coming to an end, she decided to take the chance and apply.

As a fellow, she is now looking forward to stepping out of her comfort zone and grateful for the opportunities she has both through the Belk Center Fellows program and as a College of Education student. 

“I’m very grateful for what NC State and the Belk Center offer as continual support not just for me as a student within the program but also for the advancement of our community colleges in North Carolina,” she said. “Just the research they’re providing and the support has been phenomenal, and I’m just excited to see where we’re going to be moving in the future.”

Below is a full list of Belk Center Fellows:

DREAM 2022 Attendees

  • Talitha Batts, Director of Research, Policy and Impact Center, National Institute of Minority Economic Development
  • Melisa Bryant, Department Chair of the Davis iTEC Center, Forsyth Technical Community College
  • Monica Clark, Director of Leadership Initiatives, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program
  • Bradley Davis, Associate Director of Student Conduct, North Carolina State University
  • Jennifer LaDue, Full-Time Student, North Carolina State University
  • Amy Mahle, Program Chair of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
  • Emmanuella Martin, Financial Aid and Veterans Services Advisor, Durham Technical Community College

Innovations Conference Attendees

  • Kelli Antonides, Director, Career & College Promise Programs, Academic Programs, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
  • Frank Belote, Full-time Student, North Carolina State University
  • Tiffany Farina, Director of Finance and Administration – NC Institute for Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Robyn Fusaro, Educational Specialist – DELTA, North Carolina State University
  • Kristen Johnson, Associate Professor of Biology/Science, Guilford Technical Community College 
  • Kamisha Kirby, Director of the Learning Commons, South Piedmont Community College
  • Cherrelle Lawrence, Program Manager for Equity, Internship, & Fellowships, The Hunt Institute
  • Chris Pearce, Vice President of Information Technology Services, Forsyth Technical Community College
  • Britney Shawley, Coordinator of Institutional Effectiveness, Johnston Community College
  • Chris Ziemba-Tolbert, ACA 122 Lead Instructor – Arts & Sciences, Gaston College