Employees Meet Virtually Prior to Start of Fall ’21 Semester

Angela Cox, a PCC Associate in Arts student originally from Kinston, exits the college's Craig F. Goess Student Center on the first day of fall classes. Cox, who is in her first semester at Pitt, said she was happy to be on campus Thursday and noted that her encounters with instructors and students earlier in the day had been "friendly."

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College employees met for convocation Tuesday in preparation for the 2021-22 academic year that officially got underway Thursday with the first day of fall classes.

The annual gathering of administrators, faculty and staff took place virtually and featured remarks from PCC President Lawrence Rouse, who spoke on camera from the college’s Davenport Multipurpose Room. Rouse, who is now in his fourth year as PCC president, discussed a wide range of topics, including students and employees returning to campus for in-person instruction amid COVID-19 concerns, state budget negotiations, recruitment initiatives, and new programs and services.

“Although we are still in the midst of a lingering global pandemic and some of the uncertainties that come along with it, I choose to be extremely hopeful, excited and energized by this upcoming academic year,” he told employees. “I remain filled with anticipation and optimism that we can and will overcome the trials and difficult days that lie ahead.”

Rouse pledged that college administrators would remain vigilant and continue relying on information from the N.C. Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make pandemic-related decisions. In fact, convocation included a COVID-19 update from Dr. John Silvernail, who serves as Pitt County health director.

Following the presentation, Rouse thanked Silvernail for the detailed report and noted that despite ongoing concerns regarding COVID-19 and its delta variant, the county’s overall pandemic picture had improved for a number of reasons, including understanding how to keep the community safe, campus safety measures and vaccination opportunities.

“I think all of the points that (Dr. Silvernail) has made show that (PCC) is in a much better place than we were last year at the same time,” Rouse said.

Nevertheless, Rouse said PCC would continue to require individuals to wear facial masks and practice social distancing inside facilities. He added that the college’s Ongoing Operations Taskforce would continue working with local public health officials to develop and evaluate procedures for maintaining a safe and healthy campus for students and employees.

“I vow to keep everyone safe on this campus, and if we see something that is not safe, we’ll do like we did in March 2020; we’ll go back to remote [operations],” Rouse said. “But for right now, I think we have students who need to be face-to-face with us, because they are suffering and we want to make sure that we meet their needs.”

Shifting his focus to Raleigh, Rouse gave employees an update on state budget negotiations. Of note, he said the N.C. General Assembly had discussed providing budget stabilization funding to the state’s 58 community colleges that would allow them to recoup nearly all of the funding they lost as a result of declining enrollment caused by the pandemic.

PCC Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Evans told employees that he remained confident in Pitt’s ability to meet the area’s workforce development needs despite funding and enrollment concerns. Community colleges, he said, are very familiar with these hardships and thrive on adapting to overcome them.

“PCC employees are always ready to accept a challenge and do whatever is needed to serve students,” Evans said.

In much the same way as Evans, Randy Collier assured faculty and staff that the PCC Foundation remains committed to supporting them and the students they teach, despite having to cancel activities and alter fundraising events throughout the pandemic. Collier, who chairs the PCC Foundation Board, said raising money for scholarships and educational activities during the COVID-19 crisis has “caused the foundation to have to learn and adjust probably more than any other time” in its 48-year history.

As a result, he said, the organization is taking all measures to “secure and protect funds.” Collier said the foundation has hired First Citizens Wealth Management as its new investment group and, despite a long history of fundraising success, is committed to thinking long-term and making investments that build an endowment to fund future scholarships.

“Every fundraising event we’ve had for many, many years has been greatly successful,” he said. “However, we have to (raise) funds through a more secure measure than just fundraising [events]. In other words, you can’t secure funds simply through fundraising [events] every time.”