PCC Starts New Academic Year with Convocation

Photo of PCC Clock Tower with Warren Cupola in the background set against a clear blue sky.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College kicked off the 2020-21 academic year Wednesday with its annual convocation program to give faculty and staff a chance to reflect upon the previous academic year and prepare for the one that begins Monday.

Unlike in previous years, the meeting took place virtually, due to the coronavirus pandemic. It began with PCC Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Evans reminding employees that the college would celebrate its 60th anniversary in March and thanking them for continuing to provide quality education despite the pandemic.

“This virtual convocation is testimony to (PCC’s) dedication to finding a way to carry on with business as usual,” Evans said. “When campus closed due to the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, you made a quick transition to a new teaching format. You established new methods for providing student support services and made a concerted effort to keep students and the community well-informed.”

Evans also noted the college’s rapid disbursement of CARES Act funding to assist students struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus, and he mentioned the counseling department’s distribution of meals and supplies from their on-campus food pantry to keep students from going hungry.

“Thank you for truly caring about the students we serve and the college we represent,” Evans said.

PCC President Lawrence Rouse also thanked employees, saying they exhibited the “strength and grit” necessary to help the college “meet challenges head on” during the pandemic. He said faculty and staff had taken a number of measures to make the best of a difficult situation, including organization of a virtual graduation ceremony in the spring, loaning laptops and mobile hotspots to students to complete online coursework, and extending WiFi services to a campus parking lot for students to safely access at no charge.

“I get asked all the time when the college is going to open back up,” Rouse said. “I remind them that we never closed; we just moved services online.”

Though traditional courses were in Pitt’s initial fall semester plans, Rouse said COVID-19 infection rates and guidelines from the governor’s office led administrators to cancel them and continue operating in a remote capacity. Safety, he said, is PCC’s top priority.

Another main objective, according to Rouse, is the college’s commitment to making the most of its partnership with the Achieving the Dream (ATD) National Network. He said PCC would continue working toward meeting four ATD objectives: student success, workforce development, equity, and organizational development and accountability.

And despite the distance between employees and students created by teleworking and online instruction, Rouse said the college would continue emphasizing good communication.

“We may be separated by social distancing, but we are still together through technology,” he said.

Maintaining a cohesive campus community was the focus of remarks from University Transfer student Najella Williams, who will serve as the voice of PCC’s student body throughout the academic year as Student Government Association president.

Williams said it would be easy for students and employees to “feel as if it’s better to go their own way” because of social distancing and civil unrest but added that now was the ideal time for standing together as a family.

“… While we are all practicing social distancing for our safety, let’s be mindful that physically we may not be together, but mentally we need to be there for one another,” Williams said, adding that she and her fellow SGA officers remain “dedicated to providing the student body the platform to let their voices be heard.”

Though the semester officially gets underway Monday, PCC will offer late-start courses for those deciding to enroll later this fall.