Staying true to our mission

By Carol Spalding

A North Carolina college adapts to an evolving situation.

At Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, emergency preparedness is paramount, but the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life as we know it. It’s tasked us to think outside the box to keep our students, faculty and staff safe and to continue our service to our 22,000 students and our two-county service area near Charlotte, North Carolina.

As we realized the scale and seriousness of the growing threat, college leadership immediately launched virtual meetings to discuss every aspect of our institution including alternate class delivery methods, coordination for dual enrollment students, staff work arrangements, new campus protocols, additional access to laptops, issues such as licensing boards and financial aid, and providing hybrid virtual/in-person student services.

We communicate regularly with sister community colleges and our system office on a daily basis, health officials, municipal entities and other educational partners. We send regular emails to our campus community. We provide updates via our website and social media, as well as a website dedicated to the COVID-19 situation.

While we did not expect to go completely online quite yet, Rowan-Cabarrus is fortunate to be a designated Top 10 Digital Community College already moving toward total virtual capability. This helped us react quickly to convert all possible classes to an online format.

In spite of being well-prepared to work in a virtual environment, we continue to work through challenges with public safety training, continuing education and healthcare programs requiring hands-on instruction and labs. By meeting in smaller groups and supporting social distancing, we are working to keep students on track.

All of this could change tomorrow. But whatever happens, we are reminded of why we are here: “We are meeting students where they are, empowering them to see what their futures can be, and helping them achieve their goals for a better tomorrow.”

More than ever, community colleges are challenged to achieve a better tomorrow through dedication, flexibility, patience and kindness. We are truly in this together.

Carol Spalding

is president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury, North Carolina.