HCC President Parker looks forward 50 years
What is the significance of HCC’s 50th anniversary?
The 50th anniversary celebration gives us an opportunity to reflect upon those who preceded us and had the vision and wherewithal to create the North Carolina Community College System and specifically Haywood Community College.
It is important that we, as a community, realize the significance of the contributions Dallas Herring and A.L. Freedlander made to the future of Haywood County. It also gives us the opportunity to celebrate all those who have served as faculty and staff over the last 50 years as well as all of the students who have attended HCC in order to further their education.
What are you most proud of when you look around campus?
It is not unusual for me to run into a student here on campus that I knew in the K-12 system. I might have served as the student's principal or teacher, and I know the student's history, including their personal and academic challenges. I am sometimes amazed to see they have persevered and have made it to college. I am so proud of them and all of our students who make the choice to further their education here at HCC and create a better life for themselves and their families. I am equally as proud of the many faculty and staff who have supported our students in meeting their educational goals over the years. Our faculty and staff are fully invested in their commitment to ensuring a high-quality education.
What has surprised you most about leading a community college?
Community college is more similar to K-12 public education than I realized with regard to the population we serve. At HCC, we have an open door admissions policy, and as a result, we can assist most anyone in furthering their education regardless of their final goals. We offer transfer degrees, continuing education courses and high school equivalency courses as well as multiple diplomas and certificates in career and technical areas. The fact that we are not exclusive with regard to enrollment is one of my favorite things about leading a community college.
What is the most fundamental change that has occurred in HCC’s mission over the past 50 years?
Our mission has not changed significantly over the past 50 years; however, the manner in which the system has developed programming in order to meet this mission has changed. For example, we now have some programs that are offered exclusively in an online format, we no longer offer GED programs but rather high school equivalency programs, high school students can now earn college credit and the list goes on. Additionally, we have developed a robust offering of college transfer degrees. These programs offer our students the opportunity to work toward their four-year degree while remaining in the community and often continuing to live at home.
How well is HCC doing in competing for students in today's higher education environment?
Our enrollment has steadily increased since the early 1990s until recently. As with many of our community college partners, our enrollment increased dramatically in 2007-2011 when the economy was at its lowest and many unemployed workers returned to college. In 2012 as the economy began to improve, and people were returning to work, our enrollment began to decline. This summer, our enrollment was flat, and we will not have official enrollment numbers for this fall until January 2016.
Which degree/enrollment areas do you see as having the most growth potential over the next 10 years?
Part of the mission of HCC is to respond quickly to the needs of the community. For example, if a specific industry announced moving their operation to Haywood County, it could dramatically impact our course offerings. As a result, it is often difficult to predict those needs that far in advance. Even so, some of the areas we are currently working to expand due to potential growth projects include technology areas and healthcare areas as well as dual enrollment programs in collaboration with the area high schools.
Is HCC doing much with online classes and programs, or is role of the community college to get people in front of instructors for hands-on learning?
Our role is to provide as many instructional options as possible in order to ensure flexibility and accessibility for all students. Some programs lend themselves to online platforms, while some programs require students to be in the field in lab settings or clinical settings. We offer more online classes than ever before. One example of a program that is exclusively online is early childhood education. We have had great success offering this program online as many of these students currently work in childcare centers and are unable to attend face-to-face classes.
What do you think HCC will look like 50 years from now, in 2065?
I expect that classes and degrees we offer will change based on the economic demands of our county over the next 50 years. The demands of our students regarding the manner in which we deliver instruction will also have a significant impact on the college. We will most likely see more online options and who knows what other kinds of instructional methods will develop. One thing that I am sure will not change is our unwavering commitment to serving the citizens and employers of Haywood County and our belief that education changes everything.
— Jessi Stone, news editor