Paul Fogleman,

On July 1, a new president took over the North Carolina Community Colleges system. Jimmie Williamson is the first leader of the North Carolina system to be recruited from outside the state. As the former president of the South Carolina Technical College System, he will bring experience in industrial recruiting and support for specific jobs training programs.

At his first meeting recently with the State Community Colleges Board, Williamson acknowledged that he has a steep learning curve as he gets to know the 58 community colleges in the North Carolina system. He plans to participate in 10 regional meetings where he will meet all presidents and trustees chairs.

Given Williamson’s background with a system that emphasized technical training, it might be expected that the programs of the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textile Technology Center will fit into his comfort zone because the centers support manufacturing growth and success. The MSC and the Textile Technology Center also have ties to the Legislature and Williamson has identified strong relations with state lawmakers as a top priority.

Williamson has appointed Jennifer Haygood as his chief of staff to handle day-to-day operations as he focuses on building relationships across the political and education spectrum.

Before taking the reins of the South Carolina technical colleges, held a leadership role with a healthcare company which gave him the opportunity to see what the colleges had to offer for workforce training. He later served as president of two technical colleges.

In North Carolina, Williamson will confront a different mission. The legislature four years ago adopted the N.C. Guapphiranteed Admissions Program (GAP) which would channel least prepared university applicants to a community college for their first two years of study. The UNC system has been pushing for a delay while community colleges say they are ready to move forward.

Raleigh observers think a new era for community colleges may be on the horizon.

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