The second of two finalists who hope to become the next president of Fayetteville Technical Community College spent 90 minutes answering questions from students and faculty on Wednesday.
Pamela Senegal’s Q&A mirrored a similar session with Mark Sorrells, who is currently FTCC’s vice president for academic and student services. Sorrells answered questions for an hour last Thursday.
FTCC live-streamed the Q&A programs on its YouTube channel. About 50 faculty and staff members attended Wednesday’s session.
Larry Keen, who has been FTCC president since 2007, plans to retire in January. The college’s board of trustees plans to name his successor by the end of this month. The recommendation must then go before the North Carolina Board of Community Colleges.
Senegal is currently president of Piedmont Community College in Roxboro. She had been scheduled to be at FTCC last week, but a bout with COVID-19 required her to postpone her visit to Wednesday.
When she was introduced, some in the audience cheered. Debra Jordan, an FTCC admissions counselor, said it would be a historical move “when we have our first woman” with a diverse background as president.
Asked what new direction she would work toward, Senegal said FTCC is a great institution already doing good things. She said her role initially would be to bring “a set of fresh eyes” to how the school operates. She said one way is to aggregate all the data FTCC now collects on student retention and other important measures and to re-examine that information.
Responding to a question about the “brick and mortar” growth of community colleges, Senegal said that the COVID pandemic had brought about changes in how classes are taught. She said for decades, growth in programs meant growth in square footage and construction.
“COVID taught us to grow smarter, to double down on online programs,” she said.
Currently, FTCC leads the state in online community-college courses. It is ranked fourth in online courses when rated with four-year colleges.
However, Senegal cautioned that offering online programs requires a commitment to invest in hardened, sustainable infrastructure, including immersion technology.
She gave an example of students who can virtually step inside a human heart to see cell walls, compared to sitting in a room and viewing a small image of a heart on an overhead projection screen. She also suggested that online learning could be provided on a subscription-based approach.
Senegal referred to herself as an Army brat who has lived in 30 countries, 20 of them with her parents.
“I can appreciate what the military goes through,” she said.
She says members of the military should get academic credit for what they've learned while in the service.
If appointed FTCC president, Senegal said, she plans to meet with Fort Bragg leaders and others to form partnerships to help soldiers become FTCC students.
Senegal fielded a variety of diverse and at times esoteric questions on topics from mental health curriculum and mental health services for students and faculty to issues of faculty and staff equity and morale. Topics also included child care, paid maternity leave, students with learning disabilities, and communicating with all faculty, staff members and students.
Finally, asked why she wants to be president of FTCC when she already is president of another community college, she responded, “It’s a good place, and I want to be part of a good place on a larger scale.”
Jason Brady covers Cumberland County government for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.