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Denise Henning

 Denise Henning
Denise Henning
Photo: Krysti Adams/UNCW

Denise Henning, director of UNCW/3C, is an Equity Champion Consultant for the Racial Equity for Adult Credentials in Education (REACH) Collaborative, a network of teams from six states working to strengthen pathways for Black, Hispanic and Native American adults to grow their skills and advance their careers.

The Lumina Foundation launched the REACH Collaborative in 2021 to acknowledge and address the educational pathway needs and lived experiences of adult students of color. The national initiative supports community colleges in California, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia who are committed to equitable student success. Guided by Equity Champion Consultants (ECCs), these states are working to identify and eliminate barriers to success and adopt culturally sustaining practices to support racially minoritized adult learners in their chosen pathways. 

Dr. Henning has been a REACH Equity Champion Consultant since the beginning of the grant.

“Serving as a REACH Equity Champion has been one of the most fulfilling opportunities of my life’s work,” Henning said. “The REACH Collaborative is moving the needle, creating innovative ideas and pathways that will enable the most underserved populations to achieve their dreams and goals.”

“The project is personal for me,” she continued. “The opportunities I was introduced to in community college opened up pathways that led to a Ph.D. The typical sequential student we recruit is not where the market is. We need to tear down the silos that prevent advancement for so many, and create new pathways. Education is truly a birth to end of life experience, and not everyone is in the same place at the same time. This program recognizes that and is opening doors and creating opportunities for continuing education and workforce development for many more people of color.”

Henning’s career in higher education has spanned 23 years in both the United States and Canada, as well as working as graduate faculty in New Zealand. She currently serves as a faculty member in WCE’s Department of Educational Leadership, director of UNCW’s Community College Collaborative (UNCW/3C) and coordinator of WCE’s Community College Leadership Certificate program. As an Equity Champion, she has served as a keynote speaker at conferences and events, and as an expert consultant on various community college initiatives.

In 2022, Henning and WCE doctoral student Ivana Hanson co-authored a policy brief for the REACH Collaborative: Investment in the Future: BIPOC/Adult Education, Skills Training, and North Carolina’s Economy.  This publication addresses positive social and economic impacts of education and training of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and people of color (BIPOC), and adult learners, as well as identifies student success programs committed to reconciling racial inequities, as North Carolina works to develop a career-ready workforce by acknowledging its racial wealth and earnings disparities. 

Henning was also featured in a REACH Collaborative podcast, What is the Cost of Doing Nothing? Redistributing Power. During the podcast she and other experts discussed the urgency that racial equity demands of our educational systems and the change levers that need to be tapped to allow a redistribution of power. Listen to the podcast or read the transcript.

“The REACH Collaborative began as a two-year project with the goal of attaining a two percent increase in credential attainment for students of color by 2023, and after a successful start it has been expanded to a five-year initiative,” Henning said. “It’s an honor to serve as a REACH consultant. I am so proud of the work the REACH campuses are doing and the lives that will be positively changed as a result.”

For more information about the work of the collaborative, visit the REACH Collaborative website. Learn more about the REACH Equity Champion Consultants.