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UNCW 3C Hosts Conference on Diversity, Equity and inclusion

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Eighty higher education leaders from across the state gathered for the second annual UNCW/3C Challenging the Paradigm conference, held virtually May 13-14. The UNCW/3C Collaborative is a university-community college partnership initiative created in 2019 to develop strong future leaders for North Carolina’s community colleges. The theme of 2021 conference was “Partnerships Promoting an Evolution of Diversity.”

Thomas Stith, President of the NC Community College System and Kandi Deitemeyer, President of Central Piedmont Community College and President of the Community College Presidents’ Association were featured speakers.

On the opening day of the conference, President Stith discussed his commitment to making North Carolina’s 58-member community college system, the third largest in the country, a national model for diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Now more than ever we need a shared forum for discussing issues of race, equity and inclusion, and we need action after this discussion,” he said. “D, E and I is a moral imperative, but it also makes good business sense. When you diversify your team, you have a stronger team, a stronger organization and financial returns are higher. NC is a diverse state. Forty-nine percent of North Carolinians will be people of color by 2030. Our diversity is our strength, but we need to do more to make college accessible and attainable for more people, and we need to address gaps in racial/ethnic groups and rural/urban counties.”

Following his address, President Stith led a panel discussion with Don Tomas, Thomas Walker and Kimberly Gold on a range of topics including leadership, achieving sustainable change, resource allocation and meeting the needs of a diverse population of students. Tomas is President of Southwestern Community College, Walker is President of Wayne Community College and Gold is Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer in the North Carolina Community College System Office.

In an address titled “Central Piedmont’s Journey with DEI,” Dr. Deitemeyer said the college was using inquiry, data and collaboration to move toward a culture of equitable access and student success.

“We have set goals around student success and completion,” she said. “We need to do three things to better serve students: build awareness, shift behavior and shift culture. We need to make it a priority and be willing to listen, to hear, and to be vulnerable. DEI work is a journey; it will never be finished.”

Other highlights of the conference included a distinguished panel of education leaders: UNCW Provost Jamie Winebrake and Community College Presidents Thomas Walker (Wayne) and Lisa Chapman (Central Carolina); a social justice panel with graduate students enrolled in WCE's Community College Leadership program led by Laurel Butler, Admissions Officer at Carteret Community College; and a presentation on reporting and data analytics by Bill Schneider and Ashley Sieman of the North Carolina Community College System.

Denise Henning and Marilyn Sheerer planned and coordinated the conference. Henning is director of the UNCW/3C Collaborative, coordinator of WCE’s Community College Leadership Certificate program and a professor of practice in the Department of Educational Leadership at UNCW’s Watson College of Education. Sheerer is a professor in WCE’s Department of Educational Leadership.

For more information on the UNCW/3C Collaborative, visit the UNCW/3C website.