Craven Community College (Craven CC) faculty, staff and students faced unprecedented challenges in 2020. The college did its best to adapt quickly to the unfolding situation while helping students continue their education as seamlessly as possible. Although this year saw more unique setbacks than in the academic institution’s 52-year history, everyone came together to overcome the obstacles and ended up having a very productive year in the process. The following are some highlights from the college’s 2020 accomplishments.
COVID-19 and the New Normal
Since the pandemic began, Craven CC’s faculty and staff have worked hard to prepare a path forward for students, even as social distancing and mandatory closures hindered the ability to continue with traditional face-to-face instruction. Advisors continued to process college applications and financial aid requests through email while also registering students for classes. They personally reached out to each student who withdrew from classes since the closure, offering support and resources in the case of difficulty managing finances, housing and food, as well as increased anxiety or depression.
The Admissions, Advising and Financial Aid departments began providing virtual appointments for students, while Student Services staff launched a video series for advising and counseling. From Spring 2020 through Fall 2020, the college served 4,087 students in Curriculum, 3,057 students in Workforce Development and 384 students in College & Career Readiness/Basic Skills. Out of 648 total sections, 328 courses that were originally seated or hybrid (mixture of seated and online) transitioned to a fully online format.
Craven CC has designed many programs to meet the needs of local employers over the years, and 2020 was no exception. It marked a productive point for the Volt Center, the college’s workforce training facility located at 205 First Street. The Manufacturing Career Pathway program was tailored into a fast-track career program through partnerships with local manufacturers BSH, Moen and DRADURA. Each weeklong course provides students with hands-on training and helps local businesses fill immediate job openings.
The Volt Center offers many other practical programs, including HVAC, Plumbing, Welding, Carpentry, Electrical, Small Engine Repair, Forklift and more. Approximately 545 students took courses at the Volt Center in 2020.
Craven CC students faced a unique challenge when the pandemic closed the campus in March. The hardships that were overcome to make it to graduation day signified that nothing could hold Craven CC students back from accomplishing their goals. Graduates from the Craven CC Nursing program made college history when they participated in a drive-thru Pinning Ceremony on May 15. Many nurses decorated their cars to celebrate their hard work paying off, and community members were there to show support with cheers and congratulatory signs.
Despite the campus being closed and social distancing being enforced, Craven CC graduates were able to celebrate their accomplishments during the college’s 53rd Commencement Ceremony. Although the usual May graduation was postponed, this drive-in event was held on the New Bern campus on June 27. More than 140 graduates were in attendance, and over 580 students earned 1,083 certificates, diplomas and degrees. The ceremony concluded with students driving a “victory lap” around the campus.
The college’s decade-long goal of constructing a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Center was finally completed in January 2020 and celebrated just a month later with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The advanced facility is located on the college’s Havelock campus and opened its doors just in time for the spring semester. The 16,000-square-foot building contains eight classrooms, two science and engineering labs, six offices, and a conference room that are all meant to help prepare students for high-demand STEM careers.
The new STEM Center not only provides a firm foundation for students who hope to go into the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics, but it also houses two unique programs offered on Craven CC’s Havelock campus: the NC State Engineering program, which allows students to earn a four-year degree without leaving the area, as well as Early College EAST, a five-year high school program that allows students to take advanced courses and obtain their high school diploma and a two-year degree.
Craven CC’s Panther Pantry was originally established by students to provide nonperishable food and cleaning supplies to students and employees in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Florence. In January 2020, the Pantry was moved into a newly renovated space located in Ward Hall on the New Bern campus. It has continued to assist students and employees in need, especially those suffering hardships due to the pandemic. Since it reopened in January, the Panther Pantry served 67 students, many of whom had families that were helped, bringing the total to nearly 250 people. They also gave out 40 Thanksgiving bags so families could enjoy a meal.
The Panther Pantry has received incredible community support from entities such as the City of New Bern, International Paper, Craven County Independent Insurance Agents Association and several community members. Funds have and continue to be used for storage containers, shelving, food and hygiene products. The Pantry accepts nonperishable food donations all year to supplement students and employees who are experiencing food insecurity.
The Craven CC Foundation provides financial support to students through scholarships and funding for programs, equipment, new and emerging initiatives, facilities and other priorities on the college’s campuses. The pandemic put a damper on many fundraising efforts in 2020, but the Foundation was still able to help hundreds of students reach their academic goals through financial assistance. Even though the biggest annual fundraiser, the Community Fabric Awards, were cancelled this year, event sponsors generously allowed their donations to be converted to aid students affected by the pandemic. To date, more than 60 students were helped and over $36,100 went toward COVID-19 assistance including books, tuition, fees, internet access for classes and food.
The Foundation also received many generous donations in 2020, including a 2017 vehicle from Subaru of America. The vehicle allows practical teaching in the college’s automotive lab while giving students hands-on experience with computerized automotive systems.
The U.S. Department of Education announced last September that Craven CC will receive a federal Student Support Service (SSS) grant of $1.3 million to help more students succeed and graduate from college. The grant will be awarded in installments each fiscal year over the next five years. This is the third time Craven CC has received this grant. SSS helps college students who are low income, first generation or students with disabilities. The services provided enhance academic success and make it more likely that students will graduate or transfer with the lowest possible debt.
SSS is one of the eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed. Craven CC’s TRIO program is funded to serve 186 students who meet the federal eligibility requirements. Services include assistance in choosing a college; tutoring; personal and financial counseling; career counseling; assistance in applying to college; workplace and college visits; special instruction in reading, writing, study skills and mathematics; assistance in applying for financial aid; and academic support in high school or assistance to re-enter high school. Craven CC’s TRIO department served 185 students in 2020 and is actively recruiting new participants.
Craven CC premiered its first podcast, “In the Know,” on July 30. The weekly podcast was initiated as a way to expand the college’s reach into the community and to keep residents informed on events and programs that may be of interest to them. The podcast also serves as an alternate means of college communication for current and potential students, giving them a glimpse of what the college offers. Each week, guest faculty, staff, and community members explain their programs or services, along with any pertinent information listeners may benefit from. The podcast is available for viewing on the Craven CC Facebook page each Thursday at 8 a.m. and can also be found on New Bern Live’s YouTube channel. Twenty episodes aired by the end of the year.
The college was recognized for several accomplishments during the 2020 year. It was ranked #21 on the Guide to Online Schools list of 2020 Best Online Community Colleges in North Carolina, #22 on College Consensus’ list of the top 50 Best Online Community Colleges, #6 in the category of Best Diploma Programs on the 2020 Top 60 Most Affordable Online Colleges by Intelligent.com, #15 on Best Value Schools’ list of Best Community Colleges in North Carolina, #21 on the Guide to Online Schools list of 2020 Best Online Community Colleges in North Carolina, #15 on Best Value Schools’ list of Best Community Colleges in North Carolina and winner of the New Bern Sun Journal’s Best of the Best for Colleges in 2020.
Craven CC programs also received recognition as one of BestColleges.com’s top 10 Best Online Associate in Entrepreneurship programs, as well as named #19 on College Consensus’ list of top 25 Best Online Associate in Criminal Justice programs.
This article was originally published in the New Bern Sun Journal on December 30, 2020.