A year ago, when Erika Starling was sworn in as a member of the Sampson Community College Board of Trustees, she vowed to make the college the best it could be.
Now, serving in the role of chairwoman, Starling says she is looking forward to the opportunity to significantly advance the college and better serve the community.
“I believe that the trustees have a great opportunity over the coming years to significantly advance the college and better serve the community,” Starling said when asked about her thoughts on where the college currently stands and her vision for the future. “We are thankful that we have a committed faculty and staff to work hand-in-hand with our educational partners, business and industry leaders, and community members to realize the mission of Sampson Community College.”
Two months ago, just one week after his contract was renewed, SCC president Dr. Paul Hutchins announced his plans to retire in May 2018. Starling, along with the other board members, has begun the process of looking for and eventually hiring a replacement.
“Understandably, our first priority as a board is to select new leadership for the college that assists in achieving the goals developed by the trustees and works collaboratively with our partners to realize the full potential of Sampson Community College,” Starling explained.
The new chair says she is a believer that the college’s success is dependent upon the board’s ability to communicate a shared vision of what SCC can and should be for Sampson County’s residents.
“Therefore, it is important that the college president work to effectively tell our story and build meaningful community relationships,” Starling said. “We hope to make this transition as seamless as possible, allowing us to continue our progress on facilities and program development”
As part of the $2 billion Connect NC Public Improvement Bond, Sampson Community College will receive $4,774,533 for new construction, repairs and renovations. Starling says the board is looking forward to the funds allowing the college to address priority needs, which includes a new welding building, in addition to a truck driver training facility.
“We have asked our architect and faculty to work cooperatively with our local industry partners to validate the design of the new welding building to ensure we address local industry training needs,” Starling shared.
Starling has a goal — one she believes is shared among the other members of the board.
“We serve a large community,” Starling said. “We do a good job at providing services for both the academia and business industries so that they can increase the number of jobs and bring other services to the area. Our goal is to make the students the best they can be so that they will be an asset to the business or industry that hires them.”
Knowing that full financial responsibility doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the college’s board, and despite knowing that the trustees are expected to be responsible stewards of public funds, Starling says she is fully prepared to work cooperatively with the county government leaders to provide for the needs of the college.
“We are committed to improving communications with our Board of Commissioners and working to develop a shared understanding of the important role the college plays in local economic development and job training,” Starling said.
The new faces on the Board of Trustees aren’t the only changes the college has seen in the last few months. Over the next year, Starling says the board hopes to reveal the “new” look of Sampson Community College as they continue to work with the campus architect to develop a modern entrance, campus wayfinding signs and landscaping.
“Anyone driving by the college can see that much of the character of the campus was lost during the Hwy. 24 expansion work,” Starling added. “We believe the look of the school is important in the successful recruitment of students and new industries resulting in job opportunities for local citizens.”
Starling says she takes great pride in sharing with others the advancements the college has made, along with the many opportunities students throughout Sampson County are offered through the college.
“The trustees are proud of the cooperative efforts that have developed between the Sampson County and Clinton City schools,” Starling said. “The Early College High School and the Career and College Promise program provide outstanding opportunities for many of our high school students”
According to Starling, the board would like to expand opportunities for high school students to enroll in occupational classes like fire-fighting, welding, and the construction trades on the local campus. With the General Assembly’s recent approval for high school students to enroll in occupational extension classes, Starling shared that the board believes the college can provide skills training classes not currently available in the local high schools at little or no costs to families.
Giving credit where credit is due, Starling says she fully acknowledges the value of the Sampson Community College Foundation and the contributions and support it offers to the college.
“The trustees greatly value the contributions and support of the Foundation,” Starling explained. “We hope to improve the communication between the two boards so that we identify mutual goals to best support the development of the college and the needs of our students. As the Foundation considers entering a capital campaign, we know that the efforts of the Trustees and the Foundation Directors need to be fully communicated and coordinated.
Despite being a community college in rural Sampson County, Starling says she truly believes students have an abundance of opportunity when it comes to obtaining a degree.
“All trustees share the desire for the college to improve its outreach and partnerships locally, regionally and across the state,” Starling said. “We are thankful for the transfer agreement with the University of North Carolina System that ensures the seamless transfer of college classes from SCC to public universities across the state.”
Open to comments and suggestions, Starling encourages members of the community to contact her or other members of the trustee board.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.