Sampson Independent

Trustees chair reflects on college’s growth

Erika Starling has been seated on the Sampson Community College Board of Trustees for two years, vowing in all that time to significantly advance the college to better serve the community.

Last month, Starling was chosen for a second year to serve as chairwoman of that board, and still today, holds true her commitment she made to the students, staff and faculty of the school.

“When I began my service as board chair last July, it was my hope, along with a number of our board members, that we could help make Sampson Community College much more community-centered and better integrate the college’s leadership, staff, and faculty into the community,” Starling said when asked about how the college has changed in the course of a year. “I was aware of some of the more visible programs at SCC, but as I began working as a trustee and as a chair I better understood the breadth of the college’s programs and services. Not only is SCC important in supporting Sampson County business and industry and in providing access to college for our young people, the college provides so many programs that are not all that visible.”

According to Starling, when she first began her term as trustee, she set out to help identify and select college leadership that could help achieve the board’s goal to have leadership that was active and identifiable in the county.

In March, the board named Dr. Bill Starling as the sixth president of the college, replacing Dr. Paul Hutchins who retired and later accepted a position at Martin Community College.

“With Dr. Hutchins’ move to Martin Community College, the board spent considerable time conducting a presidential search,” Starling explained. “It was a shared goal of the board to make the transition to new leadership as seamless as possible and to provide new institutional leadership that understood the challenges, not only of the college, but of our local people and service area.”

Starling considers the naming of a new president, as well as transitioning Wanda Capps and Dr. Veronica Stevens into new leadership roles, just one of the many accomplishments made by the board in the last year.

Among that list of accomplishments, Starling includes the progress in updating campus facilities and structures, in addition to the acquiring of funds and property to begin the work on a new truck-driver training facility and welding facility.

According to Starling, the board and its members have had productive conversations with the Sampson County Board of Commissioners in an attempt to jointly address ADA facility deficiencies cited by the OCR in 2016. The commissioners’ appropriation for this fiscal year should allow the college to now renovate older bathrooms, replace counters, and door hardware.

Utilizing funds from the ConnectNC Bond, the college has spent the last year designing a new welding facility and an addition to the Activities Center. Bids will be received in August for both of these buildings. A $1.7 million EDA grant will assist in the construction of the welding facility.

Working with the Clinton 100 Committee to develop the truck-driving training facility on a 12-acre parcel of land in the industrial park that was donated by the committee, the college will now use funds from a $200,000 Golden Leaf grant to supplement the funds remaining for the construction.

Much of the grant work was supported through the work and efforts of the Foundation and its directors.

“We have strengthened the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the SCC Foundation,” Starling said. “The Foundation directors have been very supportive of our efforts to secure new leadership for the college and to emphasize the development of our community relationships. We have enjoyed very meaningful expressions of scholarship support for our students this year.”

The Foundation is currently working with the Develop the East capital campaign, which will provide a multipurpose area on the campus to be utilized by not only the college and its students, but the community.

In the last year, Starling explained, the college has increased enrollment from area high school students who have enrolled through the Career and College Promise Program. This fall, over 500 Sampson County and Clinton City juniors and seniors are enrolled in one or more of the college’s courses.

For this summer, Starling said there were over 800 students enrolled in curriculum courses.

“The college renewed emphasis on summer offerings,” Starling explained. “This summer, over 800 students enrolled in curriculum courses. We are now able to provide so many students enrolled in four-year colleges the opportunity to take additional transfer courses from Sampson Community College while they are home during their summer break.”

Progress, Starling admitted, is being made in many areas at the college. It’s progress Starling and the entire Board of Trustees hopes to continue seeing.

“I am excited about the progress the college has made in the last year,” Starling said. “I have enjoyed working with a group of trustees that share the same commitment to Sampson Community College and our county that I do. While I am thankful for the accomplishments of the last year, my list identifies so many projects that are in the beginning stages. We look forward to completing buildings and important projects. And even more importantly, we look forward to the graduation events we have all throughout the year celebrating the accomplishments of students and the college’s role in helping them secure a better future for themselves and their families.”


By Kristy D. Carter

Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.