WINTERVILLE—New N.C. Community College System President Thomas Stith III visited Pitt Community College Wednesday as part of an effort to learn more about each of the 58 institutions he oversees.
After taking the reins of the nation’s third-largest community college system Jan. 11, Stith has been stopping by campuses throughout North Carolina to tour programs and meet with administrators, faculty and staff.
“As president of the North Carolina Community College System, I feel it’s my responsibility, not only to represent our community colleges in our state capital but to also come visit and see the excellent programs and leadership at our local community colleges,” he said. “… For me, while it’s a part of my responsibility as president, it’s one of the better parts of the job.”
Stith’s PCC visit included tours of the college’s biotechnology and industrial systems classrooms as well as the simulation hospital utilized by its many health sciences programs. At each stop, he heard from faculty about Pitt’s efforts to meet the region’s educational needs and the importance of having the proper facilities and equipment to train a skilled workforce.
Stith said he was impressed by the “passion and commitment” he saw from PCC employees and the dedication to learning students exhibited, including a class of Pitt County high schoolers taking an industrial systems course through the unique PCC-Pitt County Schools Technical Academy.
“I was in a class earlier today, you literally had high school students—and this [week] is their [high school] spring break—but they’re in class, seeking education,” he said. “… Just seeing the passion and interest from our students, from the faculty, staff and the leadership of Pitt Community College is just outstanding.”
Stith joined NCCCS with two decades of experience in public service and business in North Carolina, including four years as chief of staff to former Gov. Pat McCrory. His familiarity with the eastern part of the state stems in large part from the five years he spent working on improving its economy as economic development program director at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the Kenan-Flagler Business School.
As NCCCS president, Stith says his vision for the state’s community colleges features three points of emphasis: being the first choice for affordable, accessible education, leading economic recovery and growth in communities statewide, and serving as a national model for diversity and inclusion.
“The strength in North Carolina is the diversity of the people in North Carolina, and we have that right here in Pitt County,” he said. “And that’s the competitive advantage for this county and for this state.”
Before having lunch with PCC administrators and trustees to close out his visit, Stith encouraged Pitt employees to maintain their passion for providing quality education. He also stressed the importance of community colleges working together.
“Certainly, Pitt Community College has its unique focus here in the county, but the vision of the leadership here realizes that working with other community colleges in the region is very important,” he said. “We’re stronger as a community college system. We have our own unique identities as individual colleges, but, ultimately, when we work together as a system, we’re even stronger.”