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Morris ready to lead PDCCC

FRANKLIN, Va. — After spending a few years away from the education field, Dr. Claudia Morris is ready to return. And she hopes to do so at Paul D. Camp Community College in Franklin, Va.

Morris is one of four finalists being considered for the presidency of PDCCC. She said during a campus visit Wednesday that she is “passionate” about community colleges.

“I have missed this environment so much,” she said during an open forum with faculty, students and other stakeholders. “Community colleges are at the hub of changing this entire country and particularly this community and communities like ours that are underserved.”

Morris spent more than 25 years at Roanoke-Chowan Community College in Ahoskie. She held positions ranging from teaching to administration and served as the college’s vice president for planning and advancement until a new president reorganized the administration a few years ago.

“And I experienced something that will allow me to empathize with any IP worker or anyone who’s ever lost their job: I lost my job,” Morris said.

While it was hard to swallow, she said the experience helped her grow.

“I have matured immensely,” she said. “I am not the same person that I was in 2006.”

Morris spent her time caring for her mother, who was fighting cancer.

“I believe strongly in a master plan, and I was supposed to be there taking care of my mother,” she noted.

Morris said her mother is doing well now and the two even opened a knitting shop. However, Morris said she is ready to restart her career in education.

Growing up with a father who was in the Air Force, Morris spent her childhood moving around the country and even to two foreign countries — England and France.

“If you’re a child in the military and you’re moving every three to four years, you can’t wait around to make friends,” she said. “I’m not shy.”

That, she said, is a valuable trait for a college president.

“I certainly feel that I have an assertiveness that would help advance the mission of the college and to promote its interests,” Morris said.

She holds degrees in liberal arts, nursing and adult education as well as a doctorate in adult and community education with a concentration in higher education administration.

With a background in nursing, Morris said she has worked in a number of different positions at the community college level.

“I believe that I have the breadth of experience in every area of college operations to handle the leadership responsibilities of the presidency,” she said. “There’s probably not an area that I haven’t supervised or had experience working with, in terms of college operations.”

While at Roanoke-Chowan, Morris helped develop programs to prepare local residents for jobs with companies in the area.

“So I’ve had a great deal of experience developing programs in response to workforce needs,” she said.

Morris said she measures her accomplishments in the success of students.

“If we’re not here because we want to see students succeed, then we’re in the wrong place,” she said.

Attention must be paid, she said, to address students’ different learning styles and strengths.

As a leader and manager, Morris said she believes “in a democratic process.”

“My management style would be very participative,” she said. “My expectation is that if I invest in you, you invest back in the organization”

Morris, who was taken on a tour of PDCCC’s facilities and service area, said the college has “an excellent resource pool in its facilities.”

She also met several staff members.

“I was just very impressed with their commitment to students and the success of students,” Morris said.

The next president of PDCCC will likely continue to face budgetary challenges. Morris said she would push for a comprehensive assessment of the college’s needs.

“You can’t make budget decisions without having set priorities, and that has to be a comprehensive process with everyone involved,” she said.

Morris lives in Ahoskie with her husband, Gary. They have a son and a daughter, both of whom attended community colleges and are graduates of East Carolina University.

Two more candidates for the presidency of PDCCC will be interviewed next week. Another was interviewed Monday.

(Nicholas Langhorne is a Staff Writer with the Tidewater News in Franklin, Va., a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.)