HCC hires Elam

Published 11:05 am Tuesday, November 29, 2016

WELDON – Dr. Michael Elam has not let the proverbial grass grow under his feet since parting company with Roanoke-Chowan Community College (R-CCC) this past June.

That effort paid off last week for the former R-CCC President.

Elam is heading west, but only by 40 or so miles as he has been named as the new President of Halifax Community College (HCC). He will become HCC’s fifth president pending approval of the state community college board.

HCC’s Board of Trustees made the decision on Nov. 22 during a called meeting at Hampton Inn in Roanoke Rapids, according to information posted at www.rrspin.com.

Dr. Michael Elam

Dr. Michael Elam

“Dr. Elam came highly recommended by presidents of other community colleges around the state,” said Michael Felt, chair of the HCC board, in a statement.

Felt said he believes Elam will continue the work of outgoing HCC president Ervin Griffin Sr.

Felt said the approval process with the state community college system should not take long and the paperwork was scheduled to be submitted to Raleigh on Wednesday of last week.

Elam said in an interview last week with rrspin.com that he realizes the challenges Northeastern North Carolina faces. “We need to get our region economically ready to go to work,” Elam stated. “We need to help position ourselves to draw business and industry back to Northeastern North Carolina.”

He also said in that interview he would like to see the area become a strong catalyst in the community for economic development.

“I think that it’s important for us to be out there in the forefront doing what we can to help the community to grow and draw business and industry to the area,” he remarked.

Elam was chosen from a field of six finalists, all vying to replace Griffin, whose retirement is effective the first of February.

The HCC presidential search committee was formed this past summer, near the same time Elam was leaving his post at R-CCC.

The search committee received 38 total applications. From those, the committee narrowed the field to six finalists. Each of the finalists, to include Elam, was interviewed by the HCC Board of Trustees.

Elam, a native of Henderson in Vance County, served as President of Roanoke-Chowan Community College from 2013-2016. He previously served as Interim Chancellor at Central Louisiana Technical Community College in Alexandria, Louisiana (2012-2013), President of College of the Mainland in Texas City, Texas (2009-2011) and Vice President for Student Development at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach (1999-2009).

He also served as Interim Chancellor at SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Elam received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Howard University, his master’s degree in Student Personnel and Administration from Howard University and his Ed.D in Education in Higher Education Leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale.

Came to RCCC in June 2013.

In January of this year, the R-CCC Board of Trustees voted (a 7-4 decision, with one member absent) not to renew Elam’s contract, which was at the end of its original three-year term. The R-CCC Trustees were informed at that time that Elam was seeking leadership opportunities elsewhere.

R-CCC Board of Trustees Chairman Andre Lassiter said in a statement following the board’s decision not to renew the president’s contract, “Dr. Elam possesses skills and experiences that have landed him as a finalist in several recent national presidential searches. The members of the RCCC Board of Trustees support Dr. Elam in doing what he thinks is best for him and his family and wish him much success in his future endeavors.”

R-CCC Board members and Elam promised it will be a mutual parting of the ways when the day (June 30) comes, but until that time anyone who’s familiar with the dapper administrator can expect nothing less than the outstanding effort he gave the job the last two and a half years.

“I sat with the Board Chairman (Andre Lassiter) and I believe in being open,” Elam said in a February interview with the R-C News-Herald. “If I were looking for a job I think the Board chair should know, so I did share that I am looking for some other opportunities.”

Elam says he made his intentions known toward the end of 2015. In November of last year, his name surfaced on a list of candidates for the chancellorship of Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever, LA – about 60 miles west-southwest of New Orleans.

Elam was familiar with the Louisiana Community College system having left in June of 2013 to accept the RCCC post. While in the Pelican State, he served the system as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives.

Though he interviewed at Fletcher Tech, including a Q&A with faculty and students, Elam withdrew his name from consideration for the Louisiana post and returned to his duties back in Hertford County.

“I sought a position I initially thought was a good fit for me,” Elam stated. “But as I moved through the process I determined that it wasn’t the best fit for me, and now I will wait for something else that I think might be better suited for me. I want to be somewhere I can finish out the rest of my career.”

In June, Elam was among the finalists for President of Wayne Community College in Goldsboro. That position was filled by another of the final candidates. He also applied for the job of Bertie County Public Schools Superintendent.

As far as seeking the HCC post, Elam told rrspin.com, “Since I’ve been working as the president of Roanoke-Chowan Community College, I realized that the challenges we face in Northeastern North Carolina are those challenges that I would really like to continue to address.

Halifax Community College shares a county with Roanoke-Chowan Community College and that’s Northampton County. I’m very familiar with the demographics, with the challenges that we are facing here.

“We had really began to make some serious headway in our region in the Hertford County and Northampton County area, Bertie County with some very innovative approaches to dealing with some of those challenges, the healthcare challenge for one,” he added. “We were also collaborating with education and the governor’s office to deal with some academies. The more and more people we can get educated in our region, the better off I think we will all be and everyone else in the Northeastern North Carolina region will be because we need to put people to work. We need to get our region economically ready to go to work. We need to help position ourselves to draw business and industry back to Northeastern North Carolina.”

Elam said it was apparent that employment in the local region is not growing.

“We know that people actually are not moving to Northeastern North Carolina, they’re actually moving away and so we need to turn that around,” he said. “The way we do that is we get more people educated, you make the area more attractive to business and industry. If you draw more business and industry you can draw more people back to the area. Just look at the Klausner lumber mill coming back to the area bringing 350 jobs to this area. It’s not a total net of 350 because we had the closure of Safelite. The community college plays a significant role in preparing individuals and preparing the region to be ready for those roles.

“I believe that I have the passion for it, because I was born in Northeastern North Carolina and I still have roots here. So this is giving me an opportunity to put back into my own family tree and to continue to nourish it,” he noted.

As far as being a good fit at HCC, Elam touted his experience at other educational institutions.

“Besides the passion to get the work done, the experience I believe that with me I bring a competitive edge to the table,” he stressed. “The fact that I’ve got the experience of being a president at other different places, I’ve been an interim chancellor at the Louisiana system, I know what it takes to get things done and to collaborate with others. That’s what it takes at small institutions like Halifax, like Roanoke-Chowan. There’s no going past that. It’s all about relationships, it’s all about building relationships with people and I do that well.

“I’d like to see HCC grow,” Elam continued. “I’d like to see us become a very, very strong catalyst in the community for economic development. I think that it’s important for us to be out there in the forefront doing what we can to help the community to grow and draw business and industry to the area. Many, many, many colleges across the country and education have done too little, too late. We tout being a workforce entity but by the time we train people and they get their degree, business and industry has already moved onto something else. So it’s important for us to get out in front of it. We need to be talking to business and industry and be forecasting what do you need two to three years from now and then preparing ourselves, working with them to help us so that by the time they need a good workforce or the worker, the worker is coming off of our assembly line trained and ready to work.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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