HCC’s new president visits Northampton Commissioners

Published 5:12 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

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JACKSON – Dr. Patrena B. Elliot emphasized the importance of community as she spoke to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting on March 6.

Elliot, who grew up in Severn, returned to the local area earlier this year to begin her tenure as the sixth president – and first female president – of Halifax Community College (HCC).

“My appointment [as HCC president] allowed me to return home, so serving in the role is personal for me,” she explained.

With 28 years of experience in higher education and several leadership positions throughout her career, Dr. Elliot most recently served at Robeson Community College in Lumberton before she was selected to become HCC president after the death of Dr. Michael Elam last year.

Dr. Mike Williams, Chair of the HCC Board of Trustees, briefly introduced Elliot to the Northampton board, expressing the board’s confidence in the new president.

“We were looking for a leader who would, number one, strengthen the college’s connection with the community,” Williams explained. “Number two, find new ways to meet the personal growth, academic, and training needs of citizens and employees and employers in our service area. And finally, number three, to recover students that we lost during the pandemic.”

Dr. Elliot checked all those boxes.

“I was fortunate to grow up in a time in which the community was just as instrumental in raising me as my mother,” Elliot said, pointing to neighbors, coaches, and school staff as a few examples.

She explained that her mother was self-educated and disabled, but also encouraged her daughter to “never allow my circumstance to define my destiny.” So after graduating from Northampton County High School East, she went on to become a first-generation college student in her family, earning bachelor and master’s degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and her doctorate from NC A&T State University.

Throughout her career, she has also earned higher education/leadership certificates from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Leadership Raleigh, Hampton University, and the University of North Carolina System. She has held various leadership positions with the University of North Carolina System, Hampton University, Shaw University, and more.

Dr. Elliot noted in her remarks that many students these days still struggle with barriers they must overcome – such as juggling jobs, caring for loved ones, food insecurity, homelessness, and more – but the college and the community can help.

“Halifax Community College is our college,” she emphasized. “It is the community’s college. And it can be, and will be, the answer for so many. Whether they desire to pursue a four-year degree after leaving us or receive short-term training credentials that will help them to earn a significant wage.”

“I believe to whom much is given, much is required. I’m elated to give back to a community that has given so very much to me,” she concluded.

Commissioner Board Chair Charles Tyner thanked Dr. Elliot and welcomed her back to the county.

“We are expecting great things,” he said.

The commissioners have been partners with Halifax Community College for several years, and annually contribute funds to the college, which serves students from both Northampton and Halifax counties. HCC also hosts the Northampton County Early College, which is a part of the county’s public school district.