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Trailblazers

Finding community college leaders from underrepresented groups.

Pamela Senegal ’93, ’95 MPA, ’11 EDD, president of Piedmont Community College. Photograph by Alli Lindenberg, courtesy of EdNC.

NC State’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research has launched an effort to help create a pipeline to develop community college leaders from under-represented communities.

The cornerstone of that effort is the Trailblazer Profiles, highlighting the accomplishments of past and present N.C. community college presidents and system leaders who are Black, Asian, Native American or Latinx. The online project features 12 profiles, but will continue to grow.

Community college students are a diverse group, the most diverse of any post-secondary institution, says Audrey Jaeger, the Belk Center’s executive director and W. Dallas Herring Professor of Community College Education. They feature part-time and adult learners, and more Black, Latinx and Native American students than four-year colleges or universities. However, leadership at community colleges does not reflect that diversity. “Everybody needs a role model to which they follow so they can say, ‘Yeah, I can do that, as well. I can be that person,’” says Jaeger.

Pamela Senegal ’93, ’95 MPA, ’11 EDD is president of Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, N.C., and serves as one of the featured profiles. She says sharing her story arose almost out of a duty to transform community college leadership and inspire her own students, as well. “I don’t want to just be the Black person who’s at the table,” she says. “I want to be the Black person at the table who is making a difference, is bringing voice to issues that previously or aren’t typically discussed.”

The center was founded in 2020 to support the state’s 58 community college leaders and promote equitable student access and success. “The Belk Center is the organization that is preparing to a large extent leaders for today and tomorrow,” says Algie Gatewood ’94 EDD, president of Alamance Community College in Burlington, N.C., and a subject of a Trailblazer Profile. “We couldn’t do this without them.” 

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