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Connecting Campus to Community in Elizabeth City, NC

Higher ed plays key role in the region's talent and cultural development.

By Teree Caruthers on April 26, 2023

Elizabeth City State University
Joel Sutton

Elizabeth City’s economic success and enviable quality of life are both supported by the city’s three colleges and universities. From arts and culture and athletics to talent transfer and customized training, higher education institutions play a vital role in workforce development and help foster a sense of community.

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), for example, is the only higher ed institution in the state to offer a four-year degree in aviation sciences. The university produces pilots and air traffic controllers who support airports across the state.

“Our academic programs impact the community by producing graduates who serve in numerous industries,” says Ayana Hernandez, associate vice chancellor for strategic communications at ECSU. “We collaborate with industry and governmental leaders to ensure our university is meeting North Carolina’s workforce and labor needs. That collaboration has resulted in the development and enhancement of our academic programs, including aviation science, unmanned aircraft systems, emergency management and homeland security, to name a few.”

School Spirit

ECSU also provides cultural enrichment to the community through music, theater, the Khan Planetarium and a host of free community events offered to residents in Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County, such as the university’s Community Connection series. The university’s football and basketball programs not only pack Roebuck Stadium and Vaughan Center but local hotels and restaurants, as well. The university’s new athletic director has big plans for future game days, including bounce houses, food trucks and other family-friendly activities.

“The goal of enhancing game day was to create a true fan experience. We wanted to develop a county/state fair experience with vendors, food trucks, 360 booths, bounce houses, games and other festivities,” Hernandez says. “The family-friendly activities provide something for everyone and not just a football game. We want to make all of our athletic events a destination experience.”

College of the Albemarle
College of the Albemarle

Hired Ed

With more than 30 degree and certificate programs in areas such as IT, manufacturing, health care and business, the College of the Albemarle also plays a major role in the region’s workforce development efforts.

“We’re a catalyst for the community when it comes to workforce development and educational activities, whether that’s continuing education, workforce training, credit programs, university transfer, dual enrollment for high school students or just personal enrichment. Higher educational attainment leads to a higher quality of life,” says Jack Bagwell, College of the Albemarle president. “We try to make sure that we’re offering programs that businesses need and that we are enhancing programs every year in high-demand areas, such as welding, HVAC and building construction trades, health science and nursing. We do a lot of continuing education and continuing training for the health care workers of this region.”

The college boasts an impressive aviation program to support the growth of the local U.S. Coast Guard base as well as a computer-aided design program used by the Coast Guard and its contractors. Bagwell says the college was also recently awarded a $1 million grant to offer training in offshore wind and sustainable energy.

Mid-Atlantic Christian University
Mid-Atlantic Christian University

Growing Christian Leaders

Elizabeth City students and residents have multiple higher education options. Mid-Atlantic Christian University (MACU), a private institution originally founded to produce Church of Christ ministers, focuses on building Christian leaders in all areas of business.

“We’re a smaller institution, which means we can be a little more nimble in the marketplace and really listen to what our business community is telling us they need and then adapt relatively quickly to address those needs,” says Chris Bell, consultant for advancement at Mid-Atlantic Christian University.

“For years, MACU was focused on providing the next generation of preachers and church leaders, and, while that’s still a major focus of our university, the fact of the matter is our largest student populations are enrolled in what we call marketplace majors,” Bell adds. “We’re hoping that through our educational model we are educating the next generation of Christian leaders who will make a difference no matter what industry they’re in.”

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