12/07/17 — Coordination is key to cultivating, recruiting students

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Coordination is key to cultivating, recruiting students

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on December 7, 2017 5:50 AM

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Wayne Community College president Dr. Thomas Walker talks about the relationship that the college has with both the public school system and the University of Mount Olive at the Education Hot Topic Luncheon at Lane Tree Golf Club Wednesday.

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Dr. Michael Dunsmore participates in the discussion Wednesday at the Hot Topic Luncheon organized by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

Business people, educators, government officials and other community figures from all over Wayne County gathered at Lane Tree Golf Club Tuesday for an Education Hot Topic Luncheon, where they listened to a discussion from several leaders in local education.

Wayne County Public Schools Superintendent Michael Dunsmore, Wayne Community College President Thomas Walker and University of Mount Olive President Phillip Kerstetter were on hand for the discussion. Kate Daniels, president and executive director of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, moderated the event.

The talk began with the three men discussing how their institutions work together. Each, they said, rely on and enhance the others. Wayne Community College's largest feeder pattern is WCPS, Walker said, and Wayne Community College is in turn the largest base of transfer students for UMO. In turn, Dunsmore said, local higher education institutions work with public schools to provide all kinds of programs designed to give students a head start.

"Our students that we see every day, we're hoping they're going to go either to community college our to a four-year institution, and it's our job to prepare them," Dunsmore said. "Without that collaboration, and understanding what they need to matriculate through those programs, we would kind of be dead in the water."

By staying in communication, each organization can make its members aware of what the others require. Kerstetter said that an open line of communication with Wayne Community College helps UMO to make sure incoming transfers get the proper credits and classes for their prior experience.

The speakers also discussed some of the challenges they face in their respective roles. Walker said that the role of a college president is changing as state funding grows harder to come by.

"It used to be that on a college president's job description, it would not include 'resource developer.' Now that's in the first three lines," he said. "I would not want the job of our county commissioners, because the demands increase every year as health care costs are pushed to the states, and the pool of resources is finite."

For Dunsmore, a major obstacle is trying to communicate how public education must adapt as industries change. He told the story of a high school student he observed during a trip to a school years ago, who constantly checked her phone during a class.

"She had her hand in her pocket, clearly she was checking her phone. She'd take it out, look at it, and then go back to taking notes," he said. "I caught up with her afterward and said 'you're not in trouble, but who were you texting?' And she said that she had a friend in an honors English class that they were doing a presentation together, and they were finalizing it."

Dunsmore said that the student had not missed a note during class.

Above all, the speakers agreed that among the most sought-after skills for employers today are "soft skills," such as critical thinking, writing and communication. If educational institutions can promote those things, it will produce students capable of adapting to all kinds of work opportunities.

"We need to make sure we understand what will make our students successful, and involve the community and everybody that's here, and be more open with public schools," he said. "I think one of our regrets is that public schools as an institution has kept their doors closed, and I think that has set us behind."