HENDERSON — One of Vance-Granville Community College’s top administrators is leaving the school to take up a senior position with the N.C. Community Colleges.

On Jan. 18, VGCC Vice President of Learning, Student Engagement and Success Levy Brown will become the senior vice president and chief academic officer for the statewide, 58-college system.

N.C. Community Colleges board members approved the hire just before the holiday.

Brown has “really prepared himself for that next level of leadership,” system President Thomas Stith said, adding that he had distinguished himself in his previous jobs at VGCC and other colleges in the system.

Along with keeping watch over the Community Colleges’ academic programs, Brown’s tasks will include helping the system counter a dropoff in enrollment associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Stith said.

A briefing presented in November to the system board’s Planning Committee indicated that enrollment in North Carolina’s community colleges had declined by about 11% in 2020, to a level lower than in any year since at least 2006.

Community college enrollment generally runs counter to the economic cycle, as people look to boost their skills and credentials when times are tight so they can better compete for the available jobs. In North Carolina, the system’s recent peak enrollment came in 2010, as the economy was still recovering from the Wall Street crash two years before.

Brown — who holds degrees from East Carolina University and N.C. Central University — will replace Kimberly Gold, who in November was named Stith’s chief of staff.

In seeking a new chief academic officer, officials were “looking for someone who not only had a good grasp of the community college system, but could be an innovator,” Stith said. “We feel Dr. Brown has the experience and expertise to provide that leadership throughout our 58-college system to do just that.”

He has worked at Vance-Granville Community College since 2017, taking on a portfolio that initially focused on student services but that quickly expanded to include the vice presidency of academic affairs, a post that oversees the work of the college’s faculty.

Before coming to Henderson, he was dean of arts and sciences at Lenoir Community College, associate vice president of student services and enrollment at Brunswick Community College, and dean of student services at Lenoir.

The preparation Stith mentioned has also included working with community and national groups.

He is on a student-success committee for the American Association of Community Colleges. And in the summer, he became one of 40 people selected for the 2021-22 class of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program’s Rising Presidents Fellowship, an honor signaling that his peers thought he was destined for a higher-level position in their business.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead and serve alongside these individuals during my time at” Vance-Granville, Brown said, as quoted in a statement the college released. “Looking ahead, I am humbled by the opportunity to partner with my colleagues to make a difference at the system level. We have a myriad of opportunities to make a tremendous impact on students, faculty and staff across the Great 58.”

VGCC officials said Cecilia Wheeler, the college’s dean of arts and sciences, will fill in as vice president of learning, student engagement and success in 2022 while they conduct a national search for Brown’s replacement.

Wheeler is delaying her retirement because the school is working on its 10-year reaccreditation. Officials want the permanent replacement for Brown on board by January 2023.

“Dr. Brown’s focus on building student supports and investing in faculty development has put our college on a transformational path for student success,” VGCC President Rachel Desmarais said. “I look forward to working with Dr. Brown in a new capacity as he leads academics for North Carolina community colleges.”

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.

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