WPCC Selected for Belk Center’s Rural College Leaders Program


Western Piedmont Community College Logo

Western Piedmont Community College is one of 10 North Carolina Community Colleges selected for the Belk Center’s Rural College Leaders Program (RCLP).

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, in partnership with Achieving the Dream, announced the launch of the RCLP. The three-year program is a capacity-building program designed to advance equitable student outcomes.

Supported by Ascendium Education Group, the program will immerse community college presidents, boards of trustees and senior leadership teams in a professional learning community aimed at removing systematic barriers, improving pathways for learners, and increasing completion rates for low-income students and students of color.

“I am honored that WPCC was chosen to participate in the Rural College Leaders Program. Community colleges are important to their communities, and this is especially true in rural communities where we offer much more than educational opportunities,” WPCC President Dr. Joel D. Welch, Ph.D., PE said. “We support economic development and serve as a connector for many organizations within our community. The WPCC vision is to be a transformational community leader and participating in this program will assist us with doing that even better in Burke County.”

Recently, WPCC has increased its awareness and response to inequities challenging students from historically underrepresented groups and responded with programs to close success gaps such as a Minority Male Success Initiative Grant. This grant helped license AVISO’s retention solution to increase engagement, reduce attrition and optimize success. In 2020, the TRIO Student Support Services program was implemented to serve income-eligible first-generation and disabled students.

WPCC’s application for the RCLP highlighted the institution’s commitment to demonstrating a Culture of Caring for students and the community along with advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion college-wide. In 2021, WPCC renewed their equity commitment through a new strategic plan.

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, at North Carolina State University, develops and sustains exceptional community college leaders who are committed to advancing equitable college access and student success, the social and economic mobility of their college’s students, and the economic competitiveness of their regions.

The Center provides professional development and research related to current and emerging student success opportunities and challenges facing community college leaders and policymakers in North Carolina and the nation.

As part of the program, WPCC will engage in a series of six professional learning events focused on driving transformational change through collaboration and data-driven, equity-minded decision-making.