SANFORD -- Dr. Brian S. Merritt has served in various positions at Central Carolina Community College. He's been Distance Education Counselor; Director of Grants, Sponsored Programs, & Alumni Relations; Dean of Student Learning, and most recently as Vice President of Student Learning and Chief Academic Officer.
To say that he has left his mark at CCCC would be an understatement. "Dr. Brian Merritt has been one of CCCC's rock stars for many years. His ability to think outside of the box, recognize great talent, establish strong networks and relationships and get things done is unparalleled," said CCCC President Dr. Lisa M. Chapman.
Dr. Merritt is moving on to serve as the sixth President of McDowell Technical Community College. His appointment becomes effective Jan. 1, 2021.
"I know the CCCC Trustees join me in congratulating Dr. Merritt on his being named the new president of McDowell Technical Community College," said Mr. H. Julian Philpott Jr., Chairman of the CCCC Board of Trustees. "Dr. Merritt has done an outstanding job at Central Carolina Community College. His work as Vice President of Student Learning and as the Chief Academic Officer for the College has helped the academic programs offered at CCCC achieve unparalleled success and has resulted in excellent educational opportunities for CCCC's students. We will miss his leadership at CCCC, but we wish him the best of luck in his new position at McDowell Technical Community College."
Dr. Merritt notes that CCCC has taught him the true value of what it means to be student-centered. "Over the years, as leadership has transitioned, there has always been a common thread. We are here to serve our students and to serve our communities well," said Dr. Merritt.
"My CCCC colleagues are like my family. We have fun together, we laugh, sometimes we cry together. But, ultimately, we all have a genuine passion for serving students and our communities. And, did I mention we have fun?" said Dr. Merritt.
Dr. Merritt points out that he had two beginnings at CCCC. "I originally joined in 2007 as an admissions counselor. I was raised in Chatham County, and most of my family still lives there today. The opportunity to serve my home meant a lot to me personally. I left the College for another opportunity and returned in 2011," said Dr. Merritt. "CCCC took a chance on hiring me back in 2011 as the grants and alumni director with limited experience. But, I could tell the administration had a vision to be the best, and I was a young professional who was eager to produce results."
Dr. Merritt is proud of CCCC's accomplishments.
"CCCC is a national leader among community colleges. We have built great teams that find new, innovative ways to meet students where they are. Since 2012, CCCC has increased its graduation rate by 19%," said Dr. Merritt.
"Since 2012, retention has increased by an average of 9% for full-time students. Retention for part-time students has increased by 18%. Those increases represent thousands of students meeting their goals and finding success in their chosen pathways and beyond," added Dr. Merritt.
"In the community college world, we are usually doing a lot more with less. State funding is limited, and we have to find ways to fill in the gaps. Over the last eight years, our grants team has partnered with faculty and staff to raise and manage over $34 million all to advance our work to provide more intentional student support, innovative instruction, and workforce development opportunities. I am confident the team will continue this great work."
Dr. Chapman said of Dr. Merritt's work: "Many of the opportunities and much of the recognition that CCCC currently enjoys are due to our strong commitment to and successful, innovative work in supporting student completion as well as student access. Dr. Merritt has led and been engaged in all of this work. His efforts and expertise have allowed CCCC to become consistently successful in securing external funding. His leadership supported bringing TRIO programs to CCCC. With Brian at the helm, the College led the 10-college First In the World Grant efforts to evaluate the impact of success coaching -- work that will have lasting impact on many students across the nation."
Dr. Merritt is excited about the opportunity of serving as a college president. "My time at CCCC has prepared me well to become a college president. I was mentored by great leaders and learned from the best of the best," said Dr. Merritt. "Starting a presidency during a pandemic will be a challenge. However, I will always take to heart the challenge Dr. (T.E.) Marchant gave me when I became a vice president: Always put students at the center."
"McDowell Tech has made an outstanding selection and while CCCC will greatly miss Dr. Merritt, we are happy for him and for our colleagues at McDowell," said Dr. Chapman.
"Dr. Merritt did an outstanding job for CCCC," said Dr. Marchant. "He clearly demonstrated the skills of innovation and leadership. He will do a great job for McDowell Tech."
Dr. Merritt speaks highly of CCCC's future: "CCCC's new Vision is to provide exceptional learning for all. In the midst of a pandemic, with the economic situation we are in, it is more important than ever for community colleges to be nimble and to find new, innovative ways to provide learning opportunities that are relevant to the workforce. I am confident the teams we have in place will continue to be on the cutting edge," said Dr. Merritt.
While Dr. Merritt will miss CCCC, he looks forward to his newest challenge at McDowell Tech.
"McDowell Tech has a great reputation. It is a solid institution with strong partnerships in its community," said Dr. Merritt. "My wife, Jessi, and I are both alumni of Appalachian State University. We are thrilled about the opportunity to live in and raise our small family in a town like Marion. Community is important to us, and that was the primary factor that drew us to this opportunity at MTCC."
Dr. Merritt earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration from Walden University, a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from Appalachian State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Social Sciences Education from Appalachian State University.
In 2020, Merritt was chosen as one of 40 leaders nationally for the 2020-21 class of the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship, a highly selected leadership program preparing the next generation of community college presidents to transform institutions to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success.
"My passion is to help transform students' lives. I have had the best team, and after serving as Chief Academic Officer for six-and-a-half years, I know that CCCC's faculty truly makes the difference. We lift each other up, make each other better, and our focus has always been on the students," said Dr. Merritt. "I am appreciative of Dr. Chapman's support during this transition process and to Dr. Marchant for taking a chance on me all those years ago. I am grateful to serve the North Carolina Community College System in this new role and to help advance the primary principle of its founder, Dr. Dallas Herring, of 'taking people where they are and carrying them as far as they can go.'"
Dr. Brian S. Merritt, Central Carolina Community College Vice President of Student Learning and Chief Academic Officer, is moving on to serve as the sixth President of McDowell Technical Community College. His appointment becomes effective Jan. 1, 2021.