Pasquotank County August 2021

Population
39,953

County Seat
Elizabeth City

Median Income
$50,558

Population Density Designation
Rural

In Pasquotank County, we visited Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), where our team met with Chancellor Dr. Karrie Dixon and faculty members. They told us how integral the university is to its 21-county service area, offering critical educational opportunities to both residents of North Carolina and those just across the Virginia border. While colleges around the country experienced steep declines in enrollment, ECSU’s student population grew by nearly 300 between fall 2020 and fall 2021.

The HBCU serves as a valuable economic engine for northeastern NC. One of the more unique aspects is its 4-year Aviation Science program, the only one of its kind in North Carolina. Dr. Dixon has worked tirelessly to grow the department. When she started in her role as Chancellor three years ago, the university owned two planes. They now have a fleet of 12. Students participating in the program have several opportunities after they graduate, with many going on to fly commercially or as private pilots. In the Unmanned Aerial Systems Lab, we were able to see and hold drones that are used to improve processes in industries from farming to security – making work more efficient and cost effective.

In spring 2021, ECSU and United Airlines announced a partnership to train and hire 5,000 pilots through the United Aviate Academy. The program will focus largely on elevating women and people of color to the flight deck. One student, Danny Clipper, has two semesters left before he graduates from the aviation program with a focus on Unmanned Aerial Systems. While he’s not interested in flying commercially, he said the merger with United Airlines is “really cool” and knows the partnership will bring opportunities to fellow students.

The University isn’t just focused on the sky. They also offer the Viking Cares Food Pantry, a program in partnership with Food Lion. According to the Southeastern University Consortium for Food Security and Health, 20% of Pasquotank County residents experience food insecurity, many of them students at ECSU. The Pantry offers nonperishable goods, fresh and frozen vegetables, and sanitary items for those in need. It was clear to us that community was a top priority for everyone we met that day.

An additional stop in Pasquotank County took us to one of College of The Albemarle’s (COA) campuses. COA serves seven counties in eastern North Carolina and has one of the largest health care programs in the state. Students can earn diplomas and certificates in Nursing, Allied Health and First Responder programs.

With Robin Harris, RN, Dean of the Health Sciences and Wellness Programs, we saw the college’s simulation lab up close and personal. The lab is located in an old house and has two simulation rooms where faculty test students in real-life situations using animatronic dolls as patients. In a region where almost 40% of high school students don’t seek higher education, the faculty at COA are focused on reaching students who are not aware of the opportunities within their community.

Dean Harris is full of energy and we had to pick up our pace to keep up with her. It was impressive to see student projects covering walls and discuss efforts by the administration to grow their minority population and serve a wide array of socioeconomic groups through public engagements and high school programs to demystify community colleges.

Our group discussed the need to shift the focus on not only attracting traditional college-age learners but recognizing that adult learners and their families are also engaging in higher education via community colleges. COA noted the importance of changing the way instructors talk about higher education to shine a light on all possibilities and options that are easily obtainable.

With thanks to contributor Bridgette Cyr

The Community in Action

Meet Dr. Karrie Dixon

Dr. Karrie Dixon became CEO and Chancellor of Elizbeth City State University in 2018. She previously held the role of Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs for the University of North Carolina System, overseeing the Division of Academic and Student Affairs for the System’s 17 institutions. She has fostered innovative collaborations among the UNC System, the NC Community College System, the state’s independent colleges and universities, and the NC Department of Public Instruction – playing an instrumental part in leading multiple projects and policy changes that have greatly impacted students across the state. Dr. Dixon holds a bachelor’s degree from NC State University, a master’s degree from UNC Greensboro, and a doctorate from NC State.

U39702, 10/21