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ECSU Working Group holds last meeting

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Chancellor Karrie Dixon addresses members of the Elizabeth City State University Phase 2 Working Group, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2017. The group, which was formed to pave the way for improvements at the university, held its final meeting on Wednesday.

033018 Harold Barnes
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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Elizabeth City State University officials agreed this week that the ECSU Phase 2 Working Group, which held its final meeting on Wednesday, has paved the way for continued improvement at the university and likely rendered a third working group unnecessary.

ECSU Trustee Harold Barnes, who chaired the Phase 2 Working Group after Walter Davenport of the UNC Board of Governors became ill, said after Wednesday’s meeting he believes the working group process has fulfilled its function. He doesn’t expect there will be a Phase 3 Working Group.

“I think it has done what it needed to do,” Barnes said.

The ECSU Board of Trustees and UNC Board of Governors are working as a team now, Barnes said. Some ECSU trustees now attend every meeting of the Board of Governors — participation that is both welcomed and expected by the UNC System, he said.

ECSU Chancellor Karrie Dixon offered a similar assessment in an interview after the meeting.

“I don’t anticipate a Working Group 3,” Dixon said. “We have made significant progress.”

The ECSU campus has been “amazingly responsive” to the initiatives of the working group, Dixon said.

“This has been an all-hands-on-deck approach,” she said.

In a presentation to the working group, Dixon explained that UNC System President Margaret Spellings commissioned the Phase 2 Working Group in October to prepare ECSU to capitalize on the opportunities ahead — especially NC Promise — by achieving what Spellings called “permanent and significant improvements in operations and processes.” NC Promise is the tuition-reduction program that will go into effect at ECSU and two other campuses this fall.

One key area of improvement has been in the facilities that affect students, according to Dixon. Improvements include a new dormitory courtyard, an upgraded campus front entrance, a new green space and gathering area for students outside the Thorpe Administration Building, repairs to the student bowling alley, repairs to Viking Village, new furniture and technology in student service areas and dining facility, and landscaping around buildings, she said.

In the area of personnel, Dixon said, the university has appointed a financial aid director, associate financial aid director, director of budget, chief of staff and additional auditor. Allyn Goodson, the university’s general counsel, has had his duties expanded to include chief operations officer, she said. A new vice chancellor for student affairs is also slated to start in July, and the university soon will hire a new athletic director and a new director of admissions.

Dixon explained that business and process improvements at ECSU have included a new enterprise risk management process, facility maintenance reporting, financial aid compliance, quality control in admissions processes, and a student safety initiative known as ECSU Safe.

Next steps will include securing funding for a new library, new campus master plan, a card access system and a campuswide surveillance system, Dixon said.

The university needs continued support from the UNC System in areas such as advocacy, marketing of NC Promise and allocation of repair and renovation funds, Dixon said.

“This university is great and it will be greater as we continue to push forward,” Dixon said.

James Cherry, chairman of the ECSU Alumni Association Board of Directors, said many alumni were at first wary of what might happen when Spellings set up the first working group. But those concerns have been put to rest, he said.

“I am very pleased at the work that the working group has done,” Cherry said.

Harry Smith, who becomes the chairman of the UNC Board of Governors on Monday, said he appreciates Dixon’s vision and leadership. Smith participated in Wednesday’s working group meeting by telephone.

Darrell Allison, also a member of the UNC Board of Governors, said Dixon “has taken the bull by the horns” and done a great job.

Barnes said the working group has prepared ECSU to contribute even more to the economic development of northeastern North Carolina and the building up of families and communities.

Barnes said he appreciated the leadership of Steve Long of the Board of Governors and the work Davenport did in getting the working group process off to a good start.

Everyone working together will make ECSU “the light in the East,” Barnes said.

He also said Spellings had “sent us her best, which is Karrie Dixon.”

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