Chew ready to sink teeth into RCCC

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
Salisbury Post
Catherine Chew is ready to move back to the South.
A native of Virginia, Chew has worked in several places throughout the country, most recently in New York state as vice president of student affairs at a community college.
Now she wants to lead Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Chew, 56, told RCCC faculty and staff on Monday that their school is moving in the right direction.
“From what I read on paper, it looks like a good plan moving forward,” she said.
Chew earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Tennessee Tech University, then she began her career in education. She went on to earn a master’s degree in student personnel and a doctoral degree in career and technical education from Virginia Tech.
In 1990, Chew took a job as the assistant director of the small-business management program at New River Community College in Virginia.
Then she went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she served as the project director for the school’s Center on Education and Work.
After about one year, she began working at Madison Area Technical College, where she served for a time as the director of the Center for Instructional Excellence.
There, she realized the school wasn’t spending all its grant money, Chew said. She helped to fix that and within two years, the school was at exemplary status.
“We’re very proud of that,” Chew said.
After six years in Wisconsin, Chew headed to Texas, where she accepted a job as the dean of business, science and technology for a campus of the Dallas County Community College District.
Her career shifted again when she moved to Pennsylvania and became the dean of business technology and allied health at Northampton Community College. From there, she became an assistant dean at New Jersey City University. Now she holds a post at Orange College, which is a community college through the State University of New York.
After all that moving around, Chew said, she’s ready to come to North Carolina. Her son lives in Charlotte.
Throughout her career, Chew has grown to understand the importance of working together, she said.
At RCCC, instructors from different departments should be collaborating to offer students the best educational experience.
“I think (collaboration) is everything in today’s workplace,” Chew said. “Everything is about teams. … We tend to get in our silos and work in that area and not really see the big picture.”
It’s important for the school to collaborate outside its walls too, Chew said. School officials should work with public officials, business leaders and the local school districts, she said.
During her meeting with RCCC staff, Chew wanted to know what they liked and disliked about the school.
Some positives are the school’s tight-knit group, opportunities for personal growth and contributions to the community, staff members said.
Improvements could come in the form of better communication, they said.
The faculty and staff at RCCC have so much potential, said Gary Bigelow, the dean of industrial and engineering technologies. But that potential is often held in place, he said.
“We have to get to a point where we release the gates,” Bigelow said. “If we don’t do that, we’ll always be behind. We’ll always be a step behind.”
Contact Sarah Nagem at 704-797-7683 or