Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 10, 2013

SALISBURY — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College leaders answered questions about everything from construction projects to campus safety Wednesday morning.
College president Dr. Carol Spalding and Student Government Association President James Hopkins hosted a forum in the student center of the North Campus, inviting students, faculty and staff to enjoy a hot breakfast while being filled in on the latest college news.
“We get questions through Facebook, Twitter, all kinds of social media, but some people like face-to-face,” Spalding said.
Instead of giving a lengthy presentation, Spalding decided to keep the event informal by providing quick answers to questions that were gathered using social media and submitted during the forum.
“We’re using this as a great gathering to kick off the spring term,” she said. “Our future is bright and that’s what we want to share today.”
One of the most talked about topics was the construction projects, many of which will be funded with a $12 million bond passed in November 2010.
Spalding said the college is currently in the bid process for the fire and emergency services training facility, with hopes of breaking ground on Jan. 28. The building is set to be complete by the end of the year.
“If you drive by there, you can see it’s well out of date,” she said. “We’re going to have the latest and greatest fire training facility so we have the best trained firefighters that we can have.”
Building 600, which houses the allied health programs, will undergo a 30,000-square-foot expansion to add 18 new classrooms by the end of 2014. That addition will allow the college to start occupational therapy assistant and physical therapy assistant programs.
Spalding said the new OneStop student services center will open in February.
“It’s going to be a great place for students to get all the information they need,” she said.
Gaye McConnell, vice president of student services, answered a student-submitted question about what OneStop is and how it will impact students.
She said students will be able to do everything from register for class to pay fees at the new center.
“We started this project in order to better serve our students across various campuses,” she said. “It’s really designed to help streamline the process.”
Spalding said current students will have the “hard part of living through renovations,” but they will also reap the benefits from the improvements.
“We already have good teachers, so we’re going to have better equipment and better facilities,” she said.
Spalding took the lead to answer a question about why all programs aren’t offered at both the North and South campuses.
“We don’t have the money to duplicate programs everywhere,” she said. “We try to make sure it’s as convenient as possible for students.”
Spalding used the nursing program, which was moved to the college’s facility at the North Carolina Research Campus about a year ago, as an example of a move to consolidate costs.
“Neither facility was in adequate shape and the program director really wanted them together, and had for many, many years,” she said. “We had the opportunity and the space to move those programs to the Research Campus.
“Really our focus is to try to make that money go further.”
A student in the audience posed a question about options for people who prefer to stay away from online classes.
“A lot of this has to do with personal preference and what works for you,” Spalding said. “Online is terrific for people who like self-discipline and working on computer.”
Spalding said the college is moving toward offering more hybrid classes in the future, allowing students the chance to get some classroom time.
“That’s the best of both worlds,” she said. “If you’re nervous about going online, it’s good to talk to students who have had those experiences.”
Misty Moler, director of counseling services, talked about a new program at the college after a question was posed about services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“I’m so glad this question came in,” she said. “We are initiating a program this semester across campus that is available at a lot of campuses around the nation … faculty and students can be trained to be a safe zone ally.”
Moler said those people will have stickers on their backpacks or workplaces to let students know it’s a safe to talk without the fear of prejudice.
McConnell addressed a question about SAP, which stands for satisfactory academic progress.
“Satisfactory academic progress is something students need to be aware of, they must have a certain grade point average and not have an excessive number of withdrawals in order to remain eligible for financial aid,” she said. “If you get an email that you don’t understand, please contract the staff in financial aid.”
Tim Bost, director of campus security, answered the final question of the day about what is being done at Rowan-Cabarrus to make sure students are safe.
“In security, we want to do more than make you feel safe, we want you to actually be safe,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to come to class worrying about your personal safety.”
Bost said a total of 52 officers patrol all of the college’s locations.
“Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don’t. It depends on where they are and what they’re doing,” he said.
Bost said he’s working to build a better security program by improving the communication system..
“I’m a real stickler about communication,” he said. “We’re moving in the direction of a new radio system that will allow us to communicate between campuses.”
The college is also hoping to gain a direct link to the county 911 system, Bost said. The installation of surveillance cameras is also being considered.
“We are an open campus, we will remain that way,” he said.
College spokeswoman Paula Dibley said students can sign up to receive text messages and emails through a warning system on WebAdvisor.
Spalding ended the forum by encouraging those in attendance to offer their ideas in the future.
“We are adaptable and we are looking for continuous improvement,” she said. “We’d love to hear from you if you’ve got suggestions on how to improve.”

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.