Forsyth Tech’s Award-Winning Small Business Center Director Offers Exciting New Opportunities for Learning and Collaboration

Martha Larson Small Business Center Award Winner

Forsyth Tech’s Small Business Center hired a new Director in 2022, and she has worked steadily over the past several months to increase the offerings and opportunities for small businesses in our community.

Martha Larson came to Forsyth Tech after serving at Davidson-Davie Community College, and has been recognized as the State Director of the Year by the North Carolina Community College System.

In addition to leading Forsyth Tech’s Small Business Center, Martha is also the Regional Director for the Piedmont/Triad region, providing leadership to the seven Small Business Center Directors in the region. Martha also serves as co-chair of the Professional Development Committee for the Small Business Center Network and worked to ensure the success of the planning and execution of the network’s fall and spring conferences.

According to the NCCCS, she was “…recognized for providing extensive support to three colleges that were in transition, helping with search committees to hire new directors, helping onboard new directors once hired, and supporting the completion of annual reports and counseling activities while the positions were vacant.

“It is an honor to be able to support the small business owners of our community and I am so grateful for the recognition and the support that Forsyth Tech offers through the SBC and the many programs at our campuses and centers!” Martha said.

Since being at Forsyth Tech, she has created new learning opportunities for the community. With Martha’s leadership, the Small Business Center has coordinated an AgriBusiness Conference, an arts-based conference and the Business Black Summit.

This spring, the Small Business Center is funding a Digital Marketing certificate series; and established a programming, mentoring and grant program in Spanish. The Small Business Center utilized Wells Fargo grant funds to award six clients with mentorship and grant forms of $5,000 each, and has funded over $10,000 in professional services to serve business clients in intensive counseling services that include legal, accounting, bookkeeping, and marketing assistance.

The Small Business Center also hosted a Women on the Rise leadership conference on March 3, in coordination with the Division of Inclusive Excellence and Employee Care at Forsyth Tech.

Seizing Opportunities and Giving Back Drives Forsyth Tech IT Alum

Alum Ryan Gardner

Ryan Gardner’s story is one of drive and ambition, opportunities seized, and challenges overcome. But, he wants you to know that it could be your story, too.

While Ryan overcame adversity and had to find a way to pay for school, he was fortunate to know at an early age that he wanted to go to work in IT, and he joined the Army as an Active Reserve Soldier at 18. Once there, he joined the Signal Corp in an IT-related MOS. He started at Forsyth Tech in 1999 to work towards an associate degree in IT once he left Active-Duty training. Specifically, Ryan was in the Network Administrator and Support Program. Ryan figured that between his experience while serving in the Army, as well as the hands-on training he would receive at Forsyth Tech, he would be able to find a job quickly.

While at Forsyth Tech, he had a paid internship with an IT company in Greensboro, which gave Ryan even more hands-on training and experience. By the time he earned his degree, he had also had a few certifications and was offered a position with a local company. Over the next several years, Ryan worked towards earning his bachelor’s degree, attending classes at night at High Point University, and later graduated with a major in CIS at Gardner-Webb University while he was in a systems/network administrator role in Charlotte.

Next, Ryan’s career led him back to Winston-Salem, and while he was working at Winston-Salem State University, a colleague there mentioned to him that he should teach at Forsyth Tech. As with most opportunities, Ryan was interested! He began teaching at Forsyth Tech, and this led to his leadership, communication, and presentation skills while mentoring students that had a passion for starting a career in IT. Ryan says he really enjoyed listening to and supporting his students while watching their careers grow in IT.

Ryan’s advice to students today? “Everything you’re doing at school, treat like you’re auditioning for a job. You never know who is looking at you.” He remembers having instructors and mentors at Forsyth Tech recommend him for internships and jobs, which was a huge help. It was at Forsyth Tech that Ryan’s interest in formal leadership was sparked, which led him to earn an MBA from Wake Forest University. Reflecting upon his own childhood and experiences, Ryan recalls, “I just wanted to better myself and I felt like Forsyth Tech gave me that opportunity, and I seized it.”

Now, Ryan leads a team at Zirrus, a leading provider of Managed Services and Internet that has been in business for 70+ years. They are working to build out services that will allow IT to become a strategic driver for SMB companies to grow their businesses in a way that aligns with their strategic outcomes.

He is excited about what’s ahead and has once again returned to Forsyth Tech to give back to the place where his journey began. Ryan has worked with leadership at the college to develop a paid internship program for students at Forsyth Tech.

“As a student, Ryan always approached his work from a collaborative and supportive stance.  He was one of the students who would finish his work and then offer to assist others in understanding the topics that we were covering in the curriculum,” says Chris Pearce, former Vice President for Information Technology Services and Chief Information Officer at Forsyth Tech.  “I was excited when Ryan reached out to discuss possible internship opportunities with Forsyth Tech.  These types of relationships with community partners are critical to creating opportunities for students to receive real-world experience, giving students a competitive edge upon graduation.”

While in school, they will also be hired in a full-time position at Zirrus, with the opportunity to continue on in a full-time capacity at a service desk once they have earned their degree. Ryan says they are looking for someone who is “hungry, humble, and smart,” which he knows they can find at his alma mater.


Forsyth Technical Community College Signs Apprenticeship Partnership Agreement with Stokes County Schools and Marshall Brothers Construction

South Stokes High School Student Signs Apprenticeship Partnership

Forsyth Tech commemorated several “firsts” for the college and Stokes County on Thursday, January 5 at an apprenticeship signing at South Stokes High School.

Representatives from Forsyth Tech, Stokes County Schools and Marshall Brothers Construction signed an agreement to provide the first youth apprenticeship registered through ApprenticeshipNC, the first apprenticeship partnership between Stokes County Schools and Forsyth Tech, and the first carpentry apprenticeship partnership for Forsyth Tech. Apprentices will train to become carpenters and earn a Journeyworker credential for carpentry upon completion of their work and instruction.

Student Isaac Joyce also signed his apprenticeship agreement on Thursday, and will be the first apprentice in the new program. The South Stokes High School senior said, “The biggest benefit to my apprenticeship is the people I’ve met and having them in my corner. My favorite thing about this program is the opportunity itself. I had never experienced anything other than a restaurant kitchen. In this line of work, it’s a different thing every day.”

Students like Isaac will complete carpentry courses at a Stokes County high school and then, upon graduation, complete the carpentry diploma at Forsyth Tech.

Mike Marshall, Co-owner of MBC Construction, said, “We appreciate the opportunity to be involved in this worthwhile and much needed program. At MBC, we have a lot of experience in the construction industry and are glad to pass that knowledge on to those who wish to pursue this as a career. Not everyone wants or needs to go to a four-year college and we believe it’s better to go to the workforce with a plan than to college without one.”

Forsyth Tech offers students multiple pathways to fast-track their career, through apprenticeships like these and the award-winning Learn and Earn Apprenticeship Program and many hands-on learning opportunities.

“It is an honor to partner with local businesses like Marshall Brothers Construction to give students in Stokes and Forsyth Counties opportunities and access to great careers,” said Jennifer Coulombe, Vice President of Industry Partnerships and Continuous Innovation at Forsyth Tech. “I’m sure that this will be the first of many partnerships in Stokes County.”

Superintendent Dr. Brad Rice said, “We are excited to begin a registered apprenticeship program for students. We know this program has the capacity for developing highly skilled workers for our future workforce and believe it will create life-changing opportunities for our students. It is exciting that it is a first for Stokes County and Forsyth Technical Community College.”

Forsyth Tech Announces Exploratory Exercise for Athletics

Trailblazers Forsyth Tech Logo

Forsyth Tech continues to innovate to meet our students where they are and provide holistic support outside of the classroom; the college is also embarking on an exploratory endeavor related to student life: athletics!

The college is in the early exploratory stage of determining all the details, budgets and needs for an intercollegiate athletic program. Forsyth Tech has had active intramural athletics periodically and recently participated in an intramural soccer club tournament.

From a national level, approximately 50% of two-year colleges have intercollegiate athletic programs, and within the next several years, that number is expected to climb to 65-70%. Student-athletes are also 11% more likely to graduate than the student body as a whole, and the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) shows that 30% of their competitors are first-generation students. Forsyth Tech believes that the potential for an athletics program will increase the college’s ability to foster more student success, strengthen and exemplify the already diverse student body and create an even stronger sense of belonging and inclusivity.

During this exploratory phase, the college plans to research other intercollegiate athletic programs (including e-sports) for best practices, staffing models, costs and other resources. No state dollars will be used for this exploratory research or future athletic programming, making fundraising a critical piece to this process. Community involvement and student input will be critical in determining the direction of this exploration, and Forsyth Tech intends to use surveys and other research methods to gather information from the community, K-12 partners, students, faculty and staff.

“For as long as I have been the President at Forsyth Tech, I have had students, faculty and staff come to me and mention their desire and passion for athletic programming,” said Dr. Janet N. Spriggs, President of Forsyth Tech. “We are now ready to fully explore if we can add athletics to the list of trailblazing student life and engagement activities that we provide.”

As stated, the college is in the early phases of planning, but anyone who would like to provide comments or ask questions may do so here:

New Apprenticeship Employer Partners and National Apprenticeship Week

Student working in diesel mechanics

Forsyth Technical Community College has new employer partners for diesel mechanics apprentices in the award-winning Learn and Earn Apprenticeship Program (LEAP). The announcement comes just in time for National Apprenticeship Week, November 14-18, 2022.

Salem National Lease, Best Logistics and Parrish Tire Company are the new LEAP employer partners. This means that they provide student apprentices in the diesel and heavy equipment program at the Transportation Technology Center with mentorships, support and on-the-job training.

“BEST Logistics Group is thrilled to be partnering with Forsyth Technical Community College as we work to further develop our talent pipeline through a robust apprenticeship program. The trucking industry remains on the front lines, and like many industries, we continue to forge ahead in overcoming hiring challenges and retaining the qualified diesel mechanics that are vital to keeping our fleets within BEST Logistics Group running to deliver goods all across the country,” said Dustin Johnson, Director of Talent for Best Logistics Group.

These new employer partners join Flow Automotive, Bob King Automotive, Smart Chevy and Tire Max, which support apprentices in the transportation field, specifically those studying collision repair and refinishing technology and automotive systems technology.

“Parrish Tire is excited to continue our partnership with Forsyth Tech Community College through the new Diesel Mechanic Apprenticeship program,” said David Yarbrough, Director of Company Stores with Parrish Tire Company. “We are confident that this deepening relationship will continue to allow us to provide quality career pathways and top-notch vehicle service in the communities that we serve.”

LEAP at Forsyth Tech, named the 2022 Outstanding Consortium Member by ApprenticeshipNC, provides students with the opportunity to earn a degree while gaining on-the-job training as an apprentice at an employer partner. There are now more than 30 employer partners in the program, and students study a range of topics, including advanced manufacturing, IT, automotive industries and supply chain and logistics.

New apprentices and employer partners are being accepted, and anyone interested in becoming involved should complete the form at

President of Forsyth Tech Provides the Dallas Herring Lecture Response

2022 Dallas Herring Lecture Graphic

Every year, N.C. State’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research hosts the W. Dallas Herring Lecture. Herring, considered the father of the community college system in North Carolina, helped transform the way that North Carolinians access community college.

According to the Belk Center’s website, “The lecture invites top community college leaders to speak on urgent and emerging topics, framing how to address the issues and proposing a path forward. On Tuesday, November 8th, Mike Flores, Ph.D., chancellor of the Alamo Colleges District, will deliver the 2022 Dallas Herring Lecture under the title of Community Colleges in Action: Advancing Equity and Enhancing Economic Mobility Using Local Collective Impact Strategies. “

This year, Dr. Janet Spriggs, President of Forsyth Tech, will offer a response to the Dr. Flores’ comments. Spriggs’ response will cover what North Carolina community colleges are doing to address systemic barriers to success for students, and offer practical as well as inspirational advice on how college leadership, faculty and staff can cultivate a sense of belonging among all students.

Spriggs, now beginning her fourth year as president, is uniquely positioned to share how North Carolina’s open-access institutions are poised to continue to address inequities in education. Forsyth Tech works tirelessly to address achievement gaps, and has invested significantly in a framework of inclusive excellence that has been implemented at every campus and center.

Shredding Event on Oct. 14!

Forsyth Tech is hosting a Shred-A-Thon!

Community members, students, faculty and staff are invited to participate in the free shredding event at Forsyth Tech’s Davis iTEC/Cybersecurity Center on Friday, October 14 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and this event is a great way to dispose of your documents and other materials with sensitive information. In addition to documents, you may bring hard drives, floppy disks, VHS tapes and DVDs to be safely and securely destroyed. Staples, paper clips, binder clips and rubber bands do not need to be removed from documents.

Archive Information Management (AIM) will be on-site with their truck and receptacles to dispose of these items. AIM is funded by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The event is Friday, October 14 from 9 a.m.  1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Robert L. Strickland Center at Forsyth Tech, 2100 Silas Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem, NC.

Notice of Non-Affiliation with Aces Elite Sports Academy

Forsyth Technical Community College is not affiliated, associated, partnered, or in any way connected with the Aces Elite Sports Academy, or any of its subsidiaries or its affiliates.

If you have additional questions, please contact the Vice President of Student Success Services, Masonne Sawyer (, 336.734.7479). Members of the media should contact the college’s public information officer, Devin Purgason (, 336.734.7230).

Dr. Janet Spriggs Elected to Leadership Role on AAWCC Board

Picture of Dr. Janet Spriggs

Dr. Janet N. Spriggs, President of Forsyth Technical Community College, has been elected as the Vice President of Membership for the American Association of Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC).

Spriggs brings more than 25 years of experience in higher education to her role on the Board and will serve for a period of four years in the elected position, beginning in July.

Founded in 1973, The American Association for Women in Community Colleges is the leading national organization that champions women and maximizes their potential at community colleges. Founded in 1973, AAWCC provides education, career development, and advancement to women educators and students at community colleges. As a council of the American Association of Community Colleges, AAWCC and its members are committed to equity and education of all women students at community colleges across the nation.

Dr. Monique Umphrey, President of the AAWCC, said, “We appreciate the talent, skills and experiences that Dr. Spriggs will bring to the office of Vice President for Membership.”

“I’m excited to serve and lead this extraordinary group of women educators and difference-makers,” said Dr. Spriggs. “Forsyth Tech is a catalyst for equitable economic mobility, and our mission aligns with the AAWCC’s, as we all work towards a more just and equitable future.”

Forsyth Tech Student Han Nguyen Awarded Prestigious Scholarship

Han Nguyen

Han Nguyen, a student that graduated from Forsyth Tech this spring, has been awarded the prestigious Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The highly competitive national scholarship provides students transferring from community colleges to four-year universities up to $55,000 a year to complete their bachelor’s degrees at the college of their choice. The scholarship is awarded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Nguyen graduated from Forsyth Tech with an associate in science and will attend Liberty University in the fall to study Biomedical Sciences. Upon earning her bachelor’s degree, she plans to enroll in medical school to pursue an M. D. and eventually join Doctors Without Borders. Nguyen is currently an intern for the Radiological Control Technician Training Program through August.

While at Forsyth Tech, Nguyen was always a stand-out student; she participated in Phi Theta Kappa and was the New Century Transfer Scholarship recipient, she was in Alpha Mu Beta, was a Global Scholar of Distinction, and was named the Academic Excellence Student and the Dallas Herring Nominee.

The Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship had 1,200 applicants this year from 42 states and the District of Columbia. 100 scholarships were awarded, which was the largest cohort of scholars for the Cooke Foundation to date.

“We are thrilled for Han to be recognized and rewarded with a Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship!” said Dr. Janet Spriggs, President of Forsyth Tech. “Of course, it was no surprise, as Han’s academic excellence and commitment to service are unparalleled. She is a wonderful representative of how our Forsyth Tech grads are blazing new trails!”