In this crisis together: How community colleges are handling COVID-19.
The State Board of Community Colleges voted to approve five temporary amendments to help with the impact of COVID-19 in a conference call meeting today.
The amendments will be operational for 180 days or until the State Board rescinds them.


In the midst of the COVID-19 health emergency, the College prepares to offer a personal connection with students and faculty.

Winston-Salem, N.C. – In the midst of this unprecedented COVID-19 and national emergency, Forsyth Tech believes  it is critically important to do any and every thing feasible to relieve as much of students’ and employees’ added worry and stress as possible.

“There is already a tremendous amount of research out there about loneliness and social isolation,” said President of Forsyth Tech, Janet N. Spriggs, “Scenarios like this make that even more challenging to combat.”

The discussion then went beyond managing the state of the college in transitioning from teaching in classrooms to remote learning, to the greater basic issues facing so many students.

“I worry about our students who are hearing daunting news and feeling more and more overwhelmed by the state of our world,” said Spriggs. “Our student population, in normal times and more so now, faces numerous challenges that are not academic-related, that are barriers to their success in the classroom as well as their daily lives. We want our students to be successful but realize that we need to care for the whole person and not just what happens in the classroom.”

Understanding these issues became a very clear mission for Forsyth Tech. One goal was at the forefront – to provide the best for our students and to show them Forsyth Tech cares.

The college is proud to launch a new initiative to help students and employees make it through this crisis together. Forsyth Tech Cares is a new comprehensive approach for connecting students, staff and faculty to the resources and support services they need. We will be able to provide critical support by answering questions, connecting them to emergency financial assistance, and making sure they are doing okay mentally and emotionally.

“When it comes right down to it, we know these are incredibly difficult times for all of us. But community colleges are the best at caring for our students, faculty and staff as family. We are used to rallying around the needs of everyone….when one of us hurts, we all share that pain,” said Spriggs. “I am optimistic because I already see us coming together, thinking differently and creatively, and being willing to do whatever it takes to love and serve our students and each other.”

The college has rallied a task force of interested staff and faculty, and especially those who cannot work remotely in their current jobs, to become student advocates, connecting with each student to show them Forsyth Tech Cares, and to find out how the College can help them weather the COVID-19 storm. The college has also developed a special webpage where students, and employees can share their needs.

“We will ask about concerns about distance education, how are they are handling the stress, if there are any social services to which we can connect them, if they need emergency help from the Forsyth Tech Foundation, and answer any questions about the changes to their classes,” said Masonne Sawyer, vice president of student success services at Forsyth Tech. “We truly hope that we can protect our students from suffering academically due to challenges over which they have no control.”

Additionally, on March 19 at 2 p.m., while students are on an expanded spring break, the college will host a Facebook Live where President Spriggs will talk directly to students, faculty and staff and answer their questions.

Ultimately, we hope that no matter how long COVID-19 lasts, Forsyth Tech Cares that every student who started this semester will finish and will be proud they persevered.

About Forsyth Tech

Forsyth Technical Community College is a catalyst for equitable economic mobility, empowering lives and transforming communities. The college offers associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates in more than 200 programs of study, including programs that promote personal and professional development through non-credit courses and seminars, as well as customized training for business and industry. Forsyth Tech serves more than 35,000 students with approximately 1,500 full and part-time faculty and staff.  For additional information, please visit and follow Forsyth Tech on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Aid where it matters: Small business among hardest hit by shut down

Forsyth Technical Community College Small Business Center Director Allan Younger used a single word to describe how small businesses and entrepreneurs will be affected by the shutdown surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.


Younger this week is pointing those seeking advice to the U.S. Small Business Administration and to business owners’ local chambers of commerce websites for direction.

“Everybody knows that depending on what type of small business it is, this situation is going to be devastating to many of them,” Younger said.

Joel D. Welch, Ph.D., PE Selected as Next President of Western Piedmont Community College

On March 19, 2020, the Western Piedmont Community College Board of Trustees named Joel D. Welch, Ph.D., PE, the seventh president of the college, succeeding Michael S. Helmick, Ed.D. who announced he would retire on June 30, 2020, following a ten-year career with the college.

Joel D. Welch PhotoDr. Welch has extensive community college experience having spent the past twenty-one years in roles at Greenville Technical College and most recently at Forsyth Technical Community College. Dr. Welch has served as an Instructor and Department Chair in hazardous materials technology, Dean for Engineering Technology, Associate Vice President for Administration, Dean for Business & Technology, Vice President for Instructional Services, Vice President for Transformative Learning, and Provost.

Welch stated “I am excited and deeply honored to have the opportunity to serve as the next president of Western Piedmont Community College. WPCC is an exemplary institution recognized for its commitment to student success and support for economic development. I am grateful to the Board of Trustees and the faculty and staff for the trust that they have placed in me to lead WPCC into the future. I look forward to building upon the great work that has already been accomplished and working with the faculty, staff and the community to cultivate a shared vision that supports student success, economic development and economic mobility. Together we are going to accomplish great things at our college and in our community.”

Dr. Welch grew up in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina and received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering from The University of South Carolina, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership from Clemson University.

Dr. Welch was selected by the WPCC Board of Trustees to lead the college after an extensive nationwide search that attracted a strong and diverse pool of 79 applicants. The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) assisted WPCC with the search and selection process.

“Welch’s previous experience aligns with the goals of the Board to continue collaborative efforts with regional educational and workforce partners initiated by President Helmick” said Board of Trustees Chair and Co-Chair of the Search Committee Scott Mulwee. “His broad community college experience and dedication to student success position him well to further the mission of Western Piedmont Community College to provide accessible, high-quality education that improves lives and promotes growth in our community.”

Dr. Welch will begin full-time on July 1, 2020. At that time, the college will host community forums to introduce Dr. Welch to the community.

Expanding local Lowe’s data center helps company meet demand for IT staffers

Lowe’s Cos. Inc.’s constant search for information-technology employees has led it to expand a mission-critical niche office in Winston-Salem.

The company moved into a 27,000-square-foot space at 5644 University Parkway in January that gives it ample room for the dozens of jobs it shifted recently from corporate operations functions in Wilkesboro. A grand-opening event was held last week.

The $100 million data center in Corporate Office Park now has a separate IT service desk workforce of 110 with plans to hire an additional 20 full-time and contract workers as soon as feasible. Hiring information can be found at

Bienenstock Furniture Library Announces 2020 Interior Design Competition Winners

$7,500 in scholarships awarded to three students. More than $460,000 has been awarded since the inception of the scholarships

High Point, NC — (March 2, 2020) Last week the Bienenstock Furniture Library Board of Directors announced the winners of the Library’s annual Interior Design Competition, awarding $7,500 in scholarships to distinguished scholars to continue their studies in Interior Design.

In addition, their schools will receive a $1,000 bonus to fund academic programs. The Bienenstock scholarship is open to any junior, senior or graduate student enrolled in an accredited college design program. The Library has awarded more than $460,000 in scholarship money to date. Winning entries can be viewed on the Library’s website at

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is the official sponsor of the competition providing creative project ideas and assisting in the judging process. This is an annual competition and a new contest will be announced in May of 2020.

INTERIOR DESIGN COMPETITION Entrants were given the following real-world assignment:

Design a sleepover camp activity center for co-ed campers for all children, including special needs campers. Located in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, design a private residence for camp director and executive offices for camp. All plans, drawings and specifications were given to the students. They were also asked to design a logo.

The competition received multiple entries from colleges throughout the country including: Saddleback College, Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia Tech, Randolph Community College, Forsyth Technical Community College, University of Central Oklahoma and Savannah College of Art & Design.

The distinguished panel of judges included: Christi Spangle, Barbour Spangle Design; Kara Cox, Kara Cox Interiors; Brianne Verstat, Barbour Spangle Design; Gwen Emery, NCSU; Jessica Alpert, Gensler; June Anderson, ASID; Marilyn Russell, Baker Barrios, and Holly Woodward, Baker Furniture.

Wolike logo with a house on the backgroudThe winning entry was named Wëlike Playhouse submitted by Xin Schiffman of Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. According to Schiffman, the name, Wëlike, (pronounced WOO-LEE-KAY) was derived from the indigenous Lena’pe Native Americans living in the area and literally means “He has a nice home.” She notes, “The name closely resembles “We like” in English, and connotes “we like the playhouse”, a fun and comfortable place that will
welcome every camper.” The design of the logo was adapted from a piece of furniture designed by Greg Klassen and is aptly named the Glass River, which combines the natural beauty of glass and natural wood, suggesting that a river runs through it. Rendered PlayhouseAccording to
Schiffman, In the Lena’pe language, “Pocono” means “A river between two mountains.” The river theme is carried throughout the design to connect the facility to the local surroundings. The river theme is carried throughout the entire design. A running river flows from the front entrance across the floor to create not only visual interest but also a traffic path.

She added, “The last important element of my design is nature. Sustainability is a priority in the design. Ecofriendly materials like local woods are cost-saving, while some new tech sustainable products are applied on the floors and ceilings. They are more durable and have a lower environmental cost than natural materials, but with a low carbon footprint.” The design concept is intended to create a friendly home for summer campers aged 8 to 14 of various backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles.

Floor Plant drawingJudge Christi Spangle commented: “Xin’s beautiful renderings helped to fully articulate the camp focused design concept. She clearly thought through the project, with great attention to detail and technical attention.

When asked to explain her inspiration, she added, “The regionally diverse cultures of the native Indians and the natural beauty of their geography. The picture of Delaware Water Gap reminded me of an American photographer, Laura Gilpin, who is known for her photography of Native Americans.

Gilpin’s quote is, ‘A river seems a magical thing. A magical, moving, living part of the very earth itself.’ I decided to use the concept of the river as my major design element.”

Xin Schiffman PhotoWhen asked about how she first became interested in Interior Design, she replied “I am originally from China and have been in this country for many years. I was a business major in college and an art lover since I was a teenager. Art museums are my favorite places to visit when I travel. When I helped my family to renovate an old house, I was overwhelmed by the many critical considerations like space planning, styles, materials, and furniture. I realized a systematic study would be helpful. That’s why I decided to start the Interior Design program at Saddleback College.” When asked about her career goals upon graduation and her long-term dream job , she said, “I spent quite a lot of time investigating new materials for this project and am amazed by all the new technologies which are not only energy-efficient with a low carbon footprint, but also provide great aesthetic appeal. I would like to apply what I have learned in the design of green, comfortable and affordable housing.”

Farida Gabdrakhmanova, Professor of Interior Design at Saddleback College said, “Xin strives to push the envelope of every project beyond what is required of the assignment, and this competition project was no exception. Her thorough geographical and historical research resulted in the strong design concept that incorporated the natural surroundings and local environs, the history of the native inhabitants, as well as the client’s requirements.

Thinking ‘outside the box,’ attention to details, and artistic approach produced a creative space plan reflecting a concept that was fully compliant with the program and code requirements. Xin artfully wove the history and the future through innovative materials, sustainable technologies, and selection of furniture and accessories inspired by the art and local historical cultures. She combines artistic vision and technical skills with a strong work ethic, and her project has bloomed like a beautiful flower with each petal having its meaning and purpose.”

Drawing showing a dancer on a stage.The second-place winner was Soraia DeSouza, who is also a student at Saddleback College, in Mission Viejo California. She receives a $1,500 scholarship to be applied to continuing her education. When asked about her intention, she replied, “Design concepts based on visual experiences create an interesting learning environment. In the great room called Forest, children can engage in activities such as crafts, reading or watching plays. They will be entertained the whole time while learning. The Center and its activities were designed under the universal design concept. Xin Schiffman First Place Winner Saddleback College

It’s a flexible space, accommodating to everyone. Sensory design and careful choices in the finishing materials induce a healthier experience by engaging children to the center.” Judge Holly Woodward complimented DeSouza’s project for its detailed thought of concept, excellent use of color, and organization.

Emberside batchThe third-place winner was Kevin Gerbrandt of Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, NC. He receives a $1,000 scholarship to be applied to continuing education. Gerbrandt’s design focused on a return to nature. When asked about his inspiration, he replied, “In a world where we – and especially our youth – are more digitally connected than ever, we experience more loneliness and isolation. Responding to the problem of this e pidemic lies at the heart of my solution: to design a space in which our youth can build more authentic relationships with one another through increased connectivity not through technology, but through the land and the natural environment they inhabit.” Judge Bri Verstat noted, “Great use of space, organized floor plans, and excellent renderings.”

Kevin's Photo

An honorable mention went to Michelle Zoldano, Saddleback College, Mission Viejo California for her project, AGATventure Therapeutic Camp. Judges felt this was a strong project, deserving recognition for its layout and concept.

THE BIENENSTOCK SCHOLARSHIPS The annual Bienenstock Scholarship competitions are open to any junior, senior or graduate student enrolled in an accredited college program of furniture design or interior design. Since 1984, the Library has awarded more than $460,000 in scholarships to students in hundreds of colleges and universities. Judging is blind—with no name or college shown with the submission. A distinguished panel of industry experts juried each competition.

ABOUT BIENENSTOCK FURNITURE LIBRARY The Library’s collection of more than 5,000 curated volumes, periodicals and original materials spans 600 years of design history, placing the full spectrum of design ideas – from the greatest movements to the smallest details – in the hands of tomorrow’s innovators and creators. In addition to endowing the next generation of designers with this rich array of resources, we create ideal conditions for the discovery and nurturing of the new design visions and ideologies that will transform the way we work and live. Beautiful workspaces invite students and professionals to become fully immersed in our materials. The sculpture garden surrounding the Library provides a place for quiet reflection. Meeting spaces and a multi-media seminar room provide space for professionals and organizations to speak about design, share information, solve industry challenges, and discuss the ideas that will shape tomorrow’s spaces. By serving as North America’s premier repository of design ideas, and creating a platform for study, reflection, collaboration, and outreach, the Bienenstock Furniture Library is the place where creative minds can touch history and design the future. The easiest way to stay up to date on the developments of the library is to “LIKE” its Facebook page at:


ASID logoASID is a community of people driven by a common love for design and committed to the belief that interior design, as a service to people, is a powerful, multi-faceted profession that can positively change people’s lives. Through education, knowledge sharing, advocacy, community building and outreach, the Society strives to advance the interior design profession and, in the process, to demonstrate and celebrate the power of design to positively change people’s lives. Its more than 30,000 members engage in a variety of professional programs and activities through a network of 48 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. Founded in 1975, the American Society of Interior Designers is the


New Leaders of Colleges Educating a Half-Million Students Tapped to Participate
in Comprehensive Program to Advance Student Success

Winston-Salem, NC, February 5, 2020 – Janet N. Spriggs, president of Forsyth Technical Community College, has been selected by the Aspen Institute to join the 2020-21 inaugural class of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship, a new initiative designed to support community college presidents in the early years of their tenure to accelerate transformational change on behalf of students.

“We are extremely proud that Dr. Spriggs is one of the first presidents chosen for the Aspen Institute’s New Presidents Fellowship,” said Ann Bennett-Phillips, chair of the Forsyth Tech Board of Trustees. “She is a student-centered leader who is committed to advancing student success, intentionally focusing on excellence in teaching and learning, using data to close equity gaps and developing partnerships to advance Forsyth Tech’s work as a leader in workforce and economic development within our communities.”

“I’m honored and privileged to be included in the first cohort of the new presidents fellowship,” said Spriggs. “This is an incredible opportunity to learn from Aspen Institute faculty and top community college leaders, while collaborating with forward thinking peers engaged in transformational change efforts across the country. I am also eager to share the work we are doing at Forsyth Tech to achieve our vision of being a catalyst for equitable economic mobility, empowering lives and transforming communities.”

The fellows, who have been college presidents for five years or less, were selected for their commitment to student success and equity, willingness to take risks to improve outcomes, understanding of the importance of community partnerships, and ability to lead change. They will engage in a seven-month fellowship beginning in June 2020.

“We know more than ever before about how community colleges can improve outcomes for students, both in and after college,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “And the urgency for them to do so only increases—especially for students of color and low-income students. These fellows have shown they are fully, urgently committed to excellence and equity, and we look forward to working alongside them.”

Nearly 80 percent of community college presidents nationwide plan to retire in the next decade. Through this fellowship and its other leadership programs, Aspen is committed to helping to replace those exiting the presidency with an exceptionally capable and highly diverse talent pool. According to the American Council on Education, only 36 percent of community college presidents are female, and 20 percent are people of color. The incoming class of Aspen fellows is 48 percent female, and 40 percent are people of color. Their institutions span 15 states and vary widely, from a rural college with fewer than 2,000 students to a statewide system that educates more than 150,000.

“By preparing students and workers for in-demand jobs and meeting the training needs of businesses, community colleges are critical institutions for their regions’ prosperity and development,” said Jennie Sparandara, head of workforce initiatives, JPMorgan Chase. “JPMorgan Chase is proud to partner with the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program to build the next generation of diverse community college leaders.”

The program for new presidents is an addition to the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, which has been serving aspiring presidents since 2016. Of the nearly 160 fellows who have taken part in the Rising Presidents Fellowship, 41 are now community college presidents, serving more than 500,000 students.

JPMorgan Chase is funding the Aspen Presidential Fellowship as part of New Skills at Work, a five-year, $350 million investment to support community colleges and other pathways to great careers and economic mobility.

Janet Spriggs Portrait Photo

For a bio and photo of Janet N. Spriggs and a list of the 2020-21 class of Aspen Presidential Fellows, visit:




Forsyth Technical Community College is a catalyst for equitable economic mobility, empowering lives and transforming communities. The college offers associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates in over 200 programs of study, including programs that promote personal and professional development through non-credit courses and seminars, as well as customized training for business and industry. Forsyth Tech serves more than 35,000 students with approximately 1,500 full and part-time faculty and staff.  For additional information, visit and follow on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices and leadership strategies that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at @AspenHigherEd.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.6 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at