Category Archives: Spotlight On

Durham Tech director transforms lives in Triangle’s automotive industry

Nate Smith (right) instructs students on oil changing basics.

On a Wednesday morning in early June, Nate Smith hopped in his Ford truck, flipped the A/C on full blast, and set out for Holloway Street. He’s meeting with the owner of AutoSense Service Center to discuss an opening for a mechanic.

He has a student in mind.

It’s a routine visit for Smith, a Durham native, who goes out of his way to help his students secure jobs.

AutoSense is almost 100 percent employed by Durham Tech graduates, much, in part, because of Smith’s unwavering support for his students. According to Smith, most dealerships, garages, or automotive retailers in the area have vehicle bays chocked full of Durham Tech alumni.

“I can look my students in the eye and promise them a job,” Smith said. “It’s such a guarantee, that if you came through the program, got ASE Certified, and threw a dart at a map of the U.S. from across the room, you could get a job wherever it landed. I can’t say that for any other career other than nursing because everywhere you go, you’ve got broke down cars and broke down bodies.”

Smith has seen the fruit of his labor since he started teaching in 2001.

“There are some dealerships in this town where more than 60 percent of their mechanics came out of Durham Tech,” Smith said. “When you teach a student how to fix a car and then you walk through a dealership two years later and they call out your name. There they are. They’re making $40,000 to $60,000 per year. They’re feeding their families. They’re doing well – and to know you had a little part to play in that – it feels good to know you made a difference in those folk’s lives.”

‘You light up when you teach’

Once the owner of AutoSmith Garage, Smith transitioned to teaching after a conversation in the fall of 2000. A student at Durham Tech, who worked under Smith, told him he had a knack for it.

“When he graduated from Durham Tech and got ready to go to NC State, he looked at me and said, ‘You really need to consider closing your garage and start teaching full-time at Durham Tech. I came here knowing nothing and I’ve watched you take two hours to show me how to fix something and I knew you weren’t getting paid for it. You have lost money to teach me and you love it. You light up when you teach.’ ”

Smith thought about that conversation for the next several months.

“I was driving home from dropping my kids off at church camp that following summer and kept running his words through my head,” Smith said. “You lost money to teach me, you light up when you teach. I wondered if it was true. I think he’s crazy, but what if he’s right?”

Nate Smith (right) meets with Xun Qian (left), owner of Autosense Garage, to talk about employing one of his students after graduation.

His next stop was Durham Tech.

“I knew Durham Tech was off of Highway 147 somewhere so I thought, I’ll just find Durham Tech, I’ll roll up in there and I’ll let them know I have my Bachelor’s degree in education, another Bachelor’s degree in theology, I’m Master ASE Certified, and I run a shop,” Smith said. “I talked to someone in the automotive program and got a call from the director the next day. He said, ‘We’ve been looking for someone. You’d be perfect. We want you, we need you.’ ”

Robert Ballard, automotive instructor at Chapel Hill High School, was 17 when he enrolled in Smith’s program. He was an AutoSmith Scholarship recipient and originally just wanted a certificate or diploma, but Smith pushed him to get a degree.

Afterward, Smith helped him get a job as a continuing education instructor at the College.

“I don’t think he loves anything more than teaching and he loves impacting people’s lives. I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if it wasn’t for Nate,” Ballard said. “He got me my start in automotive, a career, and now teaching so he’s really led the path for me to have financial security. I don’t have to worry or rely on anyone else. He helped me establish my life.”

Walking in father’s footsteps

Smith is a family man. It’s a legacy in his family.

“Dad was very gracious, benevolent, and driven. He didn’t know any enemies,” Smith said. “He was just a great guy and I wish I could be more like him.”

The late Glen Loy Smith, Sr. was a business man, minister, and former adjunct instructor at Durham Tech that placed high value on equality and helping others.

“He was a big believer in Durham Rescue Mission. He liked changing people’s lives,” Smith said.

In 2006, Smith started the AutoSmith Scholarship with the Durham Tech Foundation, which offsets the cost of one introductory automotive course, to serve as a starting point for a college career.

“I wanted to do something big, something that counted for something,” Smith said. “I saw the need of giving a percentage of your paycheck back to help students. It’s my way of honoring my dad, honoring Durham Tech, and helping automotive students who wouldn’t have the funds otherwise.”

When his dad passed away in 2008, Smith altered the scholarship to give priority to individuals in the homeless community by way of Durham Rescue Mission.

“I wanted to tailor the scholarship to the homeless to honor my dad,” Smith said. “The inspiration for what I do comes from Dad’s commitment. In some ways, he’s still having an effect on this earth.”

The AutoSmith Scholarship has been awarded to 16 students since its inception.

Smith’s dream for the automotive department at Durham Tech grew last year when Marc Pons, owner of Chapel Hill Tire, also started an automotive scholarship at the College.

Pons, who has brought on a number of Durham Tech students for work experience at his business’ locations, said Smith’s passion is an inspiration.

“Nate cares deeply for his students. That’s what makes him a great leader,” Pons said. “Nate takes a keen interest in his students’ well-being and that leaves a lasting impact.”

A family tradition

The Smith family has a rich Durham Tech heritage. All five of his children have attended or will attend Durham Tech.

His three oldest children attended the College before joining the Navy, pursing business, and becoming a nurse, while his fourth child is a current student in the Architectural Technology program. His youngest will start Middle College High School on Durham Tech’s campus this year.

“You could say Durham Tech is a Nathan Smith family tradition,” Smith said. “We believe in Durham Tech.”

Smith said he has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.

“As long as Durham Tech will have me, I’m here,” Smith said. “This is not a job. I love it. There are some aspects, like paperwork, that is not my forte, but I endure the paperwork to watch people learn to do something they didn’t think they could do.”

Nate Smith

Durham Tech students receive Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarships

Durham Tech President Dr. Bill Ingram poses with Durham Tech students Ednah Sangaka and Brandi Crosson, who received the 2018 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship.

Two students from Durham Technical Community College have been named as
2018 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholars.

The students, Ednah Sangaka and Brandi Crosson, were among 207 Phi Theta
Kappa members recognized this year. They each received a $1,000 scholarship.

“It has been such a joy to watch these young ladies grow into leadership roles
within our chapter,” said Kimberly Boyce, faculty advisor of Beta Tau Phi, the
Durham Tech chapter of Phi Theta Kappa.

“They both have been wonderful assets to our team and have pushed themselves
beyond their comfort zones in order to get involved with the great things that Beta
Tau Phi is doing and has planned this semester. I can’t wait to watch things unfold
for these two remarkable students.”

The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program helps defray educational
expenses for new Phi Theta Kappa members while they are enrolled in associate
degree programs.

More than 1,200 people applied for the scholarship. The winners were selected
based on academic achievement, community service, and leadership potential.

“The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has a long history of providing financial
assistance to outstanding students at community colleges,” said Jane Hale
Hopkins, Executive Vice President and President-Elect of the Coca-Cola Scholars
Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Phi Theta Kappa to make it possible for
more deserving students to achieve their educational goals and support
tomorrow’s leaders of the global community.”

Phi Theta Kappa is a premier honor society recognizing the academic
achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them
to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3.5 million
members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 10 nations. For more information,

For more information about the Durham Tech chapter, visit

Designing the future of Durham Tech

Kevin G. Montgomery (left) and Carmen Williams (right)

Kevin G. Montgomery peered down at a miniature model of the Durham Tech main campus and pointed to a number of places where future buildings and a plaza are slated to go.

Montgomery, the President and Chief Operating Officer at O’Brien Atkins Associates, has been involved in nearly 30 years of renovation and reinvigoration projects for Durham Tech. His architecture firm has redesigned several buildings on the main campus off Lawson Street and in recent years has taken on the master strategic plans for future capital growth on all three Durham Tech campuses.

Following a 2016 voter-approved county bond, O’Brien Atkins was awarded a bid for the renovation of the George W. Newton Industrial & Engineering Technologies Center and the creation of a new Applied Heath Technologies building between Cooper and Lawson streets.

The long-term vision and layout for projected growth are part of Durham Tech President Bill Ingram’s dream for the future of the College. The expansions are geared toward high-demand industries and essential programs for coming years.

That’s a key difference for the future, Montgomery said.

“We’re looking to create a campus,” he said, “not just an individual collection of buildings. We’re also looking to build with purpose, specifically for the needs, instead of adapting existing buildings to fit programs. That’s a different attitude.”

Along with more space, President Ingram is looking to outfit buildings with more collaborative working environments and cutting edge technology to make sure Durham Tech students are industry ready.

“Durham and Orange counties are growing and we’re positioning Durham Tech to be not just a part of that growth – but a leader in it,” Ingram said. “Our students and graduates are the foundation of our communities and by forging great futures for them, we’re only bettering the future for ourselves.”

Montgomery, who first stepped on the Lawson Street campus for an evening computer class in the early 1990s, said the College has changed significantly over the years.

In addition to providing continuing education courses and personal interest classes, Durham Tech offers a host of opportunities for students looking for university transfer opportunities, health care careers, or industrial trade jobs.

Inside an O’Brien Atkins boardroom on a July Monday, Montgomery invites in one of his new employees, Durham Tech Architectural Technology graduate Carmen Williams.

“If all graduates are like Carmen, then employers in the area can expected talented, dedicated Durham Tech students who want to learn and grow,” he said.

The long relationship with Durham Tech has become personal over his three decades in Durham.

As a former student, a former Durham Tech Foundation board member, and a long-time advocate of Durham, he pays special attention to the impact O’Brien Atkins has on future growth at Durham Tech.

“The faculty and staff at Durham Tech care for the students. They’re committed to education. They are people I see every day,” Montgomery said. “I believe in this community. I believe in Durham Tech.”

Durham Tech alumna publishes book of poetry to empower women

Suhailah Waheed wrote her first poem at 8 years old.

“I’ve loved writing from a very young age,” said Waheed, 24. “When I was in high school at The Durham Performance Learning Center I took a course called Poetic Justice, which taught me about spoken word culture and how to create rhythm in our language. Everything bloomed from there.”

Waheed, a 2014 Durham Tech alumna, has since written 197 poems, which she compiled in her first book of poetry called Tales from the Clothesline.

Waheed visited campus last month on a publicity tour to debut her book.

“It felt really good to come back to Durham Tech and share my book because I feel like this is where it started,” Waheed said. “This is where I felt confident enough to go out on my own and explore different opportunities and not be afraid.”

The book chronicles pivotal experiences in the lives of many women including family dynamics, race, love, and self-worth, much of which she developed while at Durham Tech.

“My time at Durham Tech showed me it was okay to be exactly who I was,” Waheed said. “Durham Tech gave me the tools to be an individual and taught me to say what I wanted, when I wanted it and how I wanted it. A huge part of the book is about being able to speak open about your experiences, acknowledge them and move forward. I learned that at Durham Tech.”

The title of the book also has deep meaning for Waheed.

“It comes from a strong sense of nostalgia I had with my grandmother back in the day,” she said. “The clothesline comes from the experience of talking with her when I was younger and her telling me about her experiences as a woman. In order for me to explain some of the things I’ve gone through, I have to pay homage to her. Although I was young, her life lessons stuck with me.”

Waheed says she is passionate about empowering women and encourages conversation.

“I wanted the book to be about the most important experiences in a woman’s life,” she said. “These are conversations I continuously have with friends and family. We talk about the good, the ugly and the in-between. I wanted to put those conversations into literature. We can acknowledge everything we’ve been through and push through it. That allowed me to get to the end of the book, which is where I am today. To have hope, inspire others, and encourage others.”

Waheed continued her education at North Carolina Central University where she earned a Bachelors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Today, she works in the non-profit sector in Austin, Texas.

“Never turn down an opportunity when it’s knocking,” Waheed said of her advice to future students. “Give it a chance and see where it leads you. When it comes to taking classes, invest in yourself and give yourself time to indulge in whatever it is that you’re learning.”

Tales from the Clothesline is available on Amazon and Waheed’s website.

“At Durham Tech, you have the opportunity to seize the day and create long lasting relationships,” Waheed said. “I think everyone here is truly invested in each other. If you have that, enjoy it and take care of it.”

Owner of Durham distillery gets small business start at Durham Tech

Rimas Vilgalys knew he was onto something.

“I wasn’t the kid with the lemonade stand, it really just hit me all at once,” he said. “The demand for the product was what we were always chasing down.”

Vilgalys, 33, grew up watching his father make Krupnikas, a traditional Lithuanian-style Spiced Honey Liqueur, and when he was old enough, his father taught him how. Vilgalys perfected the craft during his college years in California before moving back to Durham in 2008 to live with his brother, Gabriel.

“We were always making our own Krupnikas and sharing it with our friends and started getting more and more popular because of it,” Vilgalys said. “It became something we were known for.”

After countless late night talks, the brothers decided to take their idea more seriously and turn the homemade spirit into a small business.

Rimas Vilgalys took the lead.

His first stop – Durham Tech.

In 2010, he enrolled in Planning and Operating a Successful Business taught by Carl Baumann at the Durham Tech Orange County Campus.

“I got lucky because Carl was formerly an executive at Miller Brewing Company,” Vilgalys said. “It was great to meet someone with such vast experience in the same industry I wanted to pursue. He was fantastic.”

For 10 weeks, Vilgalys learned the ins and outs of business plans, financials, and most importantly, marketing.

“On the first day, Carl had everybody in the class stand up, describe what they wanted to do and give an elevator speech, essentially,” Vilgalys said. “But when we finished, he said, ‘All of you are wrong. You are all in marketing because the only thing that matters is marketing.’ That’s something that has always stuck with me. It’s the biggest problem to solve constantly as a business owner. How to find consumers and how to reach them.”

Vilgalys says the class played a vital role in launching the business.

“The class gave me the context to start taking this more seriously because it made it look a lot more achievable,” he said. “It takes you through the stuff that isn’t the cool part of a business, but you need to figure out like how to deliver your product, price it and how you’re going to reach consumers. It slows you down to the point of instead of picturing a thriving business with your feet on the desk counting money, you have to picture what you’re actually going to have to do to get started and then sustain it.”

Gabriel Vilgalys later decided to pursue a career in New Zealand, but Rimas kept the dream alive by teaming up with two partners, Jason Parker and Dillon Shields. In December 2012, Brothers Vilgalys Spirits was born.

Today, the distillery operates out of two 1,300-square-foot units at 803 Ramseur Street in downtown Durham where they produce 12,000 bottles of Krupnikas each year. Vilgalys said they’re proud to partner with local apiaries like Vintage Bee to make large volumes of Krupnikas, which requires 50 gallons of honey for each batch, leveraging 800 bottles.

Baumann invited Vilgalys back to the classroom several times to talk to future entrepreneurs.

“It’s been fun to go back into the classroom,” Vilgalys said. “I get approached by people that are interested in getting into the world of spirits in one way or another so it’s always nice to share advice. When I first got started I reached out to local distillery owners as well that gave me free advice because they’ve been where you’ve been so I always make a point to take those meetings and talk people through what I’ve learned and what I would’ve done differently.”

Vilgalys said he’s proud to report his company was the first distributer of Krupnikas in the United States, followed only by a handful of others today.

“Nothing else like it was out there and we had to figure out how to take advantage because we weren’t the only ones who knew about it,” he said.

Tours and tastings are offered at Brothers Vilgalys Spirits three days each week for just $5 per person.

“The class at Durham Tech had a lot of positive repercussions for my business,” Vilgalys said. “It’s really a fantastic resource.”

With Single Parent Program, Searle credits Durham Tech in changing her life

Two days each week, the alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m.

Chelsea Searle puts on her scrubs and gets her 3-year-old son out of bed and dressed all before 5 a.m. When her mother arrives, she hits the road for an hour commute from Sanford to UNC Hospital’s Park and Ride lot in Chapel Hill where she boards a bus to the hospital to begin her 12.5 hour clinical rotation at 6:30 a.m.

“I know it’s an investment for a better future for me and my son, but it doesn’t make it any easier right now,” she said.

Searle, 25, is enrolled in the Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, program at Durham Technical Community College. When she is not working a clinical rotation, she is juggling a full-time course load, a part-time job, and most importantly, being a mom to her son, Kash.

“He said his first words and took his first steps in daycare,” Searle said. “He runs to them and away from me because it’s where he spends most of his time. I just have to stay strong and think of the alternative. If he’s not in daycare, then I’m not at school, and what is that going to accomplish?”

The other three days of the week, Searle drops her son off at daycare at 6 a.m. and makes the hour-long drive to Durham Tech’s main campus to attend class.

“When I drop him off at daycare, it’s just him and the teacher because no one else is there yet,” Searle said. “He’s the first one there and the last one to leave. I hate that, but I have to remind myself that this is just a means to an end.”

Searle said life as a single-parent student is a struggle, but when she came upon the Single Parent Program on Durham Tech’s website, she breathed a sigh of relief.

“The Single Parent Program has made this all possible,” Searle said. “Childcare costs thousands of dollars and to think that there’s this program that sees me on a piece of paper and says, ‘Yes, she’s worthy,’ means everything to me.”

The program offsets childcare costs for students in need and is 100 percent funded by the State of North Carolina. Each semester, Durham Tech allocates an average of $2,800 per student and serves between seven and 15 students. To be eligible for the program, students must have successfully completed one semester at Durham Tech, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and demonstrate financial need.

Karen Mosley, Coordinator of Counseling Services at Durham Tech, has overseen the Single Parent Program since 2014.

“I’ve seen this program impact students’ lives in so many ways,” Mosley said. “Students like Chelsea would not be afforded the opportunity to come to Durham Tech if they did not have childcare paid for. It enables students to do well in school because they are not worried about who is going to take care of their child.”

Searle said she sees the light at the end of the tunnel as she counts down to graduation day in May 2018.

“Sometimes when I’m on the way to school, I think about graduation day and it makes me tear up,” Searle said. “Just thinking about all of the struggle, frustration and time away from my child – it’s going to mean something. Walking across that stage and getting that piece of paper that has my name on it with ‘RN’ will mean the world to me.”

She credited the life-changing resources at Durham Tech for giving her an opportunity to create a better life for her and Kash.

“Durham Tech is more than just a tech school to me. It has made a huge impact in my life. None of the things I have accomplished up until this point would have been possible if I didn’t have Durham Tech,” Searle said. “It’s not just a school, a license or a certification, it’s a piece of paper with my name on it that I worked hard for that’s going to be able to support myself and my child. There’s nothing that can replace that.”

To apply for financial assistance, complete the online application. If you have any questions about the program, please contact Karen Mosley at 919-536-7200 ext. 1408 or

Durham Tech instructor publishes Black History nursery rhymes book

Audrey Muhammad remembers chatting with her brother in 1996 about how well they could still recite nursery rhymes.

That’s when the idea hit.

“What if there were nursery rhymes that helped children learn about black history?” she said.

Muhammad, an Academic Advisor and Instructor of College Success at Durham Technical Community College, spent the next several years writing nursery rhymes about black historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and modern day figures like Barack Obama and Oprah.

Family members encouraged her to transform her rhymes into a book for all ages.

Last month, Muhammad self-published her book Rhymes of the Times: Black Nursery Rhymes, featuring 28 nursery rhymes that introduce concepts of self-esteem and perseverance all while teaching black history, including “Martin Had a Little Dream,” “Woman on the Bus,” and “Elijah Be Humble, Elijah Be Quick.”

“I hope children will learn to feel good about their history and know that there are a lot of wonderful historical and modern day figures to pattern themselves after,” Muhammad said. “One of the best teachers is a good example and our young people need more good examples in front of them. It’s more than just athletes and rappers. You have entrepreneurs and courageous people that have done wonderful things in the past.”

Before Durham Tech, Muhammad taught as a high school English teacher and said she remembered students not wanting to pick up African-American literature books.

“When I taught high school English, my students said they didn’t want to read African-American literature because they didn’t want to learn about slavery,” Muhammad said. “I thought, that’s all you think black history is about? I was surprised that there was such a negative view of black history. I said you’re just talking about a very limited amount of American history and there’s so much than that. If they look back further, they’ll learn that we built pyramids and had so many inventions, so I included those in the book as well.”

Muhammad says she hopes this book will highlight and uplift black history in a fun and memorable way.

“I hope young people feel good about themselves, aspire to do well in school, and take pride in their family and heritage,” Muhammad said. “The book also helps people from other cultures have respect for a different culture.”

Muhammad set a goal for herself last summer to complete the book by Black History Month so she teamed up with a book consultant, illustrator, and CreateSpace guru to prepare the launch. On February 19, the book officially published.

“It was great to hold the book in my hand for the first time,” Muhammad said. “I wanted to have this book published and I did it. I really took the time to invest in myself to make this happen and I encourage all women to live up to their God-given talents and spend each day doing what they enjoy.”

Muhammad is already thinking about her second book, which will have a similar nursery rhyme theme, but focus on a different culture.

“My daughter has an affinity for different cultures so I’m going to pick her brain on the different cultures I can highlight and uplift for the next book,” Muhammad said. “The more you learn about another culture, the more you can respect it.”

Rhymes of the Times: Black Nursery Rhymes is available in paperback on Amazon and Virtue Today Magazine.

Q&A: Talking with Gabby McCutchen as learning center at Durham Tech approaches 20th anniversary

The Teaching-Learning Center, or TLC, at Durham Technical Community College was established in 1998 to support excellence in teaching and learning for faculty members. The TLC achieves its mission by providing activities and resources that give faculty meaningful opportunities to connect and collaborate, all in the pursuit of improving teaching and learning. Gabby McCutchen, Dean and Department Head of Student Engagement and Transitions at Durham Tech, has operated the TLC since 2008.

The TLC will host a Teaching-Learning Conference on March 6 for Durham Tech faculty and staff from noon to 4:45 p.m. The conference will feature two keynote speakers, Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy, award-winning professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Please register online by Friday, February 23 to participate.

Q: What is the mission of the TLC?
A: Our overall mission is to enhance teaching and learning excellence at Durham Tech. We encourage, offer, and sponsor faculty development activities that lead to meaningful student learning and renewal of college faculty.

Q: How does the TLC decide what classes it will offer?
A: Some ideas are generated directly from faculty. They’ll either come to me or Lance Lee, who is the Coordinator for Faculty Development, and tell us they’ve got a great idea and they’d love to share it as a TLC presentation. Those are the easiest ones to say, “Yes, we’d love to get you on the calendar!” We also collaborate a lot with people in other departments, like Karen McPhaul and her team with Instructional Technologies to make sure that we’re offering a lot of instructional technology activities on the TLC calendar. They have a good gauge of what kinds of technology faculty are interested in and asking questions about so that leads us in the right direction. At the end of every TLC activity, we ask participants to fill out the feedback form and the last question is “What other topics would you like the TLC to address?” So a lot of the ideas come from the needs recognized at Durham Tech.

Q: How have you seen the TLC change in its approach over the years?
A: We’ve always done weekly workshops where you drop in, learn what you can learn and then leave, which is the history of the TLC and we’ll always do that. But in the last 10 years, we’ve also offered some longitudinal programming and activities that span over semesters like Faculty/Staff Interest Groups, or FIGS, which is a two semester commitment where faculty work on teams about a topic that is of interest to them. We’re also offering more programming directed at adjunct faculty. We have the Adjunct Teaching Institute which is a program the Durham Tech Foundation supports by providing a $50 stipend for adjunct faculty to attend two TLC activities per semester. We frequently have programs in place for adjuncts and new faculty so that we’re more inclusive of our part-time faculty. We’ve also brought back faculty mentoring, which is open to both adjunct and full-time faculty. It’s a nice way for people to get know each other and help new instructors learn about Durham Tech. They offer a lot of mentoring around advising or committee work or things that are outside the teaching realm. The mentors often report back what they learned from the mentees so it’s a real reciprocal relationship.

Q: What is the selection process for guest speakers?
A: We take referrals from faculty who have seen someone at a conference that they thought was especially good. So we’ll do our own research and confirm it’s a legitimate person and they have expertise on a certain topic. When we were planning the TLC conference on March 6, the TLC advisory committee looked at different suggestions we all brought to the table and we talked about what topics would be most relevant for the widest group of faculty. We wanted something that would be engaging for everybody. We also looked at the potential speakers’ YouTube videos to see what their presentation styles are like and how engaging they are, etc. I also know people across the state that do this sort of work at other universities, so I have a growing network I can ask if we’re in need of speakers on a certain topic.

Q: What’s your favorite TLC activity?
A: My favorite might be the FIGs because we see each other for a whole academic year so the relationships grow and we get to know each other really well. I get to learn from them, see the research they’ve done, the strategies they’ve implemented and what those results are. It’s really collaborative. The weekly sessions are great too, but a lot of that depends on who’s going to show up. With the FIGs, I know who’s going to show up because we’ve all made a commitment to each other that we’ll be here for the whole year. Another favorite would be the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, or SoTL, but that’s a much more solitary endeavor. The faculty who participate in SoTL conduct their own research, implement the changes in their classroom and I don’t always know the full scope of what they’ve done until the end. We do a New Faculty Orientation, which is also one of my favorites. I get to know people when they walk in the door and Dr. Ingram comes and says a welcome message every year.

Q: How have you seen the TLC impact faculty?
A: This is a question I always want to be able to quantify, but I can’t always. I can tell you that we have a really strong cadre of repeat attendees, they come every time we run a workshop or activity. I think for those “power users” there are real opportunities for benefit. Then there are other faculty that drop in once per year so it’s hard to gauge the impact, but they always give positive feedback. I think there’s something to be said about the comradery, just being with other faculty and talking about students and talking about teaching and learning. I think that’s almost as beneficial as learning a new skill or technique they can use in the classroom.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge?
A: Getting people to come! Faculty are so busy, it’s hard to be a priority on everyone’s calendar. We see greater participation from some departments than others, so we try to go to those departments directly and find out what they need and what would be of interest to them. The TLC is really for everyone. We’ve got great things going on here and we want more people to participate.

Q: How does it feel to know you’re approaching the TLC’s 20 year anniversary?
A: I’m really proud of it. I’m really proud of the vibrancy of the TLC. It’s not just a room and it’s not just a website. It’s groups of people doing real work. We also publish a journal every other year, Learning Matters, so that’s a nice way for people who don’t have time to come to a presentation, to be able to read and learn from each other based on the articles submitted there. There’s really something for everyone, for new instructors and seasoned instructors.

Q: What’s next for the TLC?
A: We have so many programs going on now, we have entered a period of sustaining and evaluating them. Lance and I also plan to strengthen our existing connections with our counterparts at area universities and look for opportunities to collaborate with them. After the TLC Conference, we’ll turn our immediate attention to scheduling Fall 2018 programming and preparing to publish the 8th volume of Learning Matters. It’s never ending! We are also looking forward to being able to live stream TLC activities in the coming months, giving our colleagues at the Orange County Campus and Northern Durham Center the chance to tune in remotely to participate.

Register by Feb. 23 for the Teaching-Learning Conference on March 6.

Griffin family roots run deep at Durham Tech

Photo by: Briana Brough

When Ted Griffin walked onto Durham Technical Community College’s campus in 1974, it was a different atmosphere.

“The campus was stark,” Griffin said. “You could tell it was getting the crumbs and leftovers of the educational dollars. I don’t see that today – it’s evolved into an attractive campus.”

Griffin’s late father, William Kimball Griffin, served on the College’s Board of Trustees from 1974 to 1994 and was the first generation of the family with ties to the school. During his tenure, the College experienced significant growth.They also hired former President Phail Wynn, Jr. in 1980.

“Dr. Wynn’s academic credentials coupled with his service to his country helped form a connection to my Dad and Durham Tech students,” Griffin said. “Both of them were from humble beginnings which aided them in relating to students who often times have to work one or two jobs to make it all happen.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Ted Griffin served on the Durham Tech Foundation Board of Directors from 2001 to 2013.

“I’ve seen Durham Tech transition from a technical training school to continuing education to a higher education institution,” Griffin said. “I also see it as a platform where one can do a ‘do over’ or begin their higher educational journey. I see duality there, technical school and educational school of higher learning. Both are very valuable, very needed, and at a very good price point. In short, Durham Tech is simply a good bang for your buck!”

Ted’s wife, Susan, shared the family’s passion for the College and served on the Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2015. During her tenure, she helped hire current Durham Tech president, Dr. Bill Ingram.

“Bill has continued to carry on the vision of his predecessors as well as ably leading Durham Tech into the next millenium,” Susan Griffin said. “Durham Tech is a much different place today than it was 50 years ago.”

“When our children were growing up, students would say they were ‘undecided’ about school rather than say they were going to Durham Tech,” Susan Griffin said. “But today that has changed. The word is getting out to the community at large that Durham Tech is a really great place to be.”

Their son Nelson enrolled in 2001. He earned an Associates in Arts in 2003, transferred to the University of North Carolina and then earned two master’s degrees, one at Ole’ Miss and the other at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. Nelson now teaches 3- to 6-year-olds at Maria Montessori School in Memphis, Tennessee. According to his dad, Nelson credits Durham Tech with providing a solid foundation.

“He was able to graduate from UNC Chapel Hill with honors and distinction because he was very well prepared at Durham Tech,” Ted Griffin said.

Nelson’s younger sister, Emmy, enrolled in 2002 before transferring to UNC. She was able to connect with instructors at Durham Tech, especially in the Spanish Department who spurred her passion to major in Latin American Studies at UNC. She will readily confess that her time at Durham Tech was her favorite.

The Griffins are proud of the College’s deep roots within their family.

“Durham Tech made a difference in our lives. It gave Susan and me an opportunity to be of service to the community,” Ted Griffin said. “It’s an educational mission that we both believe in and we’ve committed time, talent and treasure to what Durham Tech is all about. It changes people’s lives.”

Ted believes Durham Tech will continue to have a profound impact on the future of Durham and Orange counties, as well as society at large.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a Rhodes Scholar from Durham Tech,” Ted Griffin said. “It’s highly probable that someone will walk the halls of Durham Tech who raises the human condition.”