Monthly Archives: February 2018

Local start-up seeks to build ‘momentum’ with Durham Tech

(L to R) Samantha Stolte, Nicole Benham, Clinton Dreisbach, Jessica Mitsch

Jessica Mitsch and Clinton Dreisbach have a passion for coding. While they speak fluent tech, they understand that computer code is a foreign language to many. As co-founders of Momentum Learning, a coding school in Durham, this dynamic duo is on a mission to meet the need for coders and contribute to the ever growing technology industry.

One of their first stops – Durham Technical Community College.

By partnering with Durham Tech, Momentum said it can offer an affordable intro class for students interested in the coding world. Momentum will offer its first Code Basics course starting March 15.

“The technology field is the fastest growing in our job market today and this particular class is cool because it gives people a taste of what working with code is like,” Dreisbach said. “It’s not a class that you take for two weeks and then become a full-time software developer. That’s not the point. The point is you come in and understand that world a little bit more, you understand the terminology and you walk out knowing if this is something you want to pursue further.”

The 10-hour course will be offered in five, two-hour sessions at Momentum’s headquarters at American Underground on the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham.

The course will teach coding beginners how to build an interactive website from scratch all while building a functional, foundational understanding of how the web works.

“You see a program like this existing because we’re super agile and technology changes very quickly. This type of talent is in high demand,” Mitsch said. “The audience for this course is pretty broad. We think everyone can benefit from it.”

Individuals who become fluent in code can pursue careers as software or web developers.

“This area has a lot of coding opportunities so we want to provide people with exposure to that,” Mitsch said. “We had students complete one of our other courses recently and told us they didn’t even know this was a career option.”

According to, software or web developers in the Raleigh-Durham region pay between $50,000 and $60,000 annually.

“Code Basics is a chance to learn enough about programming to be able to communicate with other people and know if it’s a career for you,” Dreisbach said. “Students can come in for two weeks, learn quite a bit and figure out where they want to go next.”

Momentum is comprised of nine staff members, 14 volunteer ambassadors, and an 18-member employee advisory board, which provides invaluable networking opportunities.

“We have the ability to listen to employers in the area who say they’re going to start using new technology and need 20 people in the next six months,” Mitsch said. “So we look at that information and can put classes together quickly to give the employer audience exactly what they need from a talent perspective and ensure our students are getting very relative training and are highly employable.”

The Code Basics course can take up to 20 students and costs $398, a steep discount compared to a similar 14-hour course offered through Momentum, which costs $900.

“Because of the partnership with Durham Tech, we’re able to offer this course at a really affordable price,” Mitsch said. “The hope is that we can get the price down even more as we get more students interested.”

Those interested in the course, should register here.

“We are fortunate to live in the Raleigh-Durham area with a robust educational system,” Mitsch said. “One of our goals is to make sure that we have deep roots in the local ecosystem so Durham Tech is an amazing partnership to establish that.”

For additional information or questions, please contact Durham Tech Corporate Education Director Doug Aitkin at 919-536-7200 ext. 4303.

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.

Durham Tech student featured on The History Channel’s Forged in Fire

Wes Alberson was shocked when he received a direct message on Instagram from Leftfield Pictures, a reality television production company.

Alberson, an Associate in Science student at Durham Tech, has been developing his bladesmithing craft since 2015 – but he didn’t expect to end up on a nationally televised History Channel program for it.

In January 2017, a representative from the production company saw Alberson’s Instagram account for his small business, Rougemont Forge, which Alberson uses to sell bladesmithing products at local fairs. The representatives asked if had interest in competing on the fourth season of The History Channel’s Forged in Fire.

“It was surreal,” said Alberson, 21. “It was just one of those things you can’t pass up.”

The series features world-class bladesmiths competing to create history’s most iconic edged weapons through forging, the process of using extreme heat to shape metal.

An online questionnaire and two Skype interviews later, Alberson and his mentor, Robert Timberlake, were on their way to film the show in New York City in March of last year.

Four teams of two had three hours per round to create a meat cleaver that needed to pass a series of tests for strength and sharpness and get the stamp of approval from three judges. The winning team would receive $10,000 and Forged in Fire’s Master and Apprentice Title. The episode aired July 11, 2017.

Alberson and Timberlake were cut in the second round of the competition, but say the takeaway was significant.

“In hindsight, I would’ve done a few things differently, but it was a great learning experience,” Alberson said. “When it first aired, I was worried that people would think poorly of me as a bladesmith because we didn’t do very well, but that ended up not being true. I attend the North Carolina State Fair every year and I’m still selling my knives and teaching people about bladesmithing so no one has held anything against me.”

After he graduates from Durham Tech in May, Alberson said he plans to earn his Bachelors in Business Administration to grow his small business from either North Carolina Central University or the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

View the full episode on or click here.

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.”

Let’s celebrate February anniversaries and birthdays!

February Anniversaries (Years)
Penny Gluck (23); Don Wheeler (15); Quincy Wright (11); O’Dell Hill (10); Jamaal Walker (9); Lisa Inman (7); Earl Stenlund (5); Sherron McDonald (5); Bill Gluck (4); Catina Hill-Wafula (3); Robin Griffin (3); Denise Walz (2); Robert Leonard (1); Frances Lunsford (1)

February Birthdays (Day)
Drew Scarbrough (1); John Cain (2); Lori Lewis (3); Christine Kelly-Kleese (4); Heidi White (4); Jamia McIver-Eshiet (5); Ernest Jannetta (5); Timiya Mccormick (6); Frances Lunsford (7); Jacequeline Mitchell (8); Shana Curl (9); Margaret Dietz (13); Stephen Brooks (13); David Wright (13); Patricia Pendergrass (16); Justin Bordeaux (18); Robbi Muckenfuss (18); Larry Haynes (20); Douglas Aitkin (22); Stephanie Dawson (22); Patronia Marshall (24); Connie Gomez-Joines (25); Ludwig Stuart (25); Joseph Solomon (26); Jessica Lombardi (27); Janice Murphy (28)