By LUKE BURRIS, Caswell Writer
Featured in the 5/16 Caswell Messenger
Rodney D. Jackson recently reflected on his first 10 days as the new dean at Piedmont Community College, Caswell County Campus.
“The Agribusiness Technology program is just coming onboard. Most of the legwork has been done prior to my arrival, but there’s a lot of work to do in the early stages of any new program to get that energy moving in the right direction,” he said.
Jackson has a background in administration and engineering. In this role as campus dean, he’ll manage curriculum programs, facilities logistics, and day-to-day operations.
He said launching more than one program is difficult and he will do all that he can to ensure the success of the current initiative, but in his short time in Yanceyville and Caswell County, he has talked and scouted around to gather insights on the needs of the area.
“We’ll be working closely with the high school right next door at BY (Bartlett Yancey). The reason that’s important is because Caswell County is a largely rural county. There’s a long history here and BY has presence. It already has a very large agriculture program. We want to establish a strong connection through the school and the community to the family businesses. We want to add business perspective as well. We want to give the tools to transition from what it was 50-60 years ago to what might be profitable now that wasn’t years ago,” he said.
The new agribusiness program addresses adapting to a changing 21st century economy, on farming practices, sustainable agriculture, consumption trends, and different ways to diversify within the farm itself.
A part of facilities management, he said is recognizing the needs of new programs.
Insecticides and herbicides, dummy tractors, heavy equipment, and the shelters to store them are needs that aren’t yet answered.
“Curriculum application to the state is a very involved process of upwards to a year. We (typically) have advisory board meetings at least annually. Industry and businesses give input on their needs from particular programs and suggest ways to modify them. Beyond that, if we hear anecdotally or though conversations within the community, interest such as if a new company comes to town, we’ll meet with that company. If there’s new activity, sort of bubbling up organically, we’ll investigate that, for example,” said Jackson.
“We just have to look at the costs associated with it, the costs to support a program. The question is, do we expand existing programs or do we start a new program?” he said.
An example he gave was the infeasibility of creating and supporting curriculums for students to gain heavy factory experience when no such factories have a foothold in Caswell County. An alternative would be small engines and auto-body restoration, a program that has lower overhead for the campus but also has practical use for even farmers and ties with BY and the existing welding program.
“Resource management is a challenge anywhere, but efficient organization and management of college campus operations, whenever and whereever we can, is how we’ll get the most bang for our buck,” he said.
“How do we leverage; how do we align a program with Bartlett Yancey as a feeder – if a student in a high school program wishes to continue, how do we provide them with the avenue to get to the business side of agriculture, for example, to where they’ll be successful?” he said.
“How do we create career pathways for our graduating high school students? What does Bartlett Yancey High School already have in place that we may leverage? We have to ask where their instruction already is. Continuing education is important, especially to Piedmont Community College,” said Jackson.
“Every challenge is a need expressing itself and an opportunity realized,” he said.
“One thing I would like to grow is the number of community activities that occur on this campus. The more access people are given to the facilities, the more opportunity there is for them to realize how much of an asset PCC is to the community,” said Jackson.