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Dr. Scott Ralls, President of
Wake Technical Community College,
talks about the college’s education
and training options, and highlights
the Western Wake campus in Cary.
Dr. Scott Ralls became the fourth president of Wake Technical Community College in April 2019. Before coming to Wake Tech, he served as president of Northern Virginia Community College, one of the largest and most diverse colleges in the U.S. He has more than 20 years of experience in community colleges, including seven years as president of the NC Community College System. He has also served as president of Craven Community College and has worked for the NC Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
A native of Charlotte, Dr. Ralls grew up in western North Carolina. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, and master’s and doctorate degrees in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of Maryland.
He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Public Service Award from the North Carolina Chamber, and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor.
Dr. Ralls, we certainly thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to tell us about Wake Tech today and the many opportunities for us there. We already know Wake Tech is the largest of the state’s 58 community colleges and has a number of different campuses here. Can we start by telling us about about Wake Tech’s impact on our communities?
Yes. We currently serve more than 74,000 students each year the equivalent of 10% of Wake County adults. We also serve 25% of high school graduates. And while other institutions tout their exclusivity, at Wake Tech we’re most proud of our inclusivity: We accept the top 100% of applicants! Our mantra is “Reach and Rally” – we reach out to students across the county and offer equitable access to higher education and professional credentials that can change their lives. Once they enroll, we rally around them with the resources and support they need to achieve success and economic mobility.
And how do you do that?
Student success is at the heart of everything we do. That’s why we focus on making sure ALL students have a chance to learn and grow and achieve – to explore their talents and interests and realize their dreams. How we do it is by providing top-quality education and training along with a comprehensive array of support services, including clear and thoughtful advising, financial aid options, and individualized academic support.
Sometimes we support our students by connecting them to resources outside Wake Tech – but whatever is needed, we’ll help them find it. We also strive for innovation in our courses and programs, to make sure we’re taking advantage of the very best tools and strategies for helping students build knowledge and skills for success in the workplace.
And employers are counting on us to do that! We have partnerships with many of those employers that translate into internships, apprenticeships, and rewarding, sustainable jobs for many of our graduates. Likewise, for those students who want to further their education, we have partnerships and articulation agreements with four-year institutions to make their transition as seamless as possible.
Dr. Ralls that is really a most impressive and far-reaching mission. Now can you tell our readers about your different campuses here as many of us may not realize that there are more than just your main campus?
An excellent question! Wherever you live in Wake County, there’s a campus nearby. Wake Tech has six campuses, three training centers, and multiple community sites across the county. Each features a unique mix of degree, diploma, and certificate programs to help students prepare for the workforce or for additional education. All campuses have smart classrooms, specialized labs, libraries, and tutoring centers, along with support services such as advising, career counseling, disability support, and financial aid. Visit locations.waketech.edu for more information.
And do you offer online classes as well?
Yes! In fact we offer 100 programs that can be completed totally online, and many more “hybrid” courses that include occasional campus visits. We serve more online students than any other North Carolina community college. In fact, Wake Tech was recently ranked the #1 online community college in the country by bestvalueschools.com.
Our success in online learning is a direct result of the award-winning efforts of our faculty and staff. They work tirelessly to integrate new methods, tools, and technologies into our online programs, and their work is being recognized by other institutions and higher education leaders around the globe. We want to make sure students have what they need to be just as successful in online classes as in traditional, seated classes.
Can you give us an idea of what types of programs are offered at one of your other campuses?
Well our Western Wake Campus would be good example. It is located in the Millpond Village shopping Center on Kildaire Farm Road and serves students in southwest Wake County, including Cary, Apex, and Holly Springs. The 55,000-square-foot facility there offers general education classes, such as English, math, science, social sciences, and the humanities. The campus also offers certificate programs in Network Management, Business Administration, Early Childhood Education, andCyber Security Support. Non-degree programs include computer skills training, medical office assisting, BioWork, and English as a Second Language.
The Western Wake Campus is also home to Wake Tech's Small Business Center, which offers free seminars and other resources for new and expanding small businesses, and other entrepreneurship programs. It recently became the new corporate headquarters for the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE). The organization is a national leader in supporting entrepreneurship through community colleges, and this new connection will be beneficial to our students and our community.
That is really impressive and all on one of your other campuses. I am sure that the next thing on everyone’s mind would be the cost of attending, and the types of financial assistance that are available. What can you tell us?
Wake Tech offers real value for students and their families: top-quality education that is affordable – at a fraction of the cost of a four-year university. In addition, we offer small classes and individualized attention to rival that available at many more exclusive, private institutions!
We have an excellent financial aid division, staffed by professionals dedicated to making sure students get all the financial assistance they’re eligible for. A wide variety of student scholarships are also available, through the Wake Tech Foundation and through outside donors and scholarship programs.
What types of degrees are in highest demand right now in Wake County?
The demand for skilled, highly-qualified workers continues to rise. Companies throughout our region are in desperate need of skilled workers in the construction, manufacturing, transportation, and service sectors. Highly-skilled technicians in specialized IT areas, such as cyber security, data storage, and business analytics, are also in high demand. Health care professionals – nurses, lab techs, x-ray technicians, dental assistants, and many more – are always in demand in our region.
After a student earns an associate’s degree, is it difficult to transfer to a 4 year program?
Actually we offer many exciting options for continuing your education – and a seamless transfer process! Our University Transfer program includes the Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Associate in Engineering, and Associate in Fine Arts degrees. They are covered under the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement we have with the UNC System, so all Wake Tech graduates can transfer seamlessly to UNC System schools, and in fact, are guaranteed admission to at least one UNC System institution.
We’ve also established transfer agreements with private institutions, and special partnerships for our technical – or Associate in Applied Science degree – programs. While those programs were designed to prepare graduates for the workforce, they all now offer the option of continuing on to at least one university to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Dr. Ralls, what can you tell us about the steps to enrollment?
We have a two-part enrollment process. First, you first confirm your residency, then complete our application online. All the enrollment information is on our website at apply.waketech.edu. Once a student applies and has been admitted, he or she can register for classes. We have several start dates throughout the year, so students no longer have to wait until the start of fall or spring semester. As soon as you’re ready to start your educational journey, Wake Tech is here for you!
This is perhaps a difficult question in view of all the changes in the educational sector around us, but what does the future hold for Wake Tech?
As the new decade begins, Wake Tech has multiple expansion projects underway as a result of the $349 million county bond initiative that passed decisively last fall. We’re currently building the new Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence on the Northern Wake Campus. This incredibly modern facility will change the face of technical education – and allow us to double the number of students in our automotive technology program and launch a new Collision Repair program.
We’ll also be building a new state-of-the-art Simulation Center for active shooter training for first responders, and a facility we’re calling Industry 4.0 for programs such as mechatronics, cloud computing, 5G technology, and artificial intelligence.
We’re also looking forward to expanding our number of apprenticeship opportunities, thanks to Wake Works. The funding, approved by Wake County Commissioners in January 2020, will enable us to forge new partnerships with companies across the Triangle to offer more students the opportunity to learn while they earn. The goal is to address the county’s shortage of skilled, technical workers.
Since we are talking about “community” colleges, how important is “community support”?
There’s no doubt that Wake County runs on Wake Tech! The college is a vital economic engine for Wake County – an engine fueled by the support of partners and donors from every sector of the community. Our relationships with industry help keep our training curricula relevant and up to date, and provide us with some of the latest equipment and technology, so that our graduates are ready for the workplace. We have volunteers and partners throughout the community who provide their expertise on advisory committees, and alumni and even retirees who continue to support the college and our students in a variety of ways.
Our Wake Tech Foundation relies on the generous support of donors who establish scholarships, support buildings and other expansion projects, donate equipment, and make contributions large and small. I’d encourage anyone interested in joining our mission to visit foundation.waketech.edu.
Dr. Ralls you have been very generous with your time with us. In closing is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would just like to say that it’s important to remember that Wake Tech is your community college. Whether you’re a recent high school graduate just starting out, a professional hoping to advance your career or get back into the workforce after taking time off, Wake Tech has a program for you. We have multiple locations, flexible scheduling, online programs, and the resources and support to help you reach your goals, whatever they are. Just visit waketech.edu, or stop by the campus that’s closest to you!
Financial aid and other resources are available at Wake Tech for those students that qualify for assistance. With so many varied educational opportunities for you and your family virtually at your doorstep, please visit Wake Tech at theirwebsiteor by calling them at 919-866-5000.
Wake Technical Community College’s main location is their Southern Wake Campus.
9101 Fayetteville Rd, Raleigh, NC 27603