Wednesday, December 21, 2022

NCSSM Morganton

I've been spending a lot of time over the past year or so working on the opening of NCSSM's new campus located in Morganton NC. It has been a wonderful ride and we are now up and running with 150 11th grade students on our new campus. Programs are now moving forward and it is really the realization of a dream come true. I thought this would be a good time too tell the story of this new campus for those of you that are not familiar with this ambitious project.

About 7 years ago, the NC State Legislature gave us, the NC School of Science and Math, a mandate to open a second campus on an existing 800 acre parcel of state land in Morganton NC, about 3 hours west of the current Durham location.  After a great deal of planning, new construction, and renovations of 3 historic buildings on the site, we opened the NCSSM-Morganton campus in August.  Both locations are residential schools which serve 11th and 12th graders from across NC.  The Durham location, where I have served as a faculty member for 21 years, houses 680 students and the new Morganton campus will be home to 300.  (By the way- both are fully funded by the state. There is no charge for tuition, room, or board.  Full scholarships for everyone!) The new school has the same basic graduation requirements as the Durham location which was established in 1980, however with a general focus on Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, in addition to a course catalog comparable to the Durham campus.  I anticipate a great deal of cross campus collaboration.

In my role as Fine Arts Chair for both campuses, I was hiring manager for our new Art, Music, and Theater faculty positions.  My role in recent months has been to not only be to lead the hiring and onboarding of our new arts faculty and develop a compatible, but unique arts curriculum to the Durham campus, but also to help set tone and culture among all new faculty in the Morganton location.  We hope to develop many interdisciplinary offerings and for the arts curriculum to accurately reflect and utilize the distinctive characteristics of the region. This includes a complete music curriculum and a ceramics, pottery and 3D focus in the art curriculum reflective of that culture in the western part of NC.

As far as last summer is concerned, all administrators were asked to be "on call" for the entirety of the summer.  The joke was that the faculty even assembled bunk beds and dressers the summer before NCSSM Durham opened in 1980.  I stood ready to do that important work if called upon, but it was not necessary!  In all truth, I, along with our new hires, did a good deal of curriculum development over the summer and team building with the entire faculty.  As we build the program, truly, there are no rules here. Just possibilities.  So, dreamers are welcome and new faculty are being encouraged to think broadly about the possibilities.  

For the foreseeable future, I will be splitting time between Durham and Morganton.  I will continue to direct the Orchestra in Durham, but otherwise have primarily administrative duties at this point.  This hits at a great time as my youngest son is a sophomore in college and Barbra and I are finding a new rhythm at home without kids around.  NCSSM puts me up in a nice hotel in the middle of downtown Morganton and makes working out there very comfortable.

So, as you can see, I am really embracing the opportunity. How many folks have the opportunity to put their thumbprint on a school on the occasion of it's opening.  I am truly excited about the possibilities and to lead our new arts faculty wherever their talents may take us!

After only one semester of being open, the arts program at NCSSM-Morganton is in full swing. Music students, under the direction of Jim Kirkpatrick, have presented a full concert in our newly renovated barn performance space. Courtney Long, our talented Art Instructor, has students moving forward quickly with all kinds of art projects ranging from drawing to sculpture to pottery and other design projects. And, our Drama program is getting rolling and plans to present a performance of She Fights Dragons in the late winter.

So, that is a little bit of an update on NCSSM Morganton and my work as we open this new campus. I will continue to keep you updated as things continue to progress. 



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