RALEIGH — The education non-profit group myFutureNC has hired Cecilia Holden to be its first president and CEO.
“We are pleased to unanimously endorse Cecilia Holden as president & CEO of myFutureNC,” said Peter Hans, president of the NC Community College System.
Holden, who has an MBA from Duke, previously served as a lobbyist for North Carolina State Board of Education and had also served as chief of staff for the North Carolina Department of Commerce as well as sitting on the NC Works Commission. In addition, Holden also held positions at IBM, Guardian Capital Advisors and the Department of Public Instruction.
“As a native of rural North Carolina and a product of our public and private institutions, I am passionate about the education and economic prosperity of the people of our great state,” said Holden.
According to the group’s website, the organization is made up of business leaders, politicians and education officials with a current “call to action” of ensuring 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2030.
The call to action has received bi-partisan support from Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden), Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) and Gov. Roy Cooper and became state law via House Bill 664 in June of this year. The law adopts the myFutureNC’s 2030 goal and tasks the group with providing annual progress reports to the legislature.
“This work will be state led but must be locally owned,” said Holden about the call to action.
“We will be working to localize the goal so that communities are able to see how their efforts can help meet the statewide goal but most importantly, how they can align the educational attainment with the needs of local business and industry to help drive economic prosperity for their citizens,” Holden said.
Holden said the group will be working to “identify and champion state level policies and programs” and identify opportunities gaps in order to accomplish the 2030 goal.
The organization seeks to close gaps in obtaining postsecondary credentials and align the state’s educational programming to meet business needs.
NSJ asked Holden about recent reports of increased need for high school remediation well as declining reading and math proficiency and stagnant career and college readiness levels and the impact that would have on the group’s work.
“Change is inevitable, and system alignment across all sectors is critical for this work,” said Holden. “Operating in silos hasn’t fully maximized the collective impact we will have when working as a unit and migrating towards a natural interaction between business and education.”
Holden said that implementing college and career readiness remediation courses in N.C. high schools is already happening and programs in career and technical education are working to “align credentials and curriculum in our K-12 and community colleges, with business and industry needs.”
“These plans and the implementation of them will be instrumental in ensuring our education system is aligning with the labor market needs,” Holden said. “Recognizing that many of the population we are targeting cannot take advantage of the traditional classroom setting, we will need to expand and build on competency-based learning models that allow educational attainment in a non-traditional way.”
Joining Holden at myFutureNC are high-profile figures like Ann Goodnight and former interim UNC President William Roper who were founding members of myFutureNC. Co-chairs of the board include Peter Hans, Dale Jenkins and Andrea Smith.
Jenkins currently is serving as chairman of the board for The University of North Carolina Health Care System and Capital Associated Industries. Smith is the chief administrative officer for Bank of America.
Other state officials on the board include State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, Geoff Coltrane as Gov. Cooper’s designee, Sen. Deanna Ballard and Rep. John Fraley as designees for Berger and Moore respectively.
Also on the board are Jack Cecil, president and CEO of Biltmore Farms; Hope Williams president of the NC Independent Colleges and Universities; MC Belk Pilon, president and board chair for the John M. Belk Endowment; David Mounts, chairman and CEO at Inmar; and Anna Spangler Nelson, the chairman of Spangler Companies.
Funding for myFutureNC has come through grants from the John M. Belk Endowment, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Goodnight Education Foundation.
The Goodnight Education Foundation has issued two grants worth $250,000 each to the University of North Carolina for the myFutureNC program. The Gates Foundation has contributed two grants, totaling $525,000, and the Belk Endowment has contributed one grant of $100,000.