You might have thought Rowan County was just a small, rural county, but did you know that our lil’ RoCo (local slang for Rowan County) is home to four institutions of higher learning? That’s right – these four higher education centers in our county help more than 20,000 students achieve higher degrees. We have previously highlighted and gave thanks to some of our communities unsung heroes, the amazing teachers within the Rowan County k-12 school system. But the diligent professors at these four higher education institutions deserve some praise as well.

My College Home – Catawba College

Since I’m a proud graduate of Catawba College myself, let’s talk about that one first! Located on Innes Street in Salisbury, lots of people lovingly refer to this private institution as “Cat-U.” My family has always called it the “hidden gem in our backyard,” and during my time there, I certainly found that to be the case! Catawba consists of 1,300 close-knit students working hard to pursue degrees in 70 academic majors. With a 13:1 student-faculty ratio, students get an education that is personalized to meet their individual needs. It is easy to fall in love with Catawba’s campus, known for its impeccably green grass, budding flowers, and musical church bells ringing consistently throughout the day.

Ranked as one of the best regional colleges in the South, 96% of Catawba College graduate survey respondents are employed or pursuing further education within 12 months of graduation. According to Affordable Colleges Online, Catawba College is numbered among North Carolina’s Highest Return on Investment Colleges and is ranked 15 of 35 NC colleges that show “consistent payoffs in the workplace.”

Sarah Horne, a senior who will be graduating in May and a Rowan County native herself, says this about her Catawba experience: “Choosing to stay in Rowan County and attend Catawba College has been one of the best decisions I have made. While this world is so big, and I cannot wait to explore it, I am so thankful that I made the choice to pursue higher education in this place that I call home. Catawba has done an excellent job at fostering a tight-knit, family-like community while bringing in other worldviews, beliefs, and cultures to help create an environment where people from all walks of life can come together to learn and still feel comfortable. Catawba has prepared me for whatever life I choose, and wherever I choose to live it. I will always be thankful for the lessons that Catawba has taught me, the friendships it has helped me to find, and the confidence it has given me.”

Sarah Horne, senior at Catawba College

Sarah Horne, senior at Catawba College

A Legacy of Tradition – Livingstone College

Tucked away in Salisbury on W. Monroe Street, Livingstone College is a private, coeducational, residential, church related campus. With enrollment at approximately 1,150 students, Livingstone is committed to quality instruction for students from all ethnic backgrounds, though it is recognized as a historically black college. It was founded as Zion Wesley Institute by a group of A.M.E. Zion ministers for the purpose of training ministers in Concord, NC in 1879, but unfortunately closed after three sessions. Though in 1881, Dr. Joseph Charles Price and Bishop J.W. Hood had a dream to re-establish Zion Wesley Institute, and Salisbury gave the trustees $1,000 and an invitation to relocate the school to Rowan County. Thus came Livingstone College, opened in 1882.

Today, the college seeks to provide an atmosphere where students can live, learn, and mature under circumstances conducive to fostering self-respect, self-direction, social dignity, and academic progress. Their mission is “to provide academic programs that are characterized by pedagogical competence. Instruction encourages the development of critical and analytical skills that prepare students for continued life-long learning in today’s competitive workplace.”

When asked about how Livingstone has prepared her for life after college, 2005 Alum and Director of Alumni Affairs at Livingstone College, Vincia Miller, states, “Livingstone College prepared me for life after college by teaching and embedding in me the skills needed to take up any leadership position and succeed in that position. One of my favorite things about Livingstone is that it taught me that I was blessed and much was given to me so much was required and that it was our mission as Livingstonians to go back into our communities and help the youth, the sick, the homeless, and the elderly because in giving back we are showing that we not only care about the present but we believe in building for the future.”

Director of Alumni Relations at Livingstone College

Vincia Miller, 2005 Alum and Director of Alumni Relations at Livingstone College

A Bright Future with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, known around here as RCCC, refer to themselves as an open-door comprehensive learning-centered institution of public higher education. The college, a member of the North Carolina Community College System, prides itself on offering affordable occupational and educational programs leading to various Associate degrees (32 to be exact) such as Arts, Engineering, Science, Fine Arts, General Education, and Applied Science. Diplomas and certificates are awarded for occupational, adult, and continuing education programs.

Serving the citizens of Rowan and Cabarrus counties, its primary focus is workforce development, and the college strives to inspire its students to increase their knowledge, develop occupational and technical proficiencies, respond to lifelong learning opportunities, and expand their awareness as responsible citizens in a democratic society.

Rachel Duquette, who is completing her second semester and plans to earn an Associate in Arts degree before transferring to a four-year university to major in journalism and mass communications, says she chose to attend RCCC because it offers the flexibility and affordability she needs as the mother of two small children. She says, “I have had a wonderful experience so far, and I feel very supported. Having online classes that are well-organized and instructors that are always responsive makes it much easier to balance everything I have going on in my life.” Adrian Stallings, another student at RCCC, raves about the work-based learning program at RCCC. He says, “This led me to an internship that turned into a paid position at the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. I was able to get hands-on marketing experience that actually ended up altering my academic pathway. I will graduate not only with an Associate of Arts degree, but also a Business Administration-Marketing degree. Along with those degrees, I will take with me the confidence I have built along the way and an extended family I have formed at Rowan-Cabarrus.”

Rachel Duquette, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Rachel Duquette

Adrian Stallings, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Adrian Stallings

Hood Theological Seminary

Hood Theological Seminary is a graduate and professional school that prepares students for effective Christian ministry in a diverse society. Their vision is “to be the seminary of choice for persons who desire to reflect the Kingdom of God in the cutting-edge study of scripture and theology, in relationships of equality and diversity, and in actions which embrace racial reconciliation and economic justice.” Hood Theological Seminary strives to be a community that welcomes all backgrounds, a community of worship that listens to God’s word in order to navigate this world, a community of teaching and learning excellence where they seek to grow in theological knowledge, and lastly, a community of discernment and practical wisdom that promotes peace, justice, and mercy among all human relationships and institutions. Hood Theological Seminary was founded by the A.M.E Zion Church and operates under the sponsorship of that communion. It is accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, and offers degrees in Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, and Doctor of Ministry.

The Seminary is located on Lutheran Synod Drive, and recently built a new environmentally friendly and sustainably-constructed building— The Aymer Center for Spiritual Growth and Ministerial Formation—that proves the Seminary’s growing emphasis on creation care, sustainable practices, and energy and resource conservation. Hood Theological Seminary alumni have been making a difference in the world for over 100 years in different communities! Clemmie Palmer III, MD, M.Div. 2016, Psychiatrist and author of “God, The World, and Me,” says “Hood Theological Seminary, with its world class faculty and diverse student body, provided a stimulating educational experience for me. Further, I even thought of repeating the program of study. My patients have also benefited from Hood Seminary since I am now able to provide spiritual counseling on various theological topics which positively impacts healing.”

Hood Theological Seminary

Hood Theological Seminary

Whether you are from Rowan County or not, one of these four colleges could be the perfect fit for you. Though different, they are all wonderful places of higher education that strive to make our Rowan a better place in myriad ways!