VGCC recognized as Entrepreneurial College of the Year by NACCE


The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), the nation’s leading organization focused on promoting entrepreneurship through community colleges, has named Vance-Granville Community College (VGCC) as the 2022 “Heather Van Sickle Entrepreneurial College of the Year.” That honor was announced at NACCE’s annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts, where teams from VGCC also won prizes in “pitch” competitions.

First, Vance-Granville won $50,000 in NACCE’s “Pitch for the Foundations,” a new initiative created to support community colleges and their foundations in providing transformational opportunities. In this competition, Tanya Weary, executive director of The VGCC Foundation, Sheri Jones, associate director of The VGCC Foundation, and Kenneth Wilson, grants administrator, made a presentation that won the prize (tied for the largest amount given to any competitor this year) for the VGCC Red Tails Drone aviation program. This program has provided training in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, commonly known as “drones”), particularly through a summer camp for area high school students. This camp taught students how to play a team sport called “Drone Soccer” as part of a team nicknamed the “Red Tails.”

Another VGCC group participated in NACCE’s “Pitch for the Trades” competition. This competition featured teams of community college faculty from across the country, who “pitched” their creative ideas for incorporating entrepreneurship into workforce training programs to a panel of judges. Led by Dean of Business & Applied Technologies Stephanie Tolbert and Grants Administrator Kenneth Wilson, VGCC’s presentation won $10,000 to support expansion of the Welding Technology program. The judges encouraged VGCC to continue working on this project and pitch it again next year.
Both pitch competitions were presented by NACCE in partnership with the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation.

Topping off those big wins, VGCC was then recognized as the 2022 Entrepreneurial College of the Year. Chris Whaley, the president of Roane State Community College in Tennessee and chair-elect of the NACCE Board of Directors, presented the award, noting VGCC’s rural population and that this competitive award is given to a college that makes a difference in the ecosystem of a community.

In a statement about VGCC’s selection for that honor, NACCE saluted the leadership of President Rachel Desmarais, Ph.D., who has steadily expanded the college’s entrepreneurial initiatives. In 2021, President Desmarais signed NACCE’s Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge (PFEP), committing the college to five action steps designed to create economic vitality through entrepreneurship.

In addition to the Drone program, the college has hosted an innovative entrepreneurship youth camp called “Be a ‘Trep” (short for entrepreneur) for area middle school students, opened the VGCC Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center at the college’s South Campus, established a Student Entrepreneurship Club, and offered an Agricultural Entrepreneurship Program.

“Through innovative events hosted by Vance-Granville’s Small Business Center and other entrepreneurial programming, the college has demonstrated its commitment to promoting entrepreneurship throughout the region it serves,” said Rebecca Corbin, Ed.D., the president and CEO of NACCE, which is headquartered in Cary. “It is a pleasure to recognize this outstanding college, which was selected by an independent judging panel, as the winner of NACCE’s 2022 Entrepreneurial College of the Year Award.”

President Desmarais congratulated the team involved, including Tanya Weary, Sheri Jones, Ken Wilson, Stephanie Tolbert, Alicia Williams and Dr. Jerry Edmonds, along with the entire VGCC faculty and staff for adopting an entrepreneurial mindset.

“We could not be prouder of the VGCC Vanguards for making a big ‘splash’ at the NACCE conference, and for embracing entrepreneurship both inside and outside the classroom,” Dr. Desmarais said. “Entrepreneurship is an important way to promote both student success and our region’s economic development. It is also related to the innovative, outside-the-box thinking that we have incorporated into how we address challenges and how we offer education and training programs for the community.”



NACCE is an organization of educators, administrators, presidents, and entrepreneurs focused on igniting entrepreneurship in their communities and campuses. NACCE has two main goals: to empower college leaders to approach the business of running a community college with an entrepreneurial mindset and to augment the community college’s role in supporting job creation and entrepreneurs in their local ecosystems. NACCE has over 340 member colleges, representing nearly 2,000 members and approximately 3.3 million students. For more information, visit

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