Susan Webb-Curtis, a longtime leader in higher education, has joined Pellissippi State Community College as executive director of Workforce and Community Development, previously known as Business and Community Services.
This nonacademic side of the college encompasses everything from workforce training and registered apprenticeships to lifelong learning courses and event services. Webb-Curtis brings both breadth and depth of knowledge to the role after 34 years at Cleveland State Community College.
“I am excited to join Pellissippi State and a workforce development team that has been highly successful in building effective business and industry partnerships under the strong leadership of Teri Brahams, who recently retired after a long career with the college,” Webb-Curtis said. “Knox and Blount counties are experiencing tremendous growth and are well positioned in an extremely innovative technology corridor.”
Webb-Curtis always knew she wanted to work in higher education and earned her Master of Education in Career Counseling/College Student Personnel in 1988 from Stetson University, completing additional graduate coursework in Higher Education and Communication at the University of Tennessee.
“I knew this was the population I wanted to work with, and I’ve worn a lot of different hats over the years,” Webb-Curtis said.
Webb-Curtis spent 14 years as a student services administrator and 13 as an associate professor and director of Cooperative Education and Service-Learning, developing courses in Job Search Skills, Work Ethics, Workforce Development and more. Under her leadership, Cleveland State’s Service-Learning program was one of only 33 community colleges named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for four consecutive years.
In 2015, Cleveland State named Webb-Curtis the Dean of Business and Advanced Technologies, where she assisted the Advanced Technologies faculty in redesigning 6 associate degrees and 11 certificates, resulting in a 136% student enrollment increase. In 2018, Webb-Curtis took over as Dean of Business and Healthcare, where she worked with Nursing faculty to rebuild the college’s Nursing program and boost its NCLEX passing rate to 97.8%. She also worked with Business faculty to create new associate degrees and certificates in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Entrepreneurship, Cloud and Cyber Security.
It’s this background in academics that gives Webb-Curtis a unique perspective on workforce development, she said.
“Pellissippi State is at the table with our middle and high school, business, and industry partners to determine how we can best meet our community’s workforce training needs,” she said. “Our goal is to build pathways that allow individuals who complete workforce training courses and certifications to apply that training toward academic certificates and associate degrees at Pellissippi State.”
There’s a “huge market” for workforce training now, Webb-Curtis added, to get people the credentials and certifications they need to be successful in their careers. Workforce and Community Development is looking at the products they offer and listening to employers and other stakeholders about what kinds of training they need – and how to deliver those in this post-pandemic work environment.
“The demand for professional certifications and short-term workforce development training continues to grow, and our team is working to respond quickly to those training needs,” she said. “We are fortunate to have excellent training facilities throughout our service area and can provide training at any of our four campuses or through hybrid or online offerings as well.”
“Susan has a natural ability to connect with business and industry and community leaders. She has a great understanding of the complex challenges facing the workforce needs of today and has consistently developed innovative strategies to address these challenges during her years of experience in higher education,” said Patty Weaver, vice president of External Affairs for Pellissippi State. “She demonstrates remarkable leadership in the realm of workforce development, which I believe will have a significant impact on Pellissippi State’s reach and impact in meeting today’s workforce development challenges we face in our community.”