Economic Development and Leadership Q&A Series: Chancellor Philip Rogers

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There are many partners and organizations involved in successful economic development programs and initiatives. In this Q&A Series, the Greenville ENC Alliance is interviewing key stakeholders in the local, regional, and state level that play a role in business attraction, retention, and expansion, workforce development, talent attraction and retention, and community engagement.

In this interview, East Carolina University Chancellor Dr. Philip Rogers shares his thoughts and insight on how education aligns with economic development.

Dr. Rogers became the 12th chancellor of East Carolina University on March 15, 2021. Prior to his appointment as chancellor, he was the senior vice president for learning and engagement at the American Council on Education (ACE). Dr. Rogers also served with ECU as a policy analyst in 2007 and as chief of staff from 2008 to 2013.

A native North Carolinian, Dr. Rogers was raised in Greenville and his family has a long history in the state and with the university. He earned a doctoral degree in higher education management with distinction from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Wake Forest University. He and his wife, Dr. Rebekah P. Rogers (a two-time ECU alumna), are proud parents of two sons, Grayson and Dean.

During the interview, Chancellor Rogers provides a unique perspective on educating future talent at ECU while also attracting talent to work at ECU. He also explains the university’s return on investment to its community and state as well as what he’s looking forward to in the coming years. On a personal level, he shares his hopes for the community and how we can work together to grow, prosper, and succeed.

(Portions of this interview, as published here, have been edited and condensed for clarity.)


Q: Tell us about your journey. How did a home-grown kid from Greenville make it to the Chancellors seat at ECU?  
A: After serving as policy analyst, legislative liaison, and chief of staff at ECU, I joined the American Council on Education, which afforded me an opportunity to engage with leaders across higher education. Returning to the community that shaped my life as chancellor of ECU is a tremendous honor and blessing. Rebekah, whose ECU roots also run deep, and I know it is a privilege to raise our sons in this community and to serve this great university. While so much changed while I was away, what hasn’t changed is the interconnectedness of ECU, this community, and the region. From my own childhood experiences to the academic, economic, and cultural activities today, ECU and the community are inextricably linked.

Q: What were or are the most surprising aspects of the position?
A: During my time at ACE, I led a team that was responsible for a pulse survey of chancellors and presidents, so from that work and regular dialogues with leaders at both public and private colleges and universities, I knew well the challenges associated with changing demographics, fiscal sustainability, the changing college athletics landscape, emerging tech, and value proposition debates just to name a few. Perhaps what has surprised me the most is striking the right balance to ensure effective engagement across a broad set of constituencies, which is one of the reasons we launched University Day this year. Spending time with faculty, staff, students, donors, those in the governance structure, community leaders, and legislators is important as we tell our story of excellence and advocate for the university.  

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing higher education and ECU specifically in the coming decade?
A: American higher education is changing rapidly and in the coming years will face a demographic shift of fewer 18 to 22-year-olds, creating a smaller group of traditional college-age students in North Carolina and across the country. ECU plans to attract new online students in collaboration with the UNC System-affiliated Project Kitty Hawk, which will supplement our already strong position in online learning, and in launching a content creator industry microcredentialing program. The programs are innovative models that will help address emerging workforce needs. Providing access to a degree or credential that is affordable and prepares the learner for the next opportunity is a key in demonstrating value.

Q: What makes you optimistic about the future of the university and Greenville?  
A: ECU provides an incredible return on investment to the people of North Carolina. This institution is an economic engine and our impact across the state exceeds more than $2.5 billion. We prepare well-rounded graduates for the careers of the future and are deeply invested in regional transformation. ECU produces the next generation of health professionals, teachers, business experts, and so many other thought leaders in various fields to make a lasting difference on the economic health of our state.

Q: What, if any, changes to the higher education model should be expected in the near future?  
A: ECU is committed to meeting students where they are and providing educational opportunities to meet the needs of all learners. We are working with industry partners in the region to help train the workforce they need to be successful, and we are expanding our offerings and services for adult learners and other non-traditional students. I believe the future of higher education lies in adapting to the needs of our students, and through its online offerings and other innovative programs, ECU is a leader in this space.

Q: Many students often pursue work and learning simultaneously, do you have any thoughts or ideas on how higher education can design programs to better align these experiences to benefit both the employer and student?    
A: Accommodating students who work during their time in college or who are already working full time when they decide to pursue higher education is part of our commitment to student success. Partnering with businesses across the region to provide internship opportunities and workforce development programs, ECU has a wide range of programs aimed at working and learning simultaneously. ECU is a nationally recognized leader in online education, which is crucial to offering flexibility to our working students. We realize that not every ECU student can physically come to campus for every class; our outstanding online academic programs allow a student to remain in their home community, if needed, and still receive a quality East Carolina University education. We realize that ECU’s ability to provide affordable and accessible learning leads to the promise of opportunity for our students and their families.  

Q: Most serious economists and analysts agree that we are approaching a demographic drought where there are less workers entering the economy than exiting. How can communities and MSAs retain and attract the people needed to achieve growth in the coming decades?
A: At ECU we are focused on attracting and retaining talent both from an employment perspective and from a student success perspective. We want our learners to engage in the local community, have high impact experiential learning opportunities, and consider remaining in the region when they complete their degree or credential. Through our clinical integration with ECU Health and the development of innovative credentialing programs, we have opportunities to grow workforce pipelines.

Q: What are a few things you believe we – the community as well as the Greenville ENC Alliance - could do in the next two to three years to increase our success rate for attracting and retaining talent?  
A: Continue supporting local businesses and cultural offerings! The more we support the arts and a vibrant, active community, the more people will appreciate Greenville as a desirable place to build a life, which will in turn attract and support more industries and businesses.

Q: Aside from access to students and skills, where do you feel ECU provides Greenville-Pitt County the greatest competitive advantage as it relates to business attraction and recruitment?
A: The three core components of ECU’s mission statement illustrate how everything we do is centered on the betterment of our community and our region. Public service, student success, and regional transformation are core to who we are as an institution; they strike at the very heart of why we were first created as an institution of higher learning. More than 115 years ago, East Carolina Teachers College was founded to train the teachers our region desperately needed, and today we provide not only teachers, but doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, construction managers, engineers, and so many other vital components of the workforce. We are also committed to serving our region, from hitting the ground to clean up and support the community after natural disasters to supporting small businesses with our expertise and consultation services. Finally, a strong research infrastructure must be accompanied by efforts to innovatively commercialize that research into business opportunities as we seek to solve real world problems.  ECU will be a major player in the new NC Innovation initiative funded by the State of NC to help accomplish that goal and retain great university-driven businesses in the region.

Q: An economy is more successful when education is equally accessible across gender, race, age, and ethnicities and the Greenville-Pitt County MSA is very diverse. Where do you feel ECU is positioned with accessibility and attainment?  
A: ECU has long been committed to providing educational opportunities that are accessible and affordable for all students, but there is always room for improvement, and we continue to do the hard work necessary to ensure that everyone feels welcome and supported at ECU.

Q: What are the top three perspectives you hope a young student will gain from their university experience on campus to help ensure their success in the professional world?  
A: We give our students the tools and opportunities they need to be successful and confident in their chosen profession. The internships, mentors and academic rigor prepare them to make immediate contributions after graduation. Curiosity about the world around them and a sense of service will lead them to make great contributions that will change their communities and the world.


East Carolina University is part of the University of North Carolina System which is one of the most valuable public higher education systems in the country. As the third largest university in the UNC System, ECU has more than 26,750 students enrolled annually. These students represent all 100 North Carolina counties, 46 states plus the District of Columbia, and 70 countries. The university gives students the chance to participate in cutting-edge research, hybrid online and classroom courses, and hands-on learning. In addition, the university employes more than 5,800 people to serve as faculty, scholars, academic and administration officers, clinical support services, and staff members. To learn more about ECU and its offerings, visit: