myFutureNC CEO Cecilia Holden named Winter Commencement speaker at UNCP

Cecilia Holden

UNC Pembroke has announced Cecilia Holden, president and CEO of myFutureNC, as the keynote speaker for the undergraduate ceremony at the Winter Commencement on December 10.

Dr. Stewart Thomas, a longtime professor at the Thomas School of Business, will give the Graduate School address on December 9.

UNCP Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings remarked that the university and myFutureNC are each built on a vision of providing access to education to better serve our communities.

"Cecilia's passion for higher education and her work through myFutureNC, along with Stewart's long-standing commitment to UNCP, make them perfect candidates to address our graduates," Cummings said. "I look forward to hearing the experiences and advice they share with our students to inspire them as they prepare to take the next step in their lives and careers."

Holden said myFutureNC is committed to developing collaborative relationships to advance the state's educational attainment goal of two million degrees or industry-valued credentials by 2030.

"UNCP offers a great, quality higher education experience for North Carolina students for $500 per semester as one of the UNC System’s NC Promise universities," said Holden.

The idea for myFutureNC originated in 2017 when MC Belk Pilon, president of the John M. Belk Endowment, and Margaret Spellings, then-president of UNC System, recognized their organizations' strategic priorities aligned in a way that could lead to transformational change for North Carolina.

With momentum building around myFutureNC and the statewide attainment goal, the organization officially transitioned from a commission to a nonprofit organization during the summer of 2019. As a nonprofit, myFutureNC is now able to work more effectively across the business, education and workforce sectors to realize the bold attainment goal.

UNCP is helping advance students' educational attainment by promoting excellence in teaching and learning. Chancellor Cummings recently served on the Hunt Institute's ElevateNC Higher Education program in partnership with myFutureNC. UNCP, along with leaders in business, education, state and local government, and community organizations, will continue to foster partnerships to achieve the goal.

Further, UNCP offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing, education and cybersecurity that open the door to various business opportunities and diverse career paths for workforce-ready graduates.

myFutureNC has hired top talent produced by UNCP, including 2018 graduate Gina Zhang, who serves as research and data analysis manager. Zhang was the university's first international swimmer and recipient of the 2017 Chancellor's Award.

Before joining myFutureNC, Holden served as the director of government and community affairs for the State Board of Education and chief of staff for the N.C. Department of Commerce. She holds an MBA from Duke University, a certificate in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina School of Government and a bachelor's degree in computer science and business from UNC Wilmington.

Thomas, a member of the UNCP faculty since 2001, is the recipient of the 2022 Award for Excellence in Teaching. He previously served as associate dean and interim dean of the School of Business, vice chancellor of Finance and Administration and interim associate provost.

He has served his community as event chair for the Scotland County Area Relay for Life for two decades. Thomas previously served on the Scotland Healthcare System Finance Committee and Strategic Planning Board and continues to serve on the Hospice of Scotland County Board of Advisors.