Dr. Debra Saunders-White of NCCU

by Terry Watson | March 13th, 2014
Dr. Debra Saunders-White (Photos by NCCU)

Dr. Debra Saunders-White (Photos by NCCU)

On Friday, April 4, 2014, Dr. Debra Saunders-White was installed as the 11th chancellor of North Carolina Central University and the first permanent female chancellor in the schools storied history. Dr. Saunders-White is the former assistant secretary for the Office of Post Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Her responsibilities included formulating federal post secondary education policy to incorporate federal student aid, programs that address critical national needs in support of the departments mission to increase access to quality post secondary education, and programs that support international and foreign language education.

The Hampton Virginia native has also been a post secondary education professor. Her leadership experience includes being assistant provost for technology, and vice president for technology and chief information officer for Hampton University. She is no stranger to the University of North Carolina (UNC) system. In 2006, Saunders-White joined the University of NC Wilmington (UNC-W) as vice chancellor for information technology systems. She concurrently served as UNCW as interim associate provost in the office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and as chief diversity officer. In addition to having a highly successful career in higher education administration Saunders-White served for 15 years in the corporate sector at IBM.

Q & A with Dr. Debra Saundes-White

Q. Discuss (in detail) your most pressing priorities for NCCU.
A. As Chancellor of North Carolina Central University, I have the privilege of leading what I believe is a crown jewel in the University of North Carolina system on a journey toward what I call “Eagle Excellence, or E-squared.” Under Eagle Excellence, we are making student success our number one priority, along with financial and operational success. E-squared is the collective investment of our entire university community—students, faculty, staff and alumni—to provide a high-quality educational experience to all who choose NCCU to further their education. We continue to take a proactive approach to operating by being smarter, more resourceful, more collaborative, while remaining focused on student outcomes. We are challenged to be more aggressive with our fundraising initiatives and more creative and innovative with our instructional offerings and delivery. NCCU is a highly desirable university and we actively recruit students who believe that NCCU is a first choice premier, global institution. We are focused on increasing our freshman-to-sophomore retention rates and graduating our students in four years. We are working to raise private funds that provide needed student scholarships and other resources for the university. We are developing strategies that will assist with our recruitment of students transferring from our community college partners, as well as four year institutions.

Q. You have worked for other universities, the federal government, the corporate sector and private enterprises. How are you familiarizing yourself with the NCCU family and developing programs/initiatives specific to growing the university?
A. Since arriving in Durham, I have been actively engaged in leading NCCU toward Eagle Excellence. I started with our students. On my first day, June 3, I hosted a Google Hangout with the SGA president and other NCCU students, and a few days later held a reception with our students and took questions via Twitter. I needed to hear from them about their aspirations, needs and concerns. I meet with staff and faculty regularly and hold open office hours each week. Our alumni are the lifeblood of the institution and I have had an opportunity to engage with many of them in North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Pennsylvania. My team and I have regular meetings with our local, state and federal leaders and stakeholders, and serve on a variety of community partnerships and taskforces in Durham, the Triangle region and the state in an effort to raise the profile of NCCU and generate more interest and investment in our institution. NCCU serves as an educational institution that attracts and educates students in the STEM disciplines, as well as social sciences, liberal arts, business, education and law, and we will continue to grow in these areas. My goal is to ensure that NCCU provides educational training that produces skilled workers from all our programs who are market and job-ready for North Carolina, the nation and the world.

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