By Johnson O. Akinleye, Ph.D.
North Carolina Central University

DURHAM – The start of the 2017-2018 academic year at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) marks another milestone for the institution. As we enter our 107th year, NCCU stands firm on a strong foundation of achievement as the nation’s first publicly-supported liberal arts college for African-Americans and the nation’s second law degree-granting HBCU.

True to the vision of Dr. James E. Shepard in 1910, NCCU is dedicated to the mission of offering access and opportunity for first-time students entering higher education, non-traditional students seeking to continue their education through online virtual delivery, and professionals looking to advance their careers. NCCU has maintained that tradition through the decades by producing thousands of scholars, change agents, innovators and leaders.

Our legacy of serving and creating access for underrepresented students not only encompasses the university’s founding and mission, but also drives us forward in meeting the educational needs of students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Built on tradition but embracing modern demands of the marketplace, NCCU is uniquely positioned to address the needs of 21st century students seeking opportunities to demonstrate their potential for academic excellence. It is also consistent with the initial goal of the University of North Carolina’s Higher Expectations Strategic Plan: Increase Access to Success.

Over the past three years, an average of 74 percent of first-year students enrolling at NCCU were Pell-grant qualified recipients. Our mission to serve as a center of opportunity for gifted scholars from low-income and low-wealth families remains consistent more than a century after our founding.

This year’s freshman cohort, the robust and academically engaged class of 2021, included more than 1,300 students who posted average SAT scores of 954 and average GPAs of 3.26. This first-year class, along with more than 390 transfer students, represents a 7.6 increase in enrollment over the 2016-2017 academic year. Diversity within the student body continues to expand, as well. The number of incoming students who identify as Hispanic increased by nearly 80 percent this fall in year-over-year enrollment.

At NCCU, graduating these students is just as important as enrolling them. Diverse Issues in Higher Education’s Top 100 rankings released on August 24, 2017, reveal that North Carolina Central University is a key higher education institution for awarding bachelor’s and master’s degrees to minorities. The university ranks 22nd in the nation for bachelor’s degrees earned by African-Americans in all disciplines, and it is No. 1 and No. 8, respectively, in awarding bachelor’s degrees to African-Americans in the areas of family and consumer sciences/human sciences and psychology. In the master’s-degree category, NCCU ranks No. 1 in the number of African-Americans earning advanced degrees in library science and physical science. In law, NCCU is No. 4 for degrees to African-Americans and No. 23 for degrees to students of Native American decent.

As NCCU continues to thrive, innovate, inspire and lead in producing students who are globally competitive and market ready, the university is focused on six major priorities to expand and track over the next 12 months:

  1. Embrace student success and offer multiple access points for students seeking higher education.
  2. Expand NCCU’s portfolio of academic offerings and research initiatives and provide new opportunities for global immersion.
  3. Expand partnerships with higher education institutions, community colleges, K-12, private industry and nonprofits to recruit, support and employ students.
  4. Facilitate the development of innovative strategies with Durham County, the City of Durham and the Research Triangle to create economic opportunity and revitalization in areas surrounding NCCU.
  5. Reinforce and invest in improved security measures to enhance campus safety and well-being.
  6. Improve and build new infrastructure to better accommodate the NCCU community as it grows and thrives.

Never straying far from our mission, the following quote from Dr. Shepard, taken from Volume 2 of the 1911 Campus Bulletin, reminds our university community that we remain in the business of nurturing tomorrow’s leaders:

“The main objective of this school is to impart to each student such education as shall give him on leaving it, an intelligent knowledge of the principles of his craft, a general acquaintance with the commercial requirements of the trade, and such skill in practice as may assist him on leaving school to at once earn his living.”

These words are as relevant today as they were in 1911. NCCU continues to seek innovative ways and means to keep delivering on “The Eagle Promise.”

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