I Love My HBCU! — North Carolina Central University [Q&A Series]

Q: What makes your HBCU unique?

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) is unique for a number of reasons. The institution was founded by Dr. James E. Shepard in 1909 as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua, and it opened for classes in 1910. There are degrees offered on the Bachelor’s, Master’s, Juris Doctor, and Ph.D levels. Originally founded for the training of religious leaders the university became the first public liberal arts institution for African-Americans.

NCCU has one of the top law schools in the country, which consistently prepares attorneys for the legal field at an affordable cost that doesn’t detract from the quality. In fact, the NCCU School of Law is ranked as one of the 10 most popular law schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. In addition, NCCU is a leader among HBCUs and institutions nationwide in the growth of the STEM field. Housed on the campus are two state-of-the-art research facilities in biotechnology. Those two facilities are the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI), named after Chancellor Chambers who was instrumental in its foundation, and the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE). These facilities are in prime position in the Raleigh-Durham area research triangle, which is of great benefit to the university.

The institution also has a widely recognized Jazz studies program and an Art Museum that regularly exhibits the collections of work of African-American artists and depictions of the Black experience. NCCU was also the first school in the University of North Carolina System and a leader in the nation in implementing community service as a requirement of all its students. Students complete 120 hours of service before they graduate. It has been a successful effort on the part of the university and students to engage the community, which only enriches the academic experience.

The university has also enjoyed greater national exposure because of the success of its Men’s Basketball program. The team was a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season and appears to be on the way to another run in the NCAA Tournament, as they have a perfect record (14-0) in the MEAC Conference and will more than likely win the tournament as well.

Q: What are some mythbusters you would like to share with the world about your HBCU?

North Carolina Central is one of the safest institutions anywhere. NCCU has an open campus but that has not made it a dangerous place. That is the furthest thing from the factual data and reality of everyday life on the campus. Another myth associated with my institution is that of “non-diversity.” In many respects, NCCU is more diverse proportionally than many predominantly white institutions (PWI’s). The institution has served growing numbers of international students, large numbers of non-traditional students, and other minority communities all while continuing to successfully serve the population that it was originally intended to serve – Black African-Americans seeking access to higher education. It has not lost the core of what it is and who it serves.

Q: Who’s your favorite notable alumni of your HBCU and why?

If I had to choose my favorite alum of North Carolina Central University it would be between Chancellor Emeritus Julius L. Chambers and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber. I have followed in both of their footsteps, respectfully. Julius Chambers, because of all he meant to NCCU, the state, and country on so many levels, would win for me. He graduated from NCCU (North Carolina College at the time) summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in history in 1958.  While at NCCU he was the quarterback for the football team, served as President of the Gamma Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and as the Student Body President. The latter two are special to me because I, too, was a member of the Gamma Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. serving as the Chaplain and chair of the “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People” voter registration/empowerment committee. Moreover, I served as the Student Body President and Board of Trustees member in my senior year. He not only influenced me in my initial plans to become an attorney, but also in attending NCCU.

Chambers succeeded Thurgood Marshall and Jack Greenberg as president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1984. He served in this capacity until 1993 when he returned to his Alma Mater to become its seventh Chancellor. He served NCCU as Chancellor from 1993-2001 before retiring and returning to his law practice. During his time as Chancellor the university grew in prominence, size (students and building expansion), and was modernized several capacities inclusive of academics. In his lifetime he argued 8 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States and won them all.

Q: How did your HBCU shape you as a person?

North Carolina Central University shaped me as a person in ways that are invaluable. There, I gained a greater understanding and commitment in my daily life and professional endeavors to our university’s motto of “Truth & Service.” I was exposed in many ways to experiences of academic rigor, independence, social development, and growth of my intellectual and professional acumen. I would honestly not have been exposed and developed in the way that did if I did not choose to attend NCCU. I learned how to study, I learned how to network, and I learned how to relate with others even if we did not agree or share common backgrounds and belief. That has served me well in my short lifetime.

Q: How did your HBCU prepare you for the world?

Again, NCCU taught me how to operate in different environments by emphasizing the reality of a globalized world. The academic work I did, along with the organizations I was involved with, and the resources available at the university aligned with this reality and how to navigate within it all. The institution is constantly seeking to revamp various departments’ campus wide, with a push of course, to better fit the needs of its student body and employees. That is an excellent way that students such as myself learn to be adaptable while maintain the core who or what you are.

Q: What do you love about your HBCU the most?

I love so many things about NCCU that it’s not really possible for me to say what I love the most. I love how beautiful our campus is. This is a regularly received comment anytime someone visits. I love our rich history, our alma mater, our mission and motto, the students who attended with me and those who came before and will come after. I love our position in the city of Durham and the great work that we can do for our surrounding community. I love the family atmosphere, which was the number one thing that hooked me as a young 18 year old freshman. We having cutting edge research going on, lawyers in the making, writers developing their craft and a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit among students that I want to see continue in years to come.  I love how we are able, as many other HBCUs, to take raw clay and mold it into sculptures that will transcend the boundaries placed upon them. We’re not perfect, but we are certainly unique and set a part and for that I will always shout EAGLE PRIDE AMPLIFIED wherever I go.