Chancellor Reaves Receives Honorary Degree during WSSU Commencement
Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on its chancellor, Donald Julian Reaves, during the university's commencement ceremony on Friday, May 16.
The Board of Trustees of the university voted unanimously to confer the degree to recognize Reaves for his contributions to WSSU since becoming chancellor in August 2007. The degree was a surprise for Reaves who has announced he is stepping down at the end of the year.
"Receiving the degree was certainly an honor and I deeply appreciate the recognition," Reaves said. "It was all the more impactful since this would be my last commencement as chancellor and also because it was truly a surprise. The university has made tremendous progress in the past few years and, like most successes, it was possible only through the hard work and dedication of our trustees, faculty and staff. We all can take a great deal of pride in what has been accomplished."
Reaves was cited for using his vision for the future of WSSU as the basis for the university's strategic plan which focuses on student success. The plan provided goals and objectives designed to assure the university's progress despite major reductions in state funding.
To attract better prepared students and impact retention and graduation rates, the university has increased admission standards three times since Reaves came in 2007. The retention rate for first year students has climbed from approximately 68 percent in 2006 to more than 81 percent in 2012. Among the retention rates for all HBCUs in the country, U.S. News & World Report recently ranked WSSU as number five. Additionally, the number of students graduating from WSSU has risen from 824 in 2006-2007 to nearly 1,600 in the 2013-2014 academic year.
During Reaves tenure, the university also gained approval to offer doctoral programs in physical therapy and nursing; reduced the size of the student body to align with available resources; and added three new buildings to the campus, including a Student Success Center.
Reaves also led the charge to implement an undergraduate curriculum grounded in the tradition of the liberal arts and designed to prepare students to be competitive in the global, knowledge-based economy of the 21st century. The new curriculum emphasizes developing the skills that employers seek such as critical thinking, rigorous analysis, creative problem solving and good communication.