A look back at the top 10 of 2017
As Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) closes the book on its 125th year, WSSU News is taking a look at the top 10 news stories of the year.
10. Changing campus landscape
WSSU’s campus transition continued in 2017 with more than $100 million in new construction in the works. In January, work began on a $25 million residence hall for freshmen, and in September, WSSU broke ground on a $53.3 million sciences building. In addition, WSSU continued to beef up its dining choices for students with updates at Kennedy Dining Hall, the addition of Chick-fil-A to the food court at the Donald J. Reaves Student Activities Center and rebranding of the coffee shop at the Atkinson Science Building. In addition, Student Government Association broke ground on Zen Zone, and the university bookstore transitioned under new management, committing to nearly double in size.
WSSU’s Red Sea of Sound marching band received national exposure, performing an original take on ESPN's “First Take" theme song on Nov. 14. The video was filmed at the request of "First Take" co-host Stephen A. Smith, a WSSU alumnus. Earlier in the year, the band also made its sixth appearance at the Honda Battle of the Bands in Atlanta, and was named one of the eight best marching bands in the Carolinas by The Charlotte Observer’s Carolina College Bound.
With 100s of camera phones raised in the air in anticipation, WSSU unveiled a fierce new mascot logo on Aug. 19. The new logo – which will be used by the university’s athletics programs, on gear and as décor across campus – was unveiled after nearly a year of surveys and focus groups of students, alumni, coaches and administrators.
WSSU continued to look for new technology to better support students. On June 1, WSSU rolled out a complete redesign of the university’s website. In August, WSSU became the first HBCU and first college in North Carolina, to employ an artificial intelligence virtual assistant to help prospective students successfully apply and enroll in college. This fall, WSSU also unveiled a new interactive campus map.
WSSU continues to address health disparities in the community through a number of initiatives. During 2017, the university received more than $1.2 million in grants or gifts to launch new programs and expand others. In March, WSSU launched Project REACHE, a program through the United Way of Forsyth County. In November, WSSU received nearly $400,000 to launch a model diabetes prevention program.
Continuing its focus on providing a comprehensive liberal education approach, WSSU added news courses and programs and also strengthened science courses to increase student success. In June, WSSU received a grant to develop a signature Afro Cuban student abroad program. Also this spring, WSSU received support to fine-tune introductory science courses to support faculty-mentored research. This summer, the Department of Psychological Sciences launched its first Cultural Neuroscience Institute. More than 16 new courses launched for the 2017-18 academic year, including five new religious studies courses that are part of a new minor in religious studies.
Rams athletics had another exciting year, taking home CIAA titles in baseball, women’s outdoor track and field, and volleyball. Also, four members of WSSU’s women’s track and field team were named to the NCAA Division II All-American Team, and WSSU football was named the top program in the state by Hero Sports. Athletics also rallied to support three student-athletes with ties to Puerto Rico whose families were impacted by Hurricane Maria.
WSSU will take a lead in helping to better understand how to remove the barriers to economic mobility in Forsyth County through a new research center. Funding for the center comes through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s Center for Advancing Opportunity.
Continually ranked among the top investments for college students, WSSU is also a major economic engine in the local and regional economy. WSSU is responsible for pumping more than $233 million into the North Carolina economy, according to a national study commissioned by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
WSSU took time to honor its visionary founder and its legacy through a yearlong 125th anniversary celebration. A culmination of celebration was “I Dream a World: The Life and Dreams of Simon Green Atkins,” a mixed performance production presented on the university’s 125th birthday, Sept. 28. Other highlights of the celebration included: a recognition of the 1967 national championship basketball team, a special exhibit at Diggs Gallery and the inaugural Healthcare Legends of East Winston ceremony.