VIDEO: An Address from Chancellor Elwood Robinson
Dear Ram Family,
I wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the concerns of the Ram Family following the distribution of a highly misleading flyer. I am disappointed by the efforts being made to try undermine this university and to cast the Ram Family in a negative light amid all the wonderful work being done here to provide a student-centered, equity-minded, high-quality education.
I want to first address the implication made in the flyers that there is an attempt to move away from Winston-Salem State University’s legacy as a historically Black university (HBCU). The flyers include a quote from an interview I did with the Winston-Salem Journal and present it without context. As I have said throughout my career and emphasized during my time here at WSSU, HBCUs are even more important today than ever before. Universities like WSSU were created to allow recently emancipated slaves an opportunity to pursue higher education.
While times have changed, HBCUs remain relevant. Our value is in the “HBCU Experience” – an experience that provides a safe place for students to cultivate confidence and build leadership skills in an environment that is nurturing and supportive. While I believe that the HBCU Experience is beneficial for all students, there has been no effort to move away from our roots as an institution that serves African-Americans. In fact, we enshrined our commitment to that legacy and tradition by returning the words “historically Black university” into our mission statement when it was revised in 2010 and reaffirmed in 2016.
When Dr. Simon Green Atkins founded this great university, he envisioned a place where every student would meet the challenges of the day equipped with an education designed to intellectually prepare the “head, hand, and heart.” When asked what he would teach the sons and daughters of recently freed slaves at his institution, he responded: “What do they teach them at Harvard?” THAT is the kind of university we are working toward and committed to having.
Today, approximately 70% of our student body is African-American and 74% of our undergraduate students are African-American. That represents an increase from my first year as Chancellor here, when the figures were 69% and 72% respectively. I believe this is a result of our recruiting and marketing efforts and overall branding for WSSU. We continue to attract a large African-American population and we have put several measures in place to increase African-American enrollment in our graduate programs. In fact, we recently received a $2.4 million grant to increase the number of African-American students in our STEM and allied health programs. That said, I think it is important for the university community to welcome and embrace ALL members of the WSSU Ram Family.
I also want to address concerns surrounding the Center for Economic Mobility (CSEM). In September 2017, we announced the launch of the center thanks to a $3 million grant administered through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s (TMCF) Center for Advancing Opportunity. The center will study economic immobility in Forsyth County. CSEM is the first of three centers that have been created through TMCF following a $25.6 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries.
This grant in no way impacts the academic mission of our university. The center operates independently from TMCF, and neither TMCF nor the Charles Koch Foundation has oversight regarding the distribution of grants or research funding. CSEM is truly a great opportunity for our students to play an important role in identifying the barriers to economic mobility that people in poverty face in our community. The center is just now getting up and running, but you can learn more about the CSEM and the work it will be doing at www.wssu.edu/csem.
As you know, I am the product of two HBCUs and the proud Chancellor of a third. I believe deeply in our mission and never hesitate to share with pride our rich history. WSSU is a vibrant and dynamic learning community full of people who are committed to providing our students the very best education possible. I appreciate the passion and enthusiasm the Ram Family has for this university and I appreciate the alumni who believe in, advocate for, and support their alma mater. I believe our founder, Dr. Simon Green Atkins, would be proud of what this university has become. I am certainly proud and honored to serve as its chancellor.
Elwood L. Robinson, Ph.D