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Summit highlights social mobility at WSSU

Chancellor Robinson stands at the podium on stage at the summit
WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson delivers the keynote address at the WSSU Social Mobility Summit on April 3. 

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) brought together academic, community leaders, researchers and students to share knowledge at the Social Mobility Summit 2019, April 2-3.

The summit, themed “Innovative Approaches on Campus and in the Community,” included a keynote from WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson on “Transforming Higher Education for 2020” and sessions highlighting path-breaking research by faculty fellows from the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM). 

The Social Mobility Summit was partially sponsored by CollegeNET, the creator of the Social Mobility Index (SMI). WSSU is one of only five universities in the nation that has consistently ranked among the top 20 schools on the SMI over the past five years. WSSU also has been named a CollegeNET Social Mobility Innovator for the past three years.

Want to get a feel for the summit? Here are a few highlights from the speakers at the two-day summit.

Dr. Elwood L. Robinson, WSSU Chancellor 

“We are in a re-imagination phase unlike anything we’ve ever seen. It’s because of these groups of students that we have today. They talk a lot about millennials, but there’s something to be said about a group of students who have a passion about changing the world and making it a better place.” 

“If we are creating institutions whereabout we are only educating only individuals who come from wealthy families and not educating those students that come from under-resourced families, then that gap will continue to get larger and larger over the next 10, 15, 20 years. That’s why educational institutions have to pay close attention to what is happening in that area as well.”

Dr. Anthony Graham, WSSU Provost

“Here at Winston-Salem State University, we have made a commitment to ensure that we are not educating the top 10 or 15 percent, but we are educating 100% of our student population, giving all of our students these opportunities.”

“We’ve created a culture of being bold and daring … saying to our faculty, our staff and our students, our stakeholders, ‘It’s not good enough for you to stand on the sidelines and criticize the people on the field. We want you in the midst of the action. Be a doer of the deeds. Get off the sideline and get in the game.’ … You have to think beyond the quantitative data. For us at Winston-Salem State University, it’s about the individual students. It’s not about all these data points.”


Jim Wolfson stands at the podium

Jim Wolfson, president of CollegeNET, speaks about growing economic inequality at the Social Mobility Summit on April 2. 

Jim Wolfson, President of CollegeNET 

“Today, we live in the learning age. We live in an age where the change of information is so fast that … you have to prepare people for the jobs that you don’t even know will be out there in 5 to 10 years. This is the learning age, and the key is higher education and therefore the key is exactly what we’re sitting on, the distribution of that. If we can create a distribution throughout this society this world, we might effectuate a soft landing for economic equality.”

“We’re in the learning age. We have an example here at Winston-Salem State … where you have economic inclusion driving people to a world-class result. That message needs to be spread.”

Dr. Harold Martin Sr., Chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University

“So, what I want to share with you in my conversation is how we are positioning our university very intentionally so it has a direct impact on economic prosperity on the Piedmont Triad, Guilford County and in particular in East Greensboro. There is a very strategic alignment with what we do with our university with what happens in Greensboro as a whole and what is going to happen and is happening in East Greensboro.”

“Students, I say to you, education continues to be the most significant civil rights impact and the great equalizer and elevation of you to a place of great opportunities for your future. And institutions like Winton-Salem State continue to make a big difference in your prosperity for the future.”  

Dr. Shanté P. Williams ‘05, founder of RW Capital Partners 

“You’ve heard that I’m a venture capitalist. I think it’s super important that we make sure that money gets into the hands of those who can best use it.”

“I asked you … is money really green? No, money is a chameleon. It takes the color and form of whomever is investing it. So the best way to desegregate the dollar bill is to make sure the hands that are actually investing it … they see the community not as an opportunity. They see an opportunity for them to engage. Not an opportunity for them to increase their capital gains.”


Alexis Lassiter, senior economics and finance major at WSSU, and a CSEM scholar

“Here at WSSU, we have somehow managed to create a learning environment that simultaneously fosters experiential learning while also allowing students to gain real-world experience.” 

“We’re a university that cares less about creating students who get jobs but more about students who become leaders. The work I’m doing with CSEM has been the most rewarding work I have ever experienced. I have grown immensely passionate about mentorship over the course of my experience here and I owe it to my university for creating an environment of awareness.”

About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.  

Student stands behind podium at summit.

WSSU senior Alexis Lassiter talks about her experiences during a session at the Social Mobility Summit on April 3. 

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