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Social work, Diggs Gallery win 2019 HBCU Awards

Graduates of the WSSU Department of Social Work's Class of 2019 – pictured here with faculty – were accepted to master's programs across the country, including Tulane University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (WSSU File, April 2019) 

For the second consecutive year, Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) has won multiple HBCU Awards, presented by HBCU Digest. WSSU received awards for Best Social Work Program and for Best Fine Arts Program for the Diggs Gallery.

The awards were presented at a ceremony on Friday, Aug. 2, at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in downtown Baltimore. 

WSSU was a finalist for 10 awards this year, tied for the third most overall and a record for the university.

“We are thrilled to be recognized this year among the best HBCUs by HBCU Digest,” said WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson. “This is testament to the exceptional faculty and staff who give their best each and every day to make sure that our students succeed and another sign of WSSU’s growing national reputation.”

Best HBCU Social Work Program

For the second consecutive year, WSSU’s Department of Social Work has received the award for Best Social Work Program among the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities.

The awards are just two of the recent honors for the department, which launched in 2008.

Dr. Yolanda Meade Byrd, associate professor and chair of the department, said a key to the success is the individual approach faculty take with students.

From the start of their junior years, faculty work one-on-one with students to identify goals and to make sure graduates are prepared through a program that was introduced in 2017. Since the program launched, 93.75% of students who participated were either offered employment or received admission to graduate school by the time of graduation, Byrd said.

Nearly half of the program’s 2018-19 graduates were accepted to Master of Social Work (MSW) programs across the country, including Tulane University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro/North Carolina A&T State University’s Joint program. Byrd said a majority of WSSU’s social work graduates also received advanced standing status, which means they will begin graduate school in May and are expected to graduate with the MSW degree in May 2020.

For 2018-19, the department also:

  • Expanded research and scholarship opportunities for students. Social work seniors Madario Lampkins and Takeyah Murrain presented applied research papers at a national conference, winning first place.
  • Expand its collaborations with universities. The department partners with UNC-CH and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on immersion programs, and this summer, the faculty finalized international research partnerships with universities in Malawi and South Africa.
  • Partnered with WSSU’s admissions office and community organizations in March to present a college readiness workshop for 175 high school students in Forsyth, Davie and Iredell counties.
Best Fine Arts Program: The Diggs Gallery

The Diggs Gallery was named the Best Fine Arts Program among HBCUs. The gallery, located in the lower level of C.G. O’Kelly Library, is one of the largest galleries for African and African-American art in the Southeast.

Last fall, the gallery brought “For Freedoms” – a national artists’ platform for civic engagement, discourse and direct action –  to North Carolina with its exhibition “Truth Be Told.” The exhibition – featuring all North Carolina-based artists – ranked as one of the Winston-Salem Journal’s top 10 arts events for 2018 and provided an opportunity for the gallery to host social justice-themed events for students and the community.

In November, Diggs Gallery Director Endia Beal, who is also a WSSU assistant art professor, became one of 12 gallery curators to receive a 2019 fellowship from The Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL) in New York. The only other university curator selected for the program was from Harvard University. In February, Beal was honored by Governor Roy Cooper at a Black History Month reception honoring African American musicians, writers and artists from North Carolina.

This summer, the gallery continued to focus its program on exhibitions of interest to students, helping to expose them to an art gallery, often for the first time.

Last month, the gallery opened two exhibitions that pay tribute to hip-hop history. The first, “Uncategorized,” highlights works of photographer Chi Modu, who documented the careers of rap icons such as Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. and Mary J. Blige. This is Modu’s first university gallery appearance.

The second, “UKNOWHOWWEDU,” features female artists Iona Rozeal Brown, LaKela Brown, Georgie Nakima and Stephanie J. Woods, and pays homage to the sixth track on Bahamadia’s 1996 debut album, “Kollage.” 

In June, two recent WSSU art graduates, who worked as interns at the gallery, were chosen to participate in a Yale University art institute.

Diggs Gallery hosts the senior exhibition in the spring, providing graduating students in WSSU’s Department of Art + Visual Studies the opportunity to showcase their work. The gallery holds WSSU’s public art collection, which includes murals by African American artist John Biggers and an outdoor sculpture garden.

WSSU was also a finalist in these categories:

  • HBCU of the Year
  • Male President of the Year, Elwood L. Robinson
  • Female Faculty of the Year, Dawn Hicks Tafari, assistant professor of education
  • Alumna of the Year, Tish Guerin '05, a 2019 WSSU Young Alumni Council “Forty Under 40” honoree, and the in-house mental health clinician for the Carolina Panthers.
  • Best HBCU Marching Band, The Red Sea of Sound
  • Best HBCU Choir, The Singing Rams
  • Best Research Center, the Center of Excellence for the Elimination of Health Disparities (CEEHD)
  • Best Nursing Program

According to HBCU Digest, The HBCU Awards is the first and only national awards ceremony honoring individual and institutional achievement at historically Black colleges and universities throughout the country.

Winners are selected by a panel of previous winners, journalists, HBCU executives, students and alumni for the merit of accomplishment and for generating positive coverage for HBCU campus communities.

In 2018, WSSU won HBCU Awards for Best Social Work Program and Best Nursing Program. You can view a full list of the 2019 winners on HBCU Digest's Patreon page.

 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.

The Diggs Gallery, winner of the 2019 HBCU Award for Best Fine Arts Program, is paying tribute to hip-hop history with its current exhibition. (WSSU Photo, July 2019)

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