Shaw University: Raleigh HBCU looks to future

Shaw University is a private university based in Raleigh. The university serves over 1,300 undergraduate students annually. Shaw’s rich history includes the remarkable fact that it was the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to offer courses in the southern United States.

dr Paulette Dillard, the university’s president, welcomed us to campus by reminding us that the university’s history and current mission are intertwined.

“Shaw’s mission is what drives us,” Dillard said in her opening statement. “We were founded in the last year of the American Civil War – and we are now the oldest graduating HBCU in the South. This gives us an amazing legacy.”

Shaw University has been called the “mother of North Carolina’s African-American colleges” because North Carolina Central University, Elizabeth City State University, and Fayetteville State University all had founding presidents who were Shaw alumni. The founder of Livingstone College spent his first two years of college at Shaw before transferring to Lincoln University. What became North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University was located on Shaw’s campus as a freshman, according to Dillard and the university.

Shaw’s history extends to being the first HBCU to become coeducational and accept women as students.

“We have a responsibility to provide graduates who are central to the social fabric of the nation,” Dillard said. “We train teachers, preachers and social workers.”

Today, Shaw offers 22 bachelor’s degrees in a variety of fields, including:

  • Education: Early Childhood Development, Birth Kindergarten Education, Elementary Education
  • Profession: Accounting, Business Administration
  • Social Work, Sociology & Jurisprudence: Social work, sociology, sociology of criminal justice

The institution also offers four master’s programs, three of which are offered by the Divinity program.

Progress with innovation – and a focus on students

Shaw University does not rely on its rich history and legacy to guarantee its future.

“We’re not going to run away from our history,” Dillard declared. “We are concentrating on the academy. We will continue to focus on recruiting, retaining, graduating and preparing students for their careers.”

Ultimately, Dillard found that this focus on academic and student success required an investment in technology.

“We will complete all of our programs and become the regional leader in incorporating technology skills into the DNA of our courses and our students.”

dr Paulette Dillard, President of Shaw University

dr Ashton Cleveland, Vice President of Student Affairs, walked us through their new approach to student case management. Cleveland said the goal of this new approach is simple: “We are developing ways for our students and their professors to engage on a regular basis. Building these closer relationships will help support students in creating their career and life goals.”

The new focus for Shaw will include a robust data dashboard and “Coffee with a Prof.” Cleveland said Coffee with a Prof will focus on improving student engagement by connecting students with professors who will have a conversation focused on career and life goals.

All of this work runs in tandem with comprehensive student support, including additional in-person tutoring, 24/7 online tutoring services in all subjects, and peer-to-peer tutoring, where honor students work to provide tutoring to other students who need help give.

Cleveland said the institution’s size and faculty-to-student ratio will allow Shaw to build both a data-driven and student-centric culture that will work hand-in-hand for student success.

Shaw also offers summer bridge programs that offer seven hours of course credit to support personal and academic transitions to college.

Shaw is focused on six strategic priorities as we look forward:

  • Improve institution-wide infrastructure to support the university’s mission and business ambitions.
  • Streamline academic and operational processes to increase institution efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Improve student retention, time to graduation, and career readiness.
  • Develop new local, national and global strategic partnerships that increase faculty effectiveness and engagement, diversity and student success.
  • Create diversified revenue streams to drive the business process and support the university’s mission.
  • Increase marketing exposure with a refined brand identity and value proposition.

All of this work requires resources, and that’s where Shaw’s bold real estate strategy comes into play.

Creating the ShawU District – and securing Shaw’s future

The Shaw University campus is located on 28 acres of prime real estate in downtown Raleigh. Shaw University is the largest private landowner in downtown Raleigh.

Kevin Sullivan leads a tour of Shaw University and describes the future development of the campus. Photo courtesy of Bridgette Cyr.

As you walk through the campus, you can see cranes in the distance as new buildings are erected across the city. Raleigh is a fast-growing city nestled in a fast-growing region – and this creates an opportunity for Shaw.

Kevin Sullivan, Shaw’s vice president of real estate and strategic development, was aware of the unique opportunities the university has in store for the future.

The college is working to use this land and establish the ShawU District.

“The Shaw campus is centrally located in the middle of Raleigh,” Sullivan said. “And with the right development strategy, it can become an important place for Raleigh.”

In the near term, Shaw is working on a repurposing of the campus to accommodate both commercial real estate development and campus development to support the needs of the community. Our vision is that the eventual development would include restaurants, a pharmacy, a grocery store, emergency care and even child care.

According to Sullivan, our long-term goal is to develop properties that align with the mission and vision of the college and its community partners – while providing the resources needed to enable the college to continue to move forward.

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Nation Hahn is Director of Growth for EducationNC.