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Real World Classroom Infusion Leads to Professor’s Honor

Donna Grant, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Donna Grant, Ph.D., has always been a faculty standout at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), but now she is being recognized as one of the top faculty members in the 17-campus University of North Carolina System.

Grant will be presented with the University North Carolina Board of Governors 2018 Award for Excellence in Teaching Award on May 12, 2018, during NCCU’s 131st Baccalaureate Commencement.

Grant, who serves as chair of the Computer Information Systems Department at NCCU, is known for providing unusual yet valuable educational opportunities in the classroom. She invites industry professionals to advise and mentor students and gives students real-world business problems to solve.

“Exposing students to real-world experiences allows them to enhance their knowledge of strategies and operations in the business environment,” Grant says. “I want to make a difference in the lives of my students.”

Before joining NCCU in 2007, she had a successful 22-year career in corporate leadership. She says her teaching philosophy blends theoretical concepts with practical experience, with an emphasis on a wide spectrum of approaches to information systems analysis, design, development, implementation and management.

“Dr. Grant’s teaching style creates an environment that is conducive to thought, questions, and the synthesis of new information,” said 2014 School of Business graduate Bobby D. Richardson, adding that her passion for inspiring and motivating students is evident in the success of so many of the program’s graduates.

“She is committed to the scholarship and mentorship of students which provides valuable insight to successful careers,” he added.

Academic knowledge is just part of the equation when it comes to teaching information technology, Grant believes: “It also takes exposure and experience. I try to provide students with as many opportunities as possible before graduation.”

Previous awards Grant has earned include the Award for Teaching Excellence from NCCU in 2011 and the IBM Faculty Award, which she has maintained from 2009 - 2016.

Grant holds a bachelor’s degree in education and mathematics from Northwestern University, as well as a master’s in information systems/project management, an MBA in finance, and a doctorate in computer science and information systems, all from DePaul University.

She has participated in numerous initiatives and student activities with professional organizations such as Information Technology Senior Management Forum, BDPA, the North Carolina chapter of Project Management Institute and Toastmasters. As an NCCU faculty member, she forged corporate partnerships with Google, GE, Cisco and IBM, among others, and has secured more than $100,000 in awards.

“Corporate partnerships are a great addition to the curricula and will ensure our students are exposed to emerging technologies and knowledge, such as big data, while also making them market-ready for lucrative careers,” says Grant.

A further commitment to students is Grant’s role as faculty advisor for the IT Eagles, a student organization that has been successful at linking students with internships and job opportunities.

“Dr. Grant takes a personal interest in all her students,” said 2017 School of Business graduate Juan Candela, who now works as a network engineer for Cisco. “She not only assisted with issues concerning academics, but also presented me with a number of networking opportunities and visits with companies such as IBM, Cisco and Citrix, which led to numerous job offers. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Dr. Grant’s influence and support.”

Off-campus, she has worked with Hillside New Technology High School in Durham to help implement a virtual computing lab with involvement from IBM and N.C. State University for more than 130 students. She also served as a speaker and panelist for Black Girls Code, a national nonprofit organization for girls who are interested in technology.

In her research and writing, Grant has focused on women and information technology, project management, computer proficiency, virtual computing, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and technology careers.

But she describes working with students as the most rewarding part of the job.

“It is my passion and destiny to prepare the next generation of professionals,” Grant says, which comes naturally to Grant, as both her parents were also educators.

“My parents would be extremely proud of me getting this award,” Grant says. “They spoke often about the noble aspects and the challenges of education. I love every minute of being an educator, but most importantly I love the impact I have on the lives of students.”

University North Carolina Board of Governors 2018 Awards for Excellence in Teaching are based on nominations from UNC system campuses. The Board of Governors’ Committee on Personnel and Tenure selected the final honorees, each of whom receives a commemorative bronze medallion and a $12,500 cash prize.


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