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Debra Saunders-White Selected as 11th Chancellor of North Carolina Central University

Dr. Debra Saunders-White

Debra Saunders-White,deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, has been selected as the 11th chancellor of North Carolina Central University by the Board of Governors of the multi-campus University of North Carolina. Saunders-White, 57, will assume her new duties June 1.

In recommending Saunders-White to the Board of Governors, UNC President Tom Ross said:  “Over the past three decades, Deb Saunders-White has accumulated a wealth of leadership experience—in the corporate sector, at two highly respected universities, and in the halls of Washington.  At each step along the way, she has proven herself to be an energetic leader who promotes collaboration, creativity, strategic thinking, and real-life commitment to engagement and public service. She has also demonstrated a passionate commitment to helping all students succeed academically and reach their full potential. She is no stranger to North Carolina or this University—having served for five years as a vice chancellor and interim associate provost at UNC Wilmington—so we can consider this a homecoming of sorts.  With her broad experience in business, higher education, and government; her proven integrity and sound judgment; and her profound understanding of the changing marketplace in which our students must compete, Dr. Saunders-White will be a forceful and effective leader for NCCU.  We are delighted to bring her back to North Carolina.”

 Since joining the Department of Education in May 2011, Saunders-White has been responsible for administering federal programs that increase access to postsecondary education for low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities.  As deputy assistant secretary, she serves as the assistant secretary’s chief advisor on higher education programs and has oversight for more than 60 programs that strengthen the capacity of minority-serving institutions and help recruit and prepare disadvantaged students for successful college completion. This is the largest grant-making function within the Department of Education.

 A Hampton, Va., native, Saunders-White earned her bachelor’s degree in history in 1979 from the University of Virginia, where she was a DuPont Scholar.  She earned a master’s of business administration from The College of William & Mary in 1993 and a doctorate in higher education administration from The George Washington University in 2004. She also has participated in executive leadership programs sponsored by the American Council on Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and Hampton University.

“Our students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners are thrilled to welcome Dr. Saunders-White into the NCCU family,” said Dwight D. Perry, chair of NCCU’s Board of Trustees. “Under her leadership, NCCU is poised for continued growth and future success. She possesses an innate passion for developing, educating and graduating the next generation of innovators and change agents. We look forward to working in collaboration with Dr. Saunders-White to raise NCCU’s profile as a premier institution for higher education.”

Before entering higher education administration, Saunders-White spent 15 years in the corporate sector. She joined IBM in 1979 as a systems engineer and soon transitioned to marketing, where she assumed increasing levels of managerial responsibility for IBM’s higher education, finance, and public-sector marketing. By the time she left the company in 1994, she had earned numerous awards for customer engagement and other accomplishments.

 From 1994 to 1998, Saunders-White taught college-preparatory mathematics at St. George’s School in Newport, R.I. During her tenure there, she developed a course that used technology to engage students who “hated” math and developed a unit in which teams of students invested in the New York Stock Exchange.

 In 1999, Saunders-White joined Hampton University as assistant provost for technology, tasked with designing and building the university’s first information-technology organization. Under her leadership, Hampton became the first HBCU in the nation to join the Internet 2 community and was named one of America’s “most wired universities” by Forbes Magazine and the Princeton Review. In 2005, she was promoted to the newly created post of vice president for technology and chief information officer.

 Saunders-White left Hampton the following year to join the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) as vice chancellor for information technology systems. As a member of the chancellor’s executive leadership team, she was responsible for the strategic direction and operation of all IT resources on the campus.  From 2007 to 2008, she also served concurrently as UNCW’s interim associate provost in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and as chief diversity officer.

At UNCW, Saunders-White was credited with improving emergency communications for campus safety preparedness; introducing new cost-effective classroom technologies; garnering national recognition for UNCW’s innovative use of mobile services; and co-developing the UNCW Learning Commons, a technology-supported library space for student learning and collaboration. In addition, she implemented a mentoring program to support at-risk teenagers in the Wilmington Housing Authority; collaborated with the UNCW Department of Sociology to provide reading and computer literacy training for Housing Authority residents; and engaged black male faculty in the creation of SEAM (Seahawks Empowering African-American Men) to provide mentoring and help improve retention and graduation rates.  In the spring of 2011, she was tapped by the White House to serve as deputy assistant secretary and reported to Washington to assume her current post.

 U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan applauded her selection to lead NCCU. “As a first-generation college graduate herself, Deb truly understands both the opportunity that higher education provides and the challenges that so many of our nation’s young people face in accessing and affording college,” he said.  “She has worked tirelessly to expand access to resources that have opened doors for millions of students across the country, and her leadership has furthered our Department’s efforts to ensure that more young people have the chance to go to college. I am personally grateful for her leadership and am thrilled that as chancellor at North Carolina Central University, she will continue to help our nation achieve President Obama's goal of again leading the world in college graduates."

 Saunders-White succeeds Interim Chancellor Charles L. Becton, who joined the university in August 2012 following the retirement of Charlie Nelms.

 Active in civic and professional organizations, Saunders-White has held adjunct faculty appointments in the Hampton University Business School and UNCW’s Cameron School of Business.  She has been named a “cyber star” by Black Issues in Higher Education and has published articles and whitepapers on the role of technology in learning.  While at UNCW, she was elected by her peers across the UNC system to serve as vice chair and then chair-elect of the UNC Chief Information Officers Council. 

Saunders-White is a Silver Star member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and a member of the Links Inc.  She is the mother of two children: Elizabeth Paige, a senior and member of the track and field team at Temple University; and Cecil III, a second-year student at the University of Virginia.

AKATrustee Perry and Chancellor-Elect Debra Saunders-White enter the Hoey Administration Circle this afternoon. IPTMiss NCCU Harmony Cross welcomes Chancellor-Elect Debra Saunders-White with a hug. KAPStudent leaders stop for a picture with Chancellor-Elect Debra Saunders-White and Trustee Perry. PBSChancellor-Elect Debra Saunders-White accepts questions from the media during this afternoon's press conference. SGRhe Alpha Chi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. presented Chancellor-Elect Dr. Debra Saunders-White with pink roses at Friday's welcome reception. AKAChancellor-Elect Dr. Debra Saunders-White addresses the crowd at her welcome reception on Friday. IPTChancellor-Elect Dr. Debra Saunders-White and her children shake hands with NCCU community members during Friday's welcome reception. IPTNCCU jazz students and faculty performing during Friday's welcome reception for Chancellor-Elect Dr. Debra Saunders-White.
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 About North Carolina Central University

Founded in 1910 and located in Durham, North Carolina Central University was the nation’s first publically supported liberal arts college for African-Americans, and it is one of 17 institutions in the University of North Carolina system. With a student population of more than 8,400, NCCU is a comprehensive university offering baccalaureate, master's, doctoral and professional degree programs. Today, liberal arts remain a signature program at NCCU, joined by five additional areas of academic emphasis: Education, Nursing, Biosciences, Business and Law. Capitalizing on its location in the heart of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, the university is also home to two bioscience research institutes. In keeping with its motto of “Truth and Service,” NCCU in 1995 became the first institution in the UNC System to require community service of all students as a condition of graduation.

The University of North Carolina
The oldest public university in the nation, the University of North Carolina enrolls more than 220,000 students and encompasses all 16 of North Carolina’s public institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees, as well as the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, the nation’s first public residential high school for gifted students. UNC campuses support a broad array of distinguished liberal-arts programs, two medical schools and one teaching hospital, two law schools, a veterinary school, a school of pharmacy, 11 nursing programs, 15 schools of education, three schools of engineering, and a specialized school for performing artists. The UNC Center for Public Television, with its 11-station statewide broadcast network, is also under the University umbrella.

Quote from Dr. Saunders-White:

“W.E.B. Du Bois stated that ‘If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn't need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.’ Education is a powerful economic engine, especially for people like me and my three brothers — all first-generation college graduates. My mother grew up as a sharecropper in Northampton County, North Carolina, and my father, who is now in glory, was a used-car salesman. They educated the four of us without any debt, only by the sweat of their brow. They knew the value of higher education. For their sacrifices, I am eternally grateful. I believe that quality higher education is transformative and is our nation’s most prized asset.”

Published: Friday, February 08, 2013
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