University sees increases in sponsored research funding (97.4%), enrollment (5.5%) and fundraising (8.6%); houses 40% of students on campus.
Sponsored research at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) has increased 97.4% to $53.1 million for the 2022-2023 school year, up from $26.9 million in the prior school year.
The reasons are many, said Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., interim associate provost and dean of sponsored research, and director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical and Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI).
Most of the funding is through federal grants. For example, both the White House and National Institutes of Health have issued grants to research inequities that became apparent during the COVID pandemic.
“Health equity has been front and center,” Kumar said. “It has really taken off. Workforce development and diversifying the workforce. Getting students into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers has helped a lot. Also, [there were] a couple [of] opportunities around digital and data equity.”
The five largest grants this year:
- Hernan Navarro, Ph.D., past director of the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), received a $6.19 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to study workforce equity in biomanufacturing.
- BBRI’s Kumar received a $3.33 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to boost primary health care access for underserved, uninsured and underinsured communities throughout North Carolina. He also received a $1.99 million grant from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to study COVID and long-COVID infections.
- Jon Gant, Ph.D., School of Information and Library Science professor, received $2.92 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce for the Digital Equity Leadership Program, an effort to bridge the digital divide (Siobahn Day Grady, Ph.D., assistant professor and program director of information science/systems) has since taken over as principal investigator).
- Caesar Jackson, Ph.D., professor of physics in the department of mathematics and physics, received a $1.19 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the DREAM STEM Project which aims to advance research, academics and entrepreneurship in STEM student success.
Other factors include messaging that sponsored research is important from the chancellor, provost, chairs, deans and faculty senate, new faculty who already have grants joining the university and joint efforts between NCCU and other universities and community-based entities including nonprofits, public health departments, medical clinics and faith-based organizations, Kumar said.
“The bulk of the credit goes to the faculty for writing more proposals,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs David H. Jackson Jr. Jackson also credits Kumar for making sure proposals were processed in a timely fashion.
The dollar amounts come with two caveats, Kumar notes. First, some of the money arrives in the form of multi-year grants. All the money for a three-year grant, for example, might be paid to the university up front. That could make the first year look richer than the next two.
Second, some grants are not renewable. That could mean a drop in funding while new grants are applied for.
Even with those caveats, however, “Our numbers are significantly up,” Kumar said. “We are on a good trend.”
Sponsored research money tends to have a multiplier effect. Faculty conducting sponsored research take their new knowledge into the classroom, which benefits students, while also increasing the visibility of NCCU.
Enrollment has increased by 5.5% at NCCU.
As of August 25, 2023, 7,965 students are enrolled at NCCU. That is compared to 7,553 from fall 2022.
Jackson credits rebuilding the admissions team – in particular appointing Sharon Oliver, Ph.D., to lead the enrollment effort – along with efforts to increase retention through University College and an overall enrollment effort that was more organized and aggressive.
While some of the increase might be due to the COVID pandemic being under control, NCCU also saw an increase in applicants, said Oliver, who serves as interim associate vice chancellor.
Undergraduate Admissions worked with high school guidance counselors, community partners, alumni, faculty and staff on recruiting. The chancellor made time to participate in recruitment activities, including speaking with prospective students and parents and creating videos.
Enrollment also benefited from increased attention gained by the football and softball teams’ winning seasons, and the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship brought home by the NCCU Jazz Ensemble.
Jackson is also pleased that NCCU did not go over its cap – no more than 35% of enrolled first-year students with out-of-state residency.
Residence Halls are Full
Additionally, NCCU has more students living on campus than ever before. There are now 3,235 students on campus, an increase from 3,144 students in fall 2022.
That number is not just impressive at NCCU but by any standards, said Angela Coleman, Ed.D., vice chancellor for student affairs.
“That’s about 40% of our student population that we house,” Coleman said. “Most universities are at 25 – 35%.”
Living on campus has positive benefits.
“Forty-plus years of research shows students who live on campus are more engaged,” Coleman said. “That contributes to student retention and leads to positive student experience which [results in] happy alums who give to the campus.”
Some of the housing increase is due to new residence halls that were completed during the COVID pandemic. Another factor is diversifying the housing stock on campus.
“Now our inventory is mixed,” Coleman said. “There are [fewer] community-style bathrooms. Now it is more semi-suites, suites and apartment-style [units]. We also house some graduate students and law school students. The new types of housing have attracted those populations.”
In 2022, NCCU Residential Life switched to a new housing management system called Mercury which made it easier to communicate with students, see housing availability and work with special populations such as Athletics, Cheatham-White Scholars, the African American Male Initiative, University Honors program, etc.
The Division of Student Affairs also expanded the time period to apply for housing, opening housing applications in January rather than April.
Increase in Scholarship Donations
Finally, the University has raised $16.4 million. That is up 8.6% from $15.1 million during the 2021-2022 school year.
“This is the most we’ve raised in the last ten years,” said Susan L. Hester, vice chancellor for institutional advancement.
The increase was partly due to university gift officers contacting more alumni, who gave generously. The majority of those alumni donated money to support scholarships, particularly to the schools or colleges that they graduated from. Among those were the School of Business, Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), School of Education and School of Law.
It wasn’t easy. There was a decrease in staffing and Institutional Advancement onboarded new staff in the middle of its fundraising campaign.
“We were getting them accustomed to NCCU and learning the culture of NCCU while calling on donors,” Hester said.