A Message from Chancellor Akinleye

Posted January 12, 2024, 10:19AM

Jan. 12, 2024

Dear NCCU Family:

After 37 years of dedicated service to higher education institutions, and with much gratitude for the opportunity to transform the lives of thousands of well-deserving students, I have decided to retire from my position as chancellor of North Carolina Central University (NCCU), effective June 30, 2024.

I joined NCCU as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs in February of 2014, then assumed the role of acting chancellor in August of 2016 and interim chancellor in December of 2017 while continuing to serve as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. I was then appointed the 12th chancellor on June 26, 2017.

I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this esteemed university through a period of growth and innovation, a period when the institution was primed for transformative change.   I am immensely proud and truly gratified to have worked with very talented executive staff, a supportive Board of Trustees, a dedicated faculty and staff and thousands of caring and dedicated alumni across the nation and worldwide during the past eight-plus years. 

Since leading this stellar academic enterprise, we have made tremendous progress and accumulated many accolades.  Enrollment is healthy and growing. We have added two new colleges as an outgrowth of an academic realignment, the College of Health and Sciences and the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, to better address the needs of our students and the emerging marketplace.

Under my leadership, NCCU continues to climb in national rankings. Our research enterprise is robust, growing and thriving.  We are logging record-setting private donations and philanthropic gifts.  NCCU athletics continued to be a prominent force and won championships in the Mid-Eastern Athletics Conference (MEAC) and a national championship for football (2022 Celebration Bowl). 

In 2017, together with senior leadership, we identified and strategically mapped out five key priorities that would define NCCU’s place as a top-ranked regional institution and collectively challenge our thinking as an institution that provides the most powerful learning and living experience for our number one priority, student success. 

Today, NCCU stands in a place of pride and admiration as a result of our accomplishments, delivering on the “Eagle Promise” while fulfilling the five critical priorities.

These priorities are: 

Reinforcing and investing in improved security measures to enhance campus safety and students’ well-being. 

We invested more than $3.03 million in 2017-2018 to improve safety, much of it involving technology. 

We put in place an upgraded alert system that provides students with real-time information for any emergency-weather, crime, bomb threats-via email, text and phone calls. 

We installed more than 1,690 camera monitors, indoor and outdoor on campus and more than 82 blue-light emergency phones located across the campus. 

We installed alarms at residence halls to alleviate security problems of exterior doors being propped open.  We provided card entry access to all campus buildings.  We entered into an agreement with the City of Durham Police Department and Durham County Sheriff’s Department that extends NCCU’s jurisdiction with crime prevention in the perimeter surrounding the NCCU campus. As a result of these measures and many others, NCCU was listed as the safest college campus in North Carolina by SafeStreets in 2021.

Building for the Future-Improving and building new infrastructure to better accommodate the NCCU community as it grows and thrives.

In 2018, under my leadership, we set out to facilitate the need for the university to increase its investments in vital infrastructure including contemporary living, an enriched academic experience and high-touch teaching environment.  As a result, we embarked upon the largest infrastructure expansion of the university in decades, totaling more than $400 million. 

We secured the Millennial Campus Designation in October 2018, making NCCU the first historically Black college or university in the University of North Carolina (UNC) System to gain this designation as a single institution.

Today, we have completed the development and construction of six new major capital projects, including a new Student Center, School of Business and three ultra-modern apartment-like residence halls. On November 21, 2023, we broke ground for the 24/7 Collaborative Learning and Research Center, slated to be completed in November 2024.

We transformed NCCU from being a food desert by adding more than 10 national retail food services across the campus to include Starbucks, Panda Express, Freshens, Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread and others to serve the needs of our students.

In April 2019, we unveiled a $1.86 million brand new state-of-the-art television studio, a high-tech, high-touch facility that provides advanced training opportunities for students preparing to enter the mass communications industry.

In 2018, we instituted a 10-Year Master Plan that was approved by the NCCU Board of Trustees.  Phase I of this plan has been completed and executed.

In 2019, we developed and implemented a five-year strategic plan, “Charting a New Landscape for Student-Centered Success,” 2019-2024.  This plan is accompanied by objectives and measurable strategies that are designed to enhance NCCU as a top-tier institution with a robust and flexible curriculum, innovative research, market-responsive co-curricular programs, and impactful community engagement.  As a result, NCCU has truly exemplified “the Eagle Promise”— evidenced by increases in 2023 in sponsored research funding (97.4%), enrollment (5.5%) and fundraising (8.6%); on-campus housing now houses 40% of students on campus.

Through collaboration with the NCCU Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors, we renamed two major buildings to reflect the mission of the university and its commitment to diversity.

Improving NCCU’s brand reputation to embrace student success and offer multiple access points for students entering NCCU.

In July 2017, through visionary forethought that ensures our ability to teach and deliver high quality online instruction to non-traditional learners, we launched NCCU Online. This platform has now grown to include 11 fully online undergraduate degree programs, 16 graduate degree programs, and eight certificate programs with a headcount of more than 1,032 students. 

Today, we stand as a beacon to many institutions as the first institution in the UNC System selected to partner with Project Kitty Hawk (PKH) to launch an innovative recruiting model and curriculum for our RN to BSN online degree program to the citizens of North Carolina and beyond in October 2023.

We established the Office of e-Learning to provide faculty with resources necessary to ensure "Eagle Excellence Online." The office empowers faculty with the technological skills and tools necessary to promote student success in the online learning environment.
We established partnerships with North Carolina State University to establish a 3+2 degree program in electrical engineering and physics; a seamless 2+2 degree program in criminal justice and other degree programs with Vance Granville Community College; and an innovative program titled “Eagle Connect” with Durham Technical Community College. We also collaborated with faculty to secure off-site accreditation for NCCU’s criminal justice program with Wake Technical Community College.
NCCU School of Education established a partnership with Beijing Language and Culture University in China with a focus on communication disorders.
We signed a memorandum of understanding with Ningxia Medical University in China in 2016 that provides NCCU an opportunity for faculty and student exchange in STEM disciplines.
NCCU’s 10-year accreditation was reaffirmed in 2019 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) with no recommendations or follow ups.  All university colleges and schools are now fully accredited—a testament to NCCU’s solid academic standing.

In 2019, we revitalized and redesigned the university website using a multimedia interactive platform to incorporate and showcase NCCU’s brand distinctiveness in academic and athletic accomplishments.  NCCU’s website was named the winner of the HBCUgrow Lead 2020 Platinum Award.

As a result of these accomplishments, NCCU has become a trendsetter in meeting the diverse needs of the 21st century student.

“Academically Defining the Future and Advancing Research” at NCCU.

Working together with faculty, the university has witnessed the largest academic program portfolio expansion in decades.  We established new undergraduate degree programs to include Biomedical Sciences; Clinical Research; Nutrition and Dietetics; Information Technology; Computer Science and Business Administration; Geospatial Science; Behavioral Sciences; and Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies; Master of Science in Higher Education Administration; Assistive Technology in Visual Impairment; Nutritional Sciences, to name a few.
In 2017, I founded the Eagle Academic Affairs Innovation Fund, a university-wide initiative designed to spark innovations and foster growth in faculty research, and enhance the distinction of NCCU on the national stage.  We supported projects that fostered innovation to solve key problems and advance NCCU’s distinction in research, teaching and engagement.  We awarded $462,714 for 24 Faculty Innovation Grants from 2017-2020, resulting in the university generating more than $53 million in sponsored research in 2023.

In 2022, we joined forces with RTI International in a collaboration that marked a milestone, with the formal opening of the NCCU-RTI Center for Applied Research in Environmental Sciences (CARES) and an accompanying shared laboratory on RTI’s campus in Research Triangle Park. This was the first such partnership with an HBCU. 

We developed a partnership with Duke University to build capacity in clinical and translational sciences for both universities. The program established joint leadership and infrastructure to enrich the clinical translational science environment in Durham, with a focus on workforce development, community engagement, and multi-disciplinary team science and innovation.

Expanding partnerships to recruit, generate funds, and create employment opportunities for students.

Under my leadership, we focused on creating a culture of philanthropy by strengthening our capacity in the office of advancement and development through the recruitment of experienced, trained and dedicated professionals.  Today, NCCU has garnered an impressive and growing list of donors and partners that include Fortune 500 corporations, foundations, and higher education institutions and community colleges.

Selected fund-raising and sponsored research accomplishments 2017-2023. 

  • $227 million of funding generated in sponsored research from 2017-2023.  
  • $16.4 million generated through sustained alumni outreach by university gift officers—an increase of 8.6% over previous year. 
  • $12.9 million raised and allocated to scholarships from 2017-2023 by the NCCU Foundation. 
  • $73.6 million in annual funds from 2017-2023 (alumni, faculty/staff, students/parents and friends, corporations and foundations)  
  • The university’s endowment has grown to $81 million. 
  • $6.19 million from U.S. Department of Commerce to study workforce equity in biomanufacturing.​ 
  • $5 million awarded by Intel Corporation in 2021 for the School of Law to produce technology-conscious lawyers who will use technology in alignment with NCCU’s mission of facilitating efficient, effective, and ethical practice of law and increasing the access of legal information and services to underserved communities.  
  • $3.33 million from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to boost primary care access for underserved NC communities.​  
  • $2.92 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce for the Digital Equity Leadership Program to bridge the digital divide.​  
  • Nearly $2 million was gifted by JLL and McDonald’s to support a robust industry-validated curriculum in real estate in the School of Business, resulting in NCCU becoming the first HBCU to introduce a real estate specialization into its MBA program in 2021.    
  • $1.8 million grant from North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation to create the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Program in Biotech: Lean into STEM and the Future in late 2021. 
  • Lowe’s Companies, Inc. awarded $1.5 million in 2020 to name the 200-person auditorium in the School of Business and a new academic program. 
  • TikTok Inc. gifted $1 million in 2020 focused on public health and professionals in the medical and healthcare fields, providing scholarships for NCCU students from underrepresented groups studying medicine and STEM disciplines.
  • $1.53 million grant from the Institute of Education Science to support the Research Institute for Scholars of Equity, or RISE Program, in the School of Education, which supports African American and Latinx students who are underrepresented among candidates seeking doctoral degrees – building a pipeline of future scholars. 
  •  $1.19 million from National Science Foundation to advance research, academics and entrepreneurship in STEM student success​. 

As we depart the sloping hills and verdant green of NCCU, Juanita, Nikki, Peter and I are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the NCCU fabric and family for these many years.  We take with us very fond memories of an institution that has a rich tradition and legacy and will continue to make great strides in championing education for generations yet to come. We shall continue to cherish and nourish the friendships we have made and our love and passion for this great institution, North Carolina Central University. 

Eagle Pride, Amplified! 

Johnson O. Akinleye, Ph.D.
North Carolina Central University

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