David McCoy

David McCoy

Right after WSSU Chancellor Donald J. Reaves’ announcement that he was stepping down as chancellor, David McCoy, Office of Marketing and Communications intern checked with students to get their reaction.

After nearly eight years filled with many accomplishments and tough times Chancellor Donald J. Reaves announced that he will be steeping down as chancellor of Winston-Salem State University December 31, 2014.

But what did the students of WSSU think of Reaves during his stint as chancellor?

Brian Bell, a senior economics major from Durham, NC, said he thought that Dr. Reaves had done a very good job during his time as chancellor and agrees with his decision to step down. “I think it’s a good move on his behalf, he has accomplished a lot and feels it’s time to move on so I’m fine with that,” said Bell.

Bell emphasized how much the chancellor has done for the university during his time as chancellor, in particular the significant increase in graduation rates. Bell said he really liked the type of person Reaves was. “He presented himself as a man of great character” Bell said.

Jasmine Davis, a junior healthcare management major from Charlotte, NC, said she wished she could have had a chance to actually meet Reaves, but felt he has done a pretty good job for the university. “The school and student population is growing, we have new buildings like the Donald J. Reaves Student Activities Center and Hill Hall,” she said.  “I just hope our next chancellor can keep the university going in the right direction.”

Jarrin Wooten, a senior education major from Southern Pines, NC, also said he was pleased with the job Chancellor Reaves had done. “Since I have been at the university, every year it seems to have gotten better,” he said.

Wooten mentioned the new buildings and new dorms that have been recently added to the university and the football stadium that the university hopes to purchase one day. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet him a few times and he seems like a really nice guy who has the university’s best interest at heart,” he said.  Wooten said he really admired the chancellor for stepping down and wanting to go back into the teaching field.

Reaves, a former teacher, said he planned to join the teaching staff at WSSU as a political science professor.

Coach Bobby Collins had great years at WSSU.

Coach Bobby Collins had great years at WSSU.

He has had an outstanding run at WSSU as head basketball coach after taking over a program that was barely breaking even. Coach Bobby Collins brought the WSSU basketball program back from the brink of obscurity to a perennial CIAA championship contender. Now he is taking his talents back to the Division I level as the new head coach at Maryland-Eastern Shore. Read more here.

At center Dr. Donald J. Reaves is join by Mrs. Linda Baten, the granddaughter of James S. Hill the man for whom Hill Hall is named, and Dr. Deborah Reaves along with a host of community leaders, elected officials, university trustees and supporters to cut the ribbon for newly renovated Hill Hall.

At center: Chancellor Donald J. Reaves is join by Mrs. Linda Hill Baten, the granddaughter of James S. Hill the man for whom Hill Hall is named, and Dr. Deborah Reaves along with a host of community leaders, elected officials, university trustees and supporters and staff to cut the ribbon for newly renovated Hill Hall.

The Student Success Center, located in the renovated Hill Hall, was designed to enhance student performance and support student success by consolidating a myriad of services in one location to create what can be referred to as an academic activities center.  Through University College and Lifelong Learning, students will be able to enhance their intellectual, professional and personal lives through academic guidance, comprehensive learning support services, and engaging professional development opportunities along with having access to assistance in other areas.

Chancellor Reaves addresses a large gathering on hand to witness opening of the New Student Success Center.

Chancellor Reaves addresses a large gathering on hand to witness opening of the New Student Success Center.

The $13.5 million project creates a one-stop-shop where students can receive academic support, mentoring, career development services and other educational opportunities such as international programs.  Even the design of the building supports individual and student groups learning outside of the classroom in a modern, convenient and welcoming environment that also includes technology support services.

The concept of consolidating these various areas will bring together the Academic Advising Center, the Language Arts and Writing Center, the Quantitative Skills Center, the Learning Resource Center, International Programs and the Career Development Services Office.  Whether a student needs help with writing an essay, wants to participate in an international studies program or is looking for an internship, assistance will be available in the Student Success Center.

The most important capital project on campus, the renovation of the 38,000 square-foot building was funded through financial support from corporations, foundations and individuals that augmented student fees and state funds from the university’s repair and renovation allocation.  Through the support of those who understood and believed in this project, the university will be better able to meet the needs of our students and to make a positive difference in their lives while they are on campus and after they graduate.

Check out the time lapse photography of the clouds passing over Student Success Center at Hill Hall.

Reaves Student Activities Center

Reaves Student Activities Center

We knew it was big, spacious and appealing. But, the Reaves Student Activities Center is also an award winner. Learn more here.

Chancellor Reaves makes announcement to step down to a large assembly of faculty, staff, and students.

Chancellor Reaves makes announcement to step down to a large assembly of faculty, staff, and students.

Donald Julian Reaves announced on Friday, March 21, that he will step down as chancellor of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) effective December 31, 2014, or thereafter when a successor is in place.

Accompanied by his wife Deborah, Chancellor Reaves made the announcement to a gathering of university faculty, students and staff after having informed the WSSU Board of Trustees at its meeting earlier in the day.

“At the end of December I will be in the middle of the eighth year of my five-year commitment,” Reaves said jokingly.  “Seriously though, I am truly thankful to have had the opportunity to serve the University and the community and I want to thank UNC Presidents Tom Ross and Erskine Bowles for giving me the opportunity to lead this institution.  I also want to thank the members of the board of trustees with whom I have worked for their strong support, especially Board Chair Debby Miller.  I also want to salute the wonderful faculty and committed staffs who serve this institution.  For me, it has been an exceptional experience.”

Chancellor Reaves said that he struggled with the decision, but beginning in late 2012 has had conversations with UNC President Ross about his desire to step down as chancellor and return to the classroom, where he began his career in higher education 37 years ago.  He will join the WSSU political science faculty as a full professor with tenure.

“Deciding to leave a job that you love is not easy,” Reaves explained.  “Deborah and I have given this decision considerable thought and I have consulted widely about it.  I also went back and read the speech that I gave at my installation to determine whether I had fulfilled the promises I made then.  Though there is always work to be done, I feel that we have accomplished everything that I said and much more.  So, having built a much firmer foundation for WSSU, it seems that now is a good time to move on.”

Chancellor Reaves said that his initial goals were incorporated into the University’s strategic plan and that he continues to be excited about the implementation of those efforts and the results.  He is particularly proud of the improved outcomes for students, including significantly better retention and graduation results.

“Providing our undergraduate students with a quality education and preparing them for success in their careers and their communities is our primary mission,” Reaves said.  “Graduating students is the business that we are in and I’m proud to say that business at WSSU is booming.  Current statistics speak directly to what we have been able to accomplish.”

By raising admission standards three times beginning in 2007, the University has attracted better prepared students and that has impacted retention and graduation rates.  The retention rate for first-year students climbed from 68 percent in 2006 to more than 80 percent in the 2011-2012 academic year.  The graduation rate which stood at 36.5 at the end of the 2007-2008 year has improved to 45.5 percent for the most recent reporting period, and the number of students graduating has risen from 824 in the 2006-07 year to 1,556 for the most recent year, 2012-13, an increase of almost 89 percent.

WSSU staff listen intently to Chancellor  Reaves' announcement.

WSSU staff listens intently to Chancellor Reaves' announcement.

“It is also important to note that progress was achieved despite major reductions in our state allocations,” Reaves added.  “We did that by targeting our scarce resources on a single key objective and that was improved student outcomes.”

The fact that more has been done with less is reflected in data released from the UNC General Administration that shows that over the five-year period, from 2007 through 2012, per student spending at WSSU declined by almost 30 percent while degree production increased by more than 47 percent.  Among the 16 UNC campuses, WSSU ranks number one on both of those percentage change measures.

Chancellor Reaves stated his strong belief that the University has benefited tremendously from its strict adherence to the goals and objective set forth in the strategic plan, Achieving Academic Distinction: The Plan for Student Success – 2010-2015, which include academic excellence and student success as the highest priorities.  “Virtually every decision we make and every dollar we spend benefits from the guidance provided by the plan” Reaves noted.

Other derivatives of the strategic plan include:

  • Reforming and implementing an undergraduate curriculum grounded in the liberal arts tradition and designed to prepare students to compete in the market-based global economy.    At the core of the new curriculum is an emphasis on the development of the students’ ability to think critically, participate in rigorous analysis and creative problem solving, communicate effectively, and collaborate to effect results.
  • Reducing the size of the student body to improve student preparedness and to align its size with available resources, including the capacity of the physical plant.
  • The consolidation of the schools of business and economics, and education with the college of arts and sciences to generate savings, and to align projected spending with expectations about the resources that are likely to be available in an era of flat or declining enrollments.
  • Expanding graduate education with the addition of doctoral programs in physical therapy and nursing.
  • Raising the standards for tenure and promotion to improve the quality of the faculty.
  • Developing a partnership with Forsyth Technical Community College which has led to the creation of the Dual Admission Program that provides students who were not admitted to WSSU with an opportunity to prepare themselves academically prior to matriculating directly to WSSU.
  • Maintaining the athletic program at the NCAA Division II level, reducing significantly the resources that were allocated previously to athletics, and making them available to support academic priorities.  An added bonus, the program has subsequently won 14 conference championships.
  • Managing a $34 million reduction in state funding over five years without reducing full time faculty or course offerings.
  • Improving the student experience through the development of a campus master plan that included the construction of the new Donald Julian Reaves Student Activities Center, the Martin-Schexnider Residence Halls, the renovation of Hill Hall for use as a Student Success Center, and the nearly complete acquisition of Bowman Gray Stadium and the surrounding 94-acre Civitan Park.

Reaves noted that while the list  of accomplishments is impressive, his greatest satisfaction derives from the more subtle, less-quantifiable changes that have taken place, with an emphasis on what has occurred with regard to expectations.

“When I arrived in 2007, I encountered a culture of low expectations that was characterized by a belief that WSSU students could not succeed,” Reaves explained.  “That belief prevailed among the faculty, the staff, and the various communities and even among our students and their parents.  WSSU was viewed as an institution of last resort.  All of that has changed.  Today, there is a new spirit on the campus among the students and the faculty, as well as throughout the community.  There is once again a genuine belief that a WSSU education can prepare students to compete and be successful in the marketplace.  The success that we have enjoyed since changing the culture of the institution is by far the most rewarding aspect of my work and will undoubtedly have the greatest impact on the future of the students and of the institution.”

WSSU Board of Trustees Chair Debra Miller also spoke of Reaves’ leadership and said that because of the work he and his team had completed, the board accepted his decision with great regret.

“As a member of the Board of Trustees and as an alumna of WSSU, I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to work with Chancellor Reaves,” said Miller.  “Through his vision, his leadership, his commitment to academic excellence, his willingness to make difficult decisions such as establishing priorities among competing interests, his commitment to improve student outcomes, his hard work and that of the team that he assembled, this university has been transformed in virtually every respect.  It is exciting to see the impact that the past seven years have had on our students and on the campus.”

Reaves said he struggled with the decision but ultimately concluded that is was the right time to move on.

Reaves said he struggled with the decision but ultimately concluded that is was the right time to move on.

Donald Reaves assumed his duties as chancellor in August 2007.  Chancellor Reaves had previously served five years as Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer at the University of Chicago, and he spent 14 years at Brown University where he held a number of senior positions including Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer.  Prior to joining Brown University in 1988, Chancellor Reaves worked in Massachusetts state government where he held several positions including deputy assistant commissioner for budget and cost control at the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare.  Chancellor Reaves also spent 16 years in the classroom, 13 of which were at Northeastern University as a tenure-track and adjunct member of the political science department

A native of Cleveland, Ohio Chancellor Reaves earned his undergraduate degree from Cleveland State University and his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in political science and public administration from Kent State University.

While in Winston-Salem, Chancellor Reaves has served on numerous boards including the Novant Hospital Health Triad Region, Forsyth Futures, the Piedmont Triad Leadership Council, the Winston-Salem Alliance and the Josh and Marie Reynolds Hospital Guest House Board of Advocates.  He also served on the advisory boards of the North Carolina Humanities Council and Wells Fargo Bank.

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