Investor Spotlight: Norfolk State University
Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, known around campus as “Dr. J,” was elected at the seventh president of Norfolk State University (NSU) in June 2019. She has more than 30 years of higher education experience and has previously served in senior leadership roles at institutions that include Ohio State University and the University of Maryland, College Park. At Ohio State University, she was the institution’s first female African American Senior Vice President for Student Life and led more than 40 operations that affected the learning and development of over 66,000 students. Additionally, Dr. Adams-Gaston was trained as a psychologist, and spent more than 25 years in private practice.
Norfolk State University is a comprehensive urban public institution that is committed to transforming students’ lives through exemplary teaching, research and service. Offering a supportive academic and culturally diverse environment for all, the University empowers its students to turn their aspirations into reality and achieve their full potential as well-rounded and resourceful citizens and leaders for the 21st century.
Shortly after beginning her term as president, Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston and Norfolk State University joined the Alliance as an investor. Today, Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston sat down with the Alliance to discuss some recent successes and new initiatives underway at Norfolk State University, as well as the role the University plays in regional economic development and why they chose to invest in the Alliance.
Tell us a little bit about THE HISTORY OF Norfolk State University.
Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston (DR. J): Founded in the midst of the Great Depression, Norfolk State University has been a leader in providing access to a high-quality education and a better way of life for 84 years. Since its founding, NSU has transformed from a small commuter college to a comprehensive urban public university. Our nationally, and internationally, recognized faculty utilize a student-centered teaching philosophy that correlates to student success in high demand areas of study such as Cybersecurity, Nursing, and Engineering. Our Drama and Theater programs and marching band have won international acclaim and are redefining the performing arts. Innovation and a commitment to educational excellence is what drives us at NSU.
We are charting new ground with the opening of a new Center for African American Public Policy – a first of its kind in Virginia. We are also on the leading edge of the emerging field of Cyber Psychology and building international partnerships to advance research in deep space exploration. Today, we have more than 34,000 alumni serving in a wide range of professional pursuits in Hampton Roads and around the globe.
What does Hampton Roads mean to Norfolk State?
DR. J: It takes a village to raise a child and to grow a university. The Hampton Roads region is an important part of the village that helps to sustain Norfolk State University. NSU is an integral part of the City of Norfolk and is in close proximity to the cities of Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, where our Higher Education Center is located. NSU is as an institution that gives back through educational programs and community initiatives, such as our annual cyber boot camps for area Pre-K-12 students. Our students and faculty also participate in community outreach projects with various agencies including the Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity. In addition, we host several business training and development programs for the public at our Innovation Center, which is centrally located in downtown Norfolk.
What is Norfolk State’s role in terms of economic development for the region?
DR. J: With annual operating revenues exceeding $190 million, and more than 1,200 employees and 5,600 students, NSU plays a vital economic role in the Hampton Roads region. NSU supports economic development in the region by serving as a major employer of choice, and by producing a strong pipeline of diverse graduates who are prepared to fill the high demand jobs of the new Virginia economy. Nearly 75 percent of our students are from the Commonwealth of Virginia and many of them come from Hampton Roads. NSU is a critical resource for the attraction of new and existing businesses to the region.
What are some things Norfolk State has done to create high quality talent for the region?
DR. J: We offer high-quality degree programs that meet the needs of industry, such as our online Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity. This program is unique because it is designed to train a diverse group of students from various disciplines including those from non-technical backgrounds. NSU has achieved continuous recognition as a Center for Academic Excellence since 2009 — first as a Center of Excellence in Information Assurance and now as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.
In the area of performing arts, the NSU Theater Company is the only theater program in Virginia that offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater and Drama that focuses on the worldview of people from the African diaspora. The NSU Theater Company is nationally recognized and is the winner of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival National Awards for Distinguished Performance and Production Ensemble, and Distinguished Performance by an Actor in a Play. Also of note, is the Theater Company’s co-production of The Wiz, the highest grossing production in the history of Virginia Stage Company, and recognition as the first university to ever present the keynote production at the Virginia Theatre Festival.
Norfolk State University’s School of Business is the only Historically Black College and University accredited AACSB-International program within the region. The Bachelor of Science degree offers two tracts Accountancy and Business. Within the Business major, there are six areas of concentration, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Management, Management Information Systems, Marketing and Tourism and Hospitality Management. The Tourism and Hospitality Management concentration provides enhanced training for one of the region’s top industries. The School of Business’ talented faculty is deeply invested in the mission of preparing the next generation of business leaders that will affect the region.
What sets Norfolk State apart from other higher education institutions when it comes to readying students for the workforce?
DR. J: As the most affordable four-year public institution of higher education in Virginia, NSU provides affordable access to a globally competitive education, which prepares students to successfully compete in the 21st century workforce. We provide a culturally diverse and supportive learning environment that includes state of the art classrooms and residential facilities that all help to provide an exceptional student experience. By collaborating with industry, we work to ensure that our academic programs are workforce relevant and that our students are exposed to internship opportunities that will help them to become “career ready.” Our graduates have consistently secured placement within public and private sector organizations, including Fortune 500 companies.
Why is it important to invest in the Alliance? Why do you think other business should DO SO?
DR. J: Norfolk State University is proud to be an investor of the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance. We invest in the Alliance because we believe in the future of Hampton Roads and support the Alliance’s goals of making the region a top choice when it comes to economic investment and business expansion.
When institutions of higher education, corporations, entrepreneurial start-ups, small businesses and other entities work together, they create a powerful economic engine for growth. Through its work, the Alliance is bringing business, education, and community organizations together to advance an agenda of economic development and growth that is helping to build the future of Hampton Roads today. Investment in the Alliance is a smart choice, which is paying huge dividends for the region.