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Q&A with Chancellor Reaves

By Daniel Braswell
On November 4, 2012

Donald Julian Reaves has served as chancellor at  Winston-Salem State since 2007.
Under his watch,  the University has undergone a variety of changes including curriculum reform, constructions and renovations, and a new admissions policy.
 The News Argus interviewed Reaves Nov. 6. --  after he,   two faculty members and 17 students returned from  New York City.
The group was there attending the Leadership Institute and Career Fair at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Oct. 26-30.  
Because of Hurricane Sandy, their return trip to WSSU was delayed.

The News Argus: What happened in New York?

Reaves: It was something I have never experienced before.

I don't think any of the students had either.
None of us were in harm's way.
We were located in a hotel in Midtown Manhattan between 53rd and 6th Ave. at the Hilton. It is a high rise so we were not in the affected areas.
I'm glad that I was there because I could make some firsthand decisions about when to let the students on the road.
We delayed their exit from New York until that Wednesday. Luckily, they all got back safely.     

The News Argus: There has been a rumor that your contract ends at the end of this academic year. Can you confirm or deny this?

Reaves: First of all I don't have a contract. Second, don't place a lot in rumors.
When I decide to leave, I'll let everybody know.

The News Argus: How is
everything going?

Reaves: I think things are going well. We've made progress in a lot of fronts. The major accomplishment that I would like to refer to is the reform of the curriculum.
That's going to have a tremendously positive long-term affect on the students that attend Winston-Salem State in terms of how we prepare them to compete in the economy once they graduate.
The over-arching objective of that curriculum is to expose students to a whole array of learning opportunities and  not confine students the way the old curriculum did to prescribe a set of courses.
What we've offered with the new curriculum format is an opportunity for students to choose more among courses they want to take.

The News Argus: What's your daily schedule?

Reaves: It changes. I mean just about every day is different. Last night, I was on a panel at a retirement community in Winston-Salem along with the presidents of Salem College and Wake Forest so that was unusual.
This morning I started the day with breakfast with two people to talk about Leadership Winston-Salem, which is a civic organization. Those are some examples.
If you look at my calendar, from day-to-day it is different.

The News Argus: Student enrollment has decreased. Do you foresee the numbers increasing?

Reaves: That's an enrollment decline that is not just unique to us but all across the N.C. system. Fifty percent of the campuses had enrollment decline.
At Winston-Salem State, that was due in large part to the loss of financial support for our students.
In terms of freshmen, we only missed our target by 14. (Approximately 690 freshman were admitted fall semester.)
A large number of the students that did not return had already completed 90 [credit] hours.
So we had a lot of seniors, juniors and sophomores that were academically eligible to
return but did not come back for financial reasons. It's going to remain difficult.

The News Argus: Do you think the zero-tolerance policy has been effective?

Reaves: The zero-tolerance policy was put in place to cut down on the use of illegal drugs on the campus. Whether or not it's having its intended affect or not we'll see when we assess it during winter break.
I do believe that it has made students more aware of the University's concern about illegal drugs.
I hope they do understand the high stakes that are involved.
If you get caught violating the policy, you're going to get booted out of school.

The News Argus: What's going on with some of the building renovations.

Reaves: The construction is going well. The Hill Hall renovation in my mind is the most important right now. That's going to be the Student Success Center.
In that Center, we are going to locate all of the academic support services that students need to be successful going through Winston-Salem State.
We have a new dormitory that's opening next year that will allow us to keep more students on campus.
There are several others [constructions] including the Student Activities Center and the Campus Police Building renovation. Construction on college campuses, though inconvenient, represents   progress.  

The News Argus:  This past summer the state lawmakers denied WSSU's request to buy Bowman Gray Stadium? Will the University continue to pursue the purchase of the stadium?

Reaves: We're continuing to work on that. I have been in contact with the city and other leaders of the community about the purchase of that stadium. It's at the top of our property acquisition priority list.

The News Argus: Do you have a favorite moment as chancellor?

Reaves: One of my favorite moments was both professional and personal. It had to do with the Cleveland Classic that the football team played in back in September.
It happened to be played in my hometown.
While there I got to go back to the high school I graduated from and talk to the students.  That was really rewarding.
That's one of the best days that I've had.

The News Argus: What do you want your legacy to be at WSSU?

Reaves: I just want people to remember Chancellor Reaves as a chancellor who was committed to improving the educational outcome of students.

Visit to see and listen to the entire interview.

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