Welcome to NCCU’s new chancellor

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 05:01 PM

North Carolina Central University has by all accounts secured a blue-chip educator with broad experience to be its 11th chancellor.

Debra Saunders-White – who also will be the first permanent female chancellor for NCCU – has worked in the private sector, taught high school students, served in university administration positions and for the past two years has been deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs in the U. S. Department of Education.

Her boss there, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, praised her service and her background.

“As a first-generation college graduate herself, Deb truly understands both the opportunity that higher education provides and the challenges that so many of our nation’s young people face in accessing and affording college,” Duncan said in an NCCU news release.

Her background seems especially suited to some of the major challenges NCCU and other public universities face as demands for their service rise, as technology becomes ever more present and as rising costs burden many potential students, especially those coming from families where they will be the first to achieve a college degree.

The opportunity to make the most of new technologies in transforming higher education is a key focus of UNC’s new strategic plan, and clearly factored in the choice of the new chancellor.

UNC President Tom Ross, in announcing his choice of Debra Saunders-White for NCCU’s top post, noted among other things her strong background in technology.  For 15 years early in her career, Saunders-White worked for IBM, first in systems engineering and later in public-sector marketing.

“She brings a level of experience in technology and e-learning and in developing courses using technology that is really quite rare in campus leadership,” Ross said, “so she is going to be somebody we call on a lot to help us as we begin the strategic plan.”

For her part Saunders-White was quick to embrace her new home.

“Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful people at North Carolina Central University,” she said enthusiastically Friday as she met students, faculty and community leaders. “A rich history. The opportunity to really make a difference for the citizens of North Carolina. And to be part of Tom Ross’s team. Who could pass that up?”

Others on Friday noted her energy, her ability to identify with students, her capacity to be a role model for young women and her familiarity with the federal government.

Reggie McCrimmon, NCCU’s student body president who was on the selection committee called her a “great choice.”

Students can see when it’s genuine and real,” he said. “I look forward to her bringing her energy to NCCU.”

So do we, and we welcome Saunders-White to Durham.