Campus Life / Education / Featured

NSU President discusses housing, graduation rates, and other issues

Norfolk State University President, Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston. Tatyana Canty/Spartan Echo

Norfolk State University president, Dr. Javaune Adams- Gaston, recently met with reporters from the Spartan Echo to discuss some of the challenges and successes faced by the university over the past few semesters.  She also discussed the future of NSU and what to expect from the university in the midst of transition.

Dr. Adams-Gaston, affectionately known by students as “Dr. J,” began her tenure at NSU in June 2019.  Her first year leading the university was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the university was forced into transitioning all classes online during the Spring 2020 semester.

Since her arrival, NSU has expanded its curriculum offerings by adding Master of Cybersecurity and Master of Cyber Psychology degree programs. Under her leadership, the university has developed partnerships with Sentara Healthcare, Appalachian School of Law, Netflix, Apple, Amazon, USAA, and others.

Norfolk State faced another challenge during the 2021-2022 academic year as Babette Smith South, also known as one of “The Towers,” was closed due to health and safety concerns. Babette Smith houses many students, but particularly freshmen.  Closing the dormitory created a campus housing shortage that resulted in the university placing some students in hotels as  the Fall 2022 semester began.

Dr. Adams-Gaston insisted that the university does not want to lose people who are dedicated and committed to being here, which is why the university is making accommodations for students during this time.

She stated that it will take a year to renovate the dormitory and revealed plans to construct a new tower in the future.  She emphasized that “Our focus is to make sure everyone has a safe environment and an environment where they can manage during this time of transition,”said Adams-Gaston.

One of the main priorities for NSU administration this semester was to get as many freshmen as possible on campus despite the housing shortage.  Dr. Adams-Gaston explained that NSU Student Affairs has been working closely with freshmen students to ensure they get the full freshman experience even if they do not reside on campus. This impacted other student housing as some upperclassmen could not reside on campus. 

In an effort to resolve housing issues, the university recently purchased Shepard’s Village across the street and plans to try and utilize it for student housing in the near future. 

Another important issue for the NSU president is graduation rates. “One of our primary focuses is the graduation of our students. We talk about affordability, access, and then success,” said Adams-Gaston. 

She emphasized that success has to do with graduation, but does not believe that freshmen will be deterred from graduating from NSU due to the housing situation. She explained that graduation rates are often impacted by financial concerns.  Many students lack the funding to continue furthering their education.

Dr. Adams-Gaston says the university hopes to increase the NSU endowment, which allows them to assist students with completing their education. She also explained that this effort would provide other opportunities, such as providing students who have to work the opportunity to work on campus.  

In discussing other university objectives, Dr. Adams-Gaston expressed her vision that every student leaves the university with at least one paid internship.  She explained that students cannot afford to not have an internship because approximately 70% of students who receive internships gain a job.

Dr. Adams-Gaston discussing university issues. Tatyana Canty/ Spartan Echo

Dr. Adams-Gaston addressed additional quality of life improvements such as parking and local crime. 

“Parking is one of the biggest issues within higher education,” according to NSU’s top administrator.  She discussed how the number of students always outnumbers the amount of parking spaces and as a result, the university is encouraging students to only bring a car to campus if they need it.

Due to a recent rise in gun violence throughout the Hampton Roads area, NSU has partnered with the city of Norfolk to increase the safety of students.

Dr. Adams-Gaston and Norfolk mayor, Kenneth Alexander, have been working on “pop ups” or “Norfolk State pop ups” around the city.  This would allow students to engage with local events while remaining safe.

According to the NSU president, everyone should develop what she calls, “city filters,”  which she explained as being constantly aware of your surroundings and making sure you always remain safe.  She expressed that NSU’s police personnel are very dedicated to the safety and well-being of NSU students. 

Dr. Adams-Gaston has recently had her contract with the unviersity extended to 2027 by the Board of Visitors.

In a recent post by the university, Rector Devon Henry explains the Board’s reasoning, “We’re very pleased that we are having an extension to 2027. We’re very excited about the work she’s doing and look forward to what she’s going to do in the future,” Henry said.

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