GREENSBORO, N.C. -- He’s challenging the status quo and getting national recognition for it.
Last month, HBCU Digest, an online commentary and news website, named North Carolina A&T Chancellor Dr. Harold Martin the most influential leader of the nation’s 107 historically black colleges and universities.
In addition to leading the nation’s largest historically black university, Martin is an electrical engineer who grew up in Winston-Salem and is a graduate of Carver High School. He has an undergraduate and master’s degree from A&T and a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.
“Growing up in the Piedmont Triad helped me understand the shift in the economy,” he told me during a recent interview. “When I grew up there were lots of jobs -- manufacturing jobs, tobacco, textiles, furniture. Hundreds of thousands of those jobs are now gone.”
That, Martin says, put him in a good position to see how training for what has replaced and is still replacing those industries needed to change. And when he saw how quickly technology was changing, Martin realized A&T needed to overhaul its academic programs.
“The integration of technology in the way we teach and engage our students forces our faculty to adapt new teaching methods, enhancing their skills so that they better understand how to more proficiently utilize the technologies we’re bringing to the classrooms and the new facilities we’re making available to them," he said.
Part of the revamp included establishing three new colleges on campus:
- Art, Humanities and Social Sciences
- Health and Human Sciences
- Science and Technology
There has also been an even greater emphasis on research. For instance, A&T University’s development of a hypoallergenic peanut is getting world recognition. It’s also among the nation’s leaders in Alzheimer’s research and how this disease affects African-Americans.
“Research helps to stimulate our faculty, enhance their competitiveness and successes in attracting resources to our institution, attracting students to our institution,” Martin said.
But doing this during times of budget cuts has been a challenge. Partnerships have been keys. It’s among the reasons Martin was instrumental in A&T joining forces with UNC-Greensboro to establish the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.
A&T has also recently partnered with UNC-Greensboro, Guilford Technical Community College and Cone Health to create the Union Square Campus to train nurses.
A&T’s new $90 million Student Center is being paid for not by taxpayer dollars or tuition hikes, but by a $450 yearly hike in student fees which, Martin says, the students fully support.
But like other large universities, A&T has faced safety issues. Since 2009, five A&T students have died of gun violence in off-campus housing communities. A&T has responded with -- among other things -- better campus police training along with more collaboration with apartment managers and the city.
“Statistically, our [crime] numbers are very small relative to those of comparable institutions similar in size and in somewhat urban communities,” Martin said. “Now I don’t like to hide behind those statistics, but the data does indeed show we are a safe campus.”
It’s also a growing campus. Martin expects the student body to swell to more than 15,000 (currently it’s 11,177) over the next 10-15 years. But with enrollment up for the third straight year and with the SAT scores and grades of entering freshmen up, A&T has a lot of “Aggie Pride!”
For more information on Dr. Harold Martin, click here.
For more information on North Carolina A&T State University, click here.