Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

At Long Last, New NCCU Doctoral Program Approved

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

At Long Last, New NCCU Doctoral Program Approved

Article excerpt

When the board of governors of the University of North Carolina System approved a new doctoral program for North Carolina Central University, or NCCU, this fall, it marked the first time in half a century the historically Black college had successfully navigated the arduous path required to win a green light for a doctoral program.

Not that there haven't been efforts in the past. Three attempts in the past decade barely got off the drawing board at the school before falling victim to internal disagreements over strategy and readiness. The most recent proposal, one that has evolved during the past 10 years, had to be a sure shot, school officials say.

"This was the absolute best time and best proposal," says NCCU Provost Dr. Debbie Thomas, referring to the new Ph.D. program in which the school hopes to begin enrolling its first five cohorts next fall. "We have remained undaunted," Thomas says, acknowledging past failed efforts to get a doctoral program at NCCU. "That experience made us make sure we were prepared."

The "interdisciplinary doctorate" will have two tracks--biomedical sciences and pharmaceutical sciences. The course of study will range from life sciences, physical sciences, computation and information sciences, pharmaceutical sciences and mathematics, a school statement says.

Establishing a Ph.D. program at a university is not a short order for any institution, higher education experts say. When a state-controlled public school is involved, the myriad hurdles--ranging from funding to political considerations that help or restrain different schools at different times--can be higher and more challenging to clear, they say.

Given their past experiences, NCCU officials say they wanted to have an airtight case when they ran the track this time around.

"Leveraging our capacity in the sciences, our geographic location and strategic alliances with research institutions" were the keys to putting the program together, says Dr. Saundra DeLauder, the NCCU chemistry professor who marshaled the school's efforts to win the governing board's endorsement of the new program. "This was a no-brainer for us," she says, echoing Thomas in noting the school's last three administrations have made enhancing biosciences at NCCU a priority during the past 10 years.

During that time NCCU has expanded its physical plant capacity for science education by 150,000 square feet, all dedicated to research and classroom space for science and technology. …

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