Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read June 2021 — Though not foreign to online instruction, Shaw University was keen to make sure its students were not left behind in the midst of the pandemic disruption. “Online education is here to stay but there will be challenges,” Dean Paulette Dillard told Invest:. The university is actively working to expand broadband access for the betterment of the local community as well as the student experience. Additionally, given the Triangle’s thriving business ecosystem, Shaw University has a key role to play in helping to equip the local community with the skills and experiences to thrive in today’s workforce. The business track, Shaw University’s largest program, continues to form partnerships with the business sector to ensure student success, Dillard said.
What impact did the pandemic have on the university and how did you respond?
When the crisis first arrived in March, we were able to transition to a fully online platform and complete the spring semester remotely. Online teaching was not foreign to the institution but it was new to have everybody working digitally. It was extremely difficult for our students. Many of them did not have access to the technology. Thankfully, we were able to take care of their needs and allow them to finish the semester. We persevered and then we began to look at how to bring back the students in the fall.
How did the pandemic affect the school’s enrollment figures?
Our enrollment did not increase but it remained consistent from 2020 to 2021. Of course, more students elected to enroll for online classes rather than on-campus and that had a negative impact on our finances as room and board contributes significantly to our revenues.
What popular programs and projects does Shaw offer to its students?
Business is our largest program and we have been forming partnerships with companies in the private sector to provide further support to our students. For instance, we’re heavily engaged with RedHat, Apple and Citrix. We also hired a new dean of the business school and other executives to strengthen our team in that area.
How can you help to boost the diversity of North Carolina’s workforce?
There are many companies that want to increase their diversity but they’ve had problems finding the right candidates. We’re having great discussions with our corporate partners to work out how to include more training programs for minorities in North Carolina. I believe that we’re on the right path to jointly benefit from greater diversity in the region.
The Center for Racial and Social Justice was launched in July on Shaw’s campus. The school has a rich history in the social justice arena. It’s part of our DNA. We’re speaking with entities like the city of Raleigh to see how we can improve opportunities for equality in society at large.
The Cooperating Raleigh Colleges consortium is a collection of six local colleges in the North Carolina region, including Shaw. It allows students to cross-register and enjoy the benefits of various campuses. We are constantly seeking ways to expand our role in bettering society and driving innovation. Collaboration is the norm and not the exception.
How do you see online education evolving in a post-pandemic landscape?
Online education is here to stay but there will be challenges. We need to provide bridges to support the digital transition of marginalized communities that lack access to online resources and technology. We’re looking at ways to create zones where those individuals can come and learn online, and learn how to learn online, with a reliable connection and with all the necessary support systems around them. For example, we’re thinking about how we can expand our campus broadband reach to help the wider community. Everybody needs to have access to digital learning and we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.
What are the main short-term priorities for Shaw University?
We want to improve our infrastructure and technology. We have been in operation since 1865 and some of our buildings require maintenance work. Simultaneously, we will seek to strengthen all of our academic programs to make them compatible with local industry. We’re excited to see how we can leverage our endowment of 27 Downtown acres to the benefit of our students and the Raleigh community.
For more information, visit: https://www.shawu.edu/