NCCU's first female chancellor elected

Whether in Washington, D.C., or in the private sector, North Carolina Central University’s new chancellor has always been on the cutting edge of higher education.

After a four month selection process, Debra Saunders-White was chosen as NCCU’s first female chancellor by the UNC-system Board of Governors Friday.

“From our deep cadre of candidates we were fortunate enough to be able to select her,” said Harold Epps, chairman of NCCU’s chancellor search committee.

Saunders-White will assume her new role on June 1.

Epps said her past experience in the technology sector was a factor in her appointment and will help improve NCCU’s technology systems going forward.

Saunders-White spent 15 years at IBM, managing links between the company and higher education institutions.

“The notion of e-learning will play an increasing role in how education is delivered,” Epps said.

Saunders-White also served as vice chancellor for information technology at UNC-Wilmington.

She started an initiative to provide students with real-time information on university services on their cell phones, which achieved national recognition.

Saunders-White’s former colleagues say she has the right skills for her new role.

“She embraces an open dialog and is willing to listen, but is not afraid to take action and make tough decisions when required,” said Max Allen, chief of staff for the chancellor at UNC-W.

During her tenure at UNC-W, Saunders-White worked with the local government to provide reading and literacy training for underprivileged residents.

“She is the kind of leader that inspires others to be the best they can be,” Allen said.

In 2011, Saunders-White left campus for the nation’s capital after she was asked to work for President Barack Obama’s administration.

She served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.

Dwight Perry, chairman of the board of trustees at NCCU, highlighted Saunders-White’s experience in both the public and private sectors.

He said her leadership skills had been tried and tested.

“Her IT responsibilities dovetailed very well for what we have planned for the future of NCCU,” Perry said.

Ayana Hernandez, spokeswoman for NCCU, said Saunders-White will bring a variety of talents to the role.

“She’s an excellent leader who will definitely take our university forward,” Hernandez said.

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