On February 1, 2016, Makola M. Abdullah, PhD was named the 14th President of Virginia State University, a Historically Black, Land-Grant University (one of two in the Commonwealth of Virginia), located in Chesterfield County, Virginia.
In remarks at his introduction to the Trojan Nation, Dr. Abdullah outlined his four core beliefs. “I believe in God. I believe in family. I believe in the transformative nature of education. I believe in Virginia State University.”
Dr. Abdullah, his wife and his mother are products of Historically Black institutions. Both the Abdullah’s son, Mikaili (Morehouse) and daughter Sefiyetu (Howard) will attend an HBCU. “I love HBCUs,” Dr. Abdullah explains, with understatement. “I have a long history of understanding the mission of HBCUs. HBCUs represent opportunity in America.”
In a departure from his HBCU heritage, Dr. Abdullah attended Northwestern University for his master’s and doctoral studies. At 24, he became the youngest African American in Northwestern’s history to receive a Ph.D. in engineering.
Dr. Abdullah and his wife are both natives of Chicago. Their children were both born and raised in Florida. “We’ll have to buy them a coat,” he quips.
Before coming to VSU, Dr. Abdullah served as Provost and Senior Vice President at Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU), a private, historically Black university in Daytona Beach, FL; Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Florida Memorial University, the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Miami; and as Dean and Director of 1890 Land Grant Programs in the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). At FAMU, Dr. Abdullah enjoyed a distinguished 15 year tenure.
“Dr. Abdullah’s academic credentials are indeed impressive, but what set him apart was his approach to higher education,” said VSU Board of Visitors Rector and Search Committee Chair Harry Black. “In Dr. Abdullah, we have a President who will position VSU not only to meet the challenges of ever-changing technology, but to lead the transformation; to challenge others to keep pace with us.”
Rector Black says that Dr. Abdullah is particularly knowledgeable of VSU’s land-grant heritage, noting the more than $5 million in research funding Dr. Abdullah raised as a single PI, and the more than $20 million overall he secured from various federal agencies as a faculty member at FAMU.
Dr. Abdullah vows to embrace his new role with both hands “in a way you hold something precious.” He plans on engaging alumni with the same vigor, saying “the academic excellence of an institution is defined by the accomplishments of its alumni.”
In introducing Dr. Abdullah, Rector Black quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “’Intelligence plus character is the true meaning of education.’ Dr. Abdullah possesses both of these characteristics and thus, personifies a true educator.”
Welcome Dr. Makola M. Abdullah and the Abdullah family, to the Land of Troy!