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VSU welcomes Makola M. Abdullah, Ph.D. as 14th President

Published date: December 11, 2015

With a pledge to transform Virginia State University into “Virginia’s Opportunity University” Dr. Makola M. Abdullah, Ph.D. met his new university family on December 10, 2015. On February 1, 2016, Dr. Abdullah will become VSU’s 14th President.

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.”

Dr. Abdullah met with tremendous success as Provost and Senior Vice President at B-CU. During his tenure, that university:

  • Increased the number of faculty with terminal degrees by 25, a 12.5% increase. These hires helped double the number of faculty involved in research and more than doubled B-CU’s competitive research funding.
  • Established the College of Undergraduate Studies and invested resources to improve academic support to increase retention and graduation rates. These investments helped the university maintain its retention rate and raise six year graduation rates
  • Oversaw the expansion of online initiatives that included an increase in the number of online courses by 10% and the addition of six new, certified online degree programs
  • Established innovative institutional learning outcomes and revised its core curriculum., including mandatory courses in leadership and entrepreneurship for all incoming students
  • Secured new accreditation for B-CU’s Computer Engineering Program
  • Helped secure more than $1 million for the support of B-CU’s new College of Health Sciences and for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development
  • Implemented four new graduate programs to provide additional quality experiences for students

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!

View a clip of the introduction here.

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