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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bonita J. Brown Elected First Woman Chancellor Of Winston-Salem State University

RALEIGH, N.C. – Bonita J. Brown, a seasoned university leader with experience in national student access initiatives, was elected chancellor of Winston-Salem State University yesterday by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

UNC System President Peter Hans recommended Brown, who recently served as interim president of Northern Kentucky University, following a national search that included nearly 50 candidates and three finalists endorsed by the WSSU Board of Trustees.

Brown, an attorney, has held senior leadership positions across public higher education, including chief of staff, chief strategy officer, general counsel, and interim president. She is vice president and chief strategy officer at NKU, a regional institution in Highland Heights, KY that serves 15,000 students. In the past five years, she has worked to boost retention and on-time graduation of students and managed the university’s budget challenges as interim president from January through October last year.

Previously, she served in high-level roles at two national student access and success organizations – as vice president for network engagement at Achieving the Dream, Inc., a Silver Spring, MD-based nonprofit focused on community colleges, and as director of higher education practice at The Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps for students of color and students from low-income families.

Brown’s appointment as chancellor at WSSU will begin July 1. She succeeds Interim Chancellor Anthony Graham and former Chancellor Elwood Robinson, who retired last year.

Bonita J. Brown (pictured 5th from right) is surrounded by family members at today’s announcement of her new post as Winston-Salem State University’s 14th chancellor. Brown’s appointment as chancellor at WSSU will begin July 1. DAVID FORD/WFDD

It will be a homecoming for Brown, who was born in Winston-Salem to parents who are WSSU alumni. She previously was an assistant university attorney at WSSU from 2004 to 2006. Brown also served in leadership positions at other UNC System institutions, including the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was vice chancellor and chief of staff from 2010 to 2015, and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she was general counsel in 2006.

She was chief of staff at the University of North Texas for four years. Early in her career, she served as assistant to the president and attorney at two private HBCUs in North Carolina – Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and Livingstone College in Salisbury.

She earned her undergraduate and law degrees from Wake Forest University and attended the Institute of Educational Management at Harvard University.

“It is a true honor and a privilege to return home to lead this great institution. WSSU stands out as a leader in social mobility, which I have personally benefited from through my parents, and I want to provide that same opportunity to others in this region. I look forward to working with the amazing WSSU faculty, staff, students, and alumni as we build upon the historical strengths of this university that will launch us into the future. I have been preparing for this moment my entire career and I am overjoyed to serve this great institution,” said WSSU Chancellor-elect Bonita Brown.

Hans said Brown will bring devotion to WSSU with sharp management skills and insights from her experience at universities in three states.

“Winston-Salem State is a powerhouse of opportunity and economic mobility, and I’m thrilled we have a leader who can build on those strengths,” Hans said.

“It’s an honor to welcome Bonita Brown back to the Triad and to a campus that played such a huge role in her life. Her energetic leadership and deep experience with strategy and policy are exactly what WSSU needs for this moment of great challenge and great promise in higher education.”

Winston-Salem State University, a historically black public university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Winston-Salem State University is a historically black public university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“After a thorough evaluation of our candidate pool’s qualifications, experience, and fit with the university culture, we are confident in President Hans’ decision. Chancellor-elect Brown possesses a unique combination of skills—including strong leadership abilities and a proven track record of success in similar roles,” said Kathleen Kelly, chair of the WSSU Board of Trustees and the chancellor search advisory committee.

“Her past achievements demonstrate her ability to drive results. Additionally, her passion for higher education and commitment to continuous learning align perfectly with WSSU’s values and long-term goals. With Bonita Brown on board, we are excited about the possibilities for future growth and achievement.”

Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey said Brown has proven throughout her career that she puts students first.

“She is the kind of leader who will empower students to succeed at Winston-Salem State,” Ramsey said. “I am delighted she is coming home to North Carolina to serve this important institution.”

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