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Hampton Roads Community News

NSU Enters 2021 On High Note Despite Virus

Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

An increase in student enrollment, a low number of COVID-19 infection cases, and a $40 million donation were under the NSU Family Christmas tree at the end of 2020, according to its President.

Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston is closing out her second fall semester as the Norfolk State University leader on a high note, despite the COVID pandemic which caused most colleges to change their campus routines.

During a recent phone interview with the GUIDE several days after the historic donation from billionaire MacKenzie Scott, listed among the top four of the world’s richest women. Adams-Gaston said the money will be applied foremost to benefit NSU students and the university’s academic mission to prepare them for the workforce.

“Investing in the students will be the priority, the school’s academic mission, and other areas to continue NSU as a contributor to the region economically,” she said.

There were 6,400 public and private schools which applied for the donation and 384 schools received a donation during this recent round of contributions.

Twelve Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) received donations from Scott, the former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, which totaled $173 million. Neighboring Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) received $15 million, and Virginia State (VSU), $30 million. In July, Hampton University received its largest contribution of $30 million.

Adams-Gaston said the Scott donation was one of several financial or in-kind grants to the school. She said Microsoft and Netflix also showed NSU is a great institution to invest resources.

Adams-Gaston said NSU managed to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 2020 semester, with resilience, determination “and upholding the culture of taking care of one another.”

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“This COVID-19 (pandemic) is not over,” she said. “We applied the 3 Ws: washing your hands, watch your distance and wear your mask at NSU.”

Students, faculty, and staff were told to apply this protocol to deter the spread of COVID-19 before the 2020 semester and followed the Centers For Disease (CDC) and state health agency guidelines.

During the fall semester, NSU medical staff conducted some 3,632 COVID tests and there were only 40 students and one staff person who detected positive for the deadly virus, she said.

That was the lowest infection rate among schools in the region, according to the NSU President.

During that initial wave of COVID-19 infections nationally, like many colleges, NSU had a hybrid class routine of in-person and virtual instruction interaction between students and faculty.

Fewer students were living in the school dorms on campus and NSU architects devised protective barriers in many of the classrooms to deter infections, where in-person instruction was necessary.

The same strategy may be in place for the spring semester, as the second wave of the pandemic is running its course during the coldest weeks of winter.

Adams-Gaston said that there was a “phased” return and testing of the 2000 students in small portions to deter infection rates when they returned to the NSU campus housing in August.

The same process will be used when NSU reopens on January 22 for the spring semester.

Despite the chaos created by COVID-19 , NSU experienced an upsurge in student enrollment with some 5,457 full and part-time students, the President said.

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Adams-Gaston said NSU had expected to receive its largest budgetary contribution from the state until

COVID-19 impacted the state’s tax income and forced it to revise its allocations to state colleges and universities.

It did manage to restore “some of those funds,” to the NSU budget, she said, and the school’ s financial situation is the best it has been in years.

Despite the small budgetary shortfall, NSU did not fire, furlough, or lay off any staff or faculty, she said.

The cherished traditions of the fall semester, such as homecoming, pledging of Greek organizations, and the marching of the Spartan Legion Band were all canceled due to COVID, the NSU President said.

There is, however, an abbreviated version of the basketball season. The Mid-Eastern Atlantic Athletic Conference (MEAC) has released a 12-game male and 10 game women’s basketball varsity

MEAC leaders will determine, based on the level of infection of COVID-19, if the conference championship will be slated and what safeguards will be put in place to protect students and fans.

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