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On July 1, 2023, Dr. Anthony Graham assumed the position of interim Chancellor at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU).
Prior to this position he served as the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at WSSU.
The Black Wall Street Times visited the campus and spoke with Chancellor Graham to learn more about his journey and vision for the Rams as the new academic year rolls in.
Before arriving at WSSU, Dr. Graham was a tenured Full Professor and dean of the College of Education at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
“I just loved what I was doing, it was the connecting, research, community building along with educating Black males K – 12,” explains Dr. Graham. “I focused a lot of my studies on what it meant to educate Black males to K – 12 and how the system disenfranchises them.”
WSSU is a place for learners and leaders
A graduate of Kinston High School, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he earned the bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in mathematics in 1997.
He obtained the master’s degree in Secondary English Education in 1999 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Curriculum and Teaching with a cognate in Multicultural Education in 2003 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Prior to his work in higher education, Dr. Graham was a high school English teacher.
Yet, well before he was a teacher, Dr. Graham learned plenty inside the classroom and out of it.
As a kindergartner once bused from his East Kingston home to Northwest Elementary School, he’s long known the value of education and observation.
“For whatever reason, we were bused out of the neighborhood, almost 15 – 20 minutes to the White school across town,” remembers Dr. Graham.
Reflecting on the posh neighborhoods and manicured lawns surrounding the elementary school far different than the place he called home in East Kingston, Dr. Graham says it didn’t take him long to understand life was different in Black America.
“The school was surrounded by these huge two or three story brick houses. I’m looking at these houses as a whole five-year-old quickly becoming very observant and perceptive of racial disparities,” says Dr. Graham. “We weren’t living like that.”
“Even though I didn’t know what to do with it, as early as kindergarten, I was on a path to get into this type of work,” says the WSSU Chancellor.
As a scholar, Dr. Graham leverages Critical Race Theory to examine the academic experiences of African American male students and the construction of their academic and ethnic identities in K-20 educational environments, specifically focusing on effective pedagogies to engage this special population.
“We created a class in 2010 that builds future classroom teachers understanding of what it means to connect the content taught to the people whom we teach,” stated Dr. Graham. “It’s not just about teaching The Pythagorean Theorem, I’m going to help you understand why that theorem is important to your life and how you may use it to save somebody else’s life.”
The WSSU Chancellor has published a variety of book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, and co-authored a book. In addition, he has served as the managing editor of the historic peer-review academic journal The Negro Educational Review.
Provost Graham has procured grants totaling approximately $25 million. With these funds, he has collaborated with educators and scholars to create initiatives that increase the number of classroom teachers, especially ethnic and racial minority teachers, who enter the teaching profession in under-resourced and hard-to-staff rural and urban schools.
A die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan who with a style akin to his favorite Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, Dr. Graham remembers “to watch Lynn Swann play was poetic.”
Whether poetry on the field or spit to Mtumbe’s 1983 classic “Juicy Fruit,” Dr. Graham stays connected to the culture. With 50 years of historic years of hip hop in the rearview, the WSSU Chancellor says he knew his favorite artist would be notorious from day one.
He recalls, “Biggie came out right when I was going to college, he was my soundtrack in school.”
Chancellor Graham’s Top 5: Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Nas, Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes
“I look at the guys who are lyrically impactful but they are also stylistically different.” Dr. Graham continued, “I like when artists have a different or original flow.”
Though a Chancellor today, Dr. Graham says it wasn’t always like this — and that’s okay. “Oftentimes people are title-hungry and they move very quickly because they’re chasing a title. I’ve never been title-hungry.”
He furthered, “If you bake a cake that needs to be baked for 35 minutes, you better leave it in there for 35 minutes. If you pull it out in 15 minutes you can’t eat said cake.”
Acknowledging the high price of higher education across the U.S., Dr. Graham stated, “We want our students to graduate in four years so we can keep their debt level low. I know the same thing most students do: the longer you stay, the more you pay.”
“A part of strategic plan includes making sure our students feel like learners. Faculty member, staff member, alumni, undergrads and graduate students, everyone’s a learner.” He continued, “We’re learning every day that we step foot on this campus.”
“We can’t expect the students to evolve and learn if we’re not holding ourselves to the same standard.”
“We want our students to develop certain power skills,” explains Dr. Graham. “Irrespective of the time or place, we want our learners to develop critical thinking, problem solving, interpersonal communication skills because once you master those abilities, you can thrive no matter where you are.”
He continued, “We want to position all of our students to make the choice for their future and assist them along the way. That’s what we’re committed to doing. Equity, service, and leadership.”
“If you ain’t a Ram…“
Speaking on the shared responsibility between the city and school to support one another’s initiatives and activities, Dr. Graham said, “We serve the city, when we have programming, I expect to see the city.”
“When we have football games, it’s the city and school that shows up. We love that but we have to do a better job of reaching out to ensure there is continuous connectivity to the community we serve.”
He continued, “We are Winston Salem State University, we represent the city of Winston Salem. We bring a lot to this city, yet not everyone respects and values what we bring to the city. We are a $500 million dollar impact in this region, one-third of our alumni continue to remain in this region.”
H! O-M-E-C O! M-I-N-G!
Asked about what comes to mind as homecoming season approaches, Dr. Graham responded, “The thing I love about our homecoming is that it’s a familial environment. Our Friday ‘Return to Service’ speaks volumes about who we are.”
“There’s an understanding with our alumni that the experiences throughout homecoming are meant to generate revenue that we can sow back into the student experience. Yeah, we’re going to have fun and it’s going to be lit but there’s a commitment level to service that will help those that come after you because someone once helped you.”