In its quest to become one of the nation’s top HBCUs, Johnson C. Smith University on Monday announced the hiring of a faculty veteran from the University of Houston to lead its transformation efforts.
Nicole McDonald, who holds a doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University, joined JCSU in the newly created position of senior vice president for transformation initiatives. She will lead the development and execution of JCSU’s multi-year plan to improve its academic standing with a focus on economic mobility, an initiative known as the Gold(en) Blueprint.
At the University of Houston, McDonald served as assistant vice provost for student success strategies.
In a statement Monday, JCSU described McDonald as “a strategic, visionary leader with 20 years of experience supporting student success in higher education.” As a Ph.D candidate at Vanderbilt, she studied philosophy with a focus on leadership and policy.
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McDonald co-authored a book, first published in 2016, titled “Becoming a Student Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success. The book is now in its second edition.
In a statement Monday, JCSU President Clarence Armbrister described McDonald as “an accomplished leader in higher education” who has a passion for ensuring that all students succeed.
“I am confident Dr. McDonald’s leadership of our strategic plan will place JCSU among the ranks of the nation’s top 10 HBCUs,” he said.
Armbrister has said he wants JCSU to become a “career-focused” university, one of four key pillars of the school’s Golden(en) Blueprint.
McDonald began her new position at JCSU on Monday.
An $80 million investment
As part of the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, which seeks to address some of the social and economic effects of racism, local corporations and foundations have given more than $80 million to assist JCSU in boosting its academic programs. The school’s stated goal is to use that money to become a top-tier HBCU.
In its latest raking of the nation’s 107 historically Black colleges and universities, U.S. News & World Report placed JCSU alone in the No. 26 stop. Last year it tied with several other HBCUs at No. 30.
U.S. News had ranked JCSU at No. 14 in 2014, but the school’s ranking had dropped to No. 36 by 2021.
5 facts about Nicole McDonald:
- She completed an international comparative higher education program at the University of Cambridge in England.
- She was a strategy officer at Lumina Foundation, managing more than $15 million in grants.
- She led operations for Houston Guided Pathways to Success (Houston GPS), a regional association of 13 public community colleges and universities.
- She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Wright State University.
- She held positions at Dillard University, Tennessee Higher Education Commission and began her higher education career in residence life at Emory University.