Many of the violent acts in today’s headlines can be related to a common thread: the aggressor has experienced rejection in a disrespectful way or, in other words, at some point in their life, they have been seriously “dissed,” according to a Winston-Salem State University author and researcher.

Dr. Amber Debono

Dr. Amber Debono

Dr. Amber DeBono, WSSU associate professor of psychology, has conducted four recent studies that conclude feeling disrespected through rejection leads to greater aggression than feeling disliked, for an example.  The findings clarify a previous belief that indicates rejection leads to aggression.  DeBono suggests that a critical component of the rejection must be a perception of disrespect in order to result in an aggressive response. She believes that evidence of those conclusions are appearing daily in American society and in news headlines.

“Violent crimes are perpetrated every day in America. Darren Wilson shot unarmed Michael Brown six times in Ferguson, MO. Terrorists boarded planes to crash them into the World Trade Center and the White House. Two teenagers shot their teachers and classmates at Columbine High School,” DeBono said.  “It is striking that all of these perpetrators were rejected by others. Darren Wilson was recently divorced. The 9/11 attacks were committed by men who were rejected by their peace-loving communities. Kyle and Eric, the Columbine shooters, were rejected by their classmates. In fact, Kyle and Eric hoped to get from everyone, as they put it, the respect they deserved.”

DeBono has co-authored the article “Rejection Perceptions: Feeling Disrespected Leads to Greater Aggression than Feeling Disliked,” featured in the November issue in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

From left to right are: Kirby Thompson, Evelyn Terry, Earline Parmon, Jamal Womble, Larry Womble and WSSU Chancellor Donald J. Reaves.

From left to right are: Kirby Thompson, Evelyn Terry, Earline Parmon, Jamal Womble, Larry Womble and WSSU Chancellor Donald J. Reaves.

Former State Rep. and Winston-Salem State University alumnus, Larry Womble, presented WSSU Chancellor Donald J. Reaves with a check for $25,000 today.

The Henry and Viola Gwyn, Dorothy Gwyn Womble and Owen Luchion Womble Endowed Scholarship was named in honor of Womble’s grandparents and parents.  The need-based scholarship is to benefit fulltime WSSU students from Forsyth County majoring in Elementary Education.

“It’s important to support historically black college and universities (HBCUs) because many first generation college students and those with less financial means attend,” Womble said regarding his donation.  He challenged other alumni to give to the scholarship.

Reaves thanked Womble for his generosity and his continued long-term support of WSSU.

Womble was accompanied by State Senator Earline Parmon, State Representative Evelyn Terry, longtime friend Kirby Thompson and Jamal Womble, his son, all WSSU graduates.

Robert Muhammad

Robert Muhammad

Interview in Financial Aid

In 2011, Robert Muhammad was a man on a mission when he became Director of Financial Aid at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), one of North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He had a 90-day plan to achieve better customer service, demonstrate empathy and provide good data to students and parents. Since then, Muhammad has made significant progress toward his goals. By educating other university departments about financial aid processes and forming strategic partnerships, he developed a holistic approach that has produced outstanding results.

For the second year, the University’s financial aid office has used an automated verification service offered by College Foundation, Inc. (CFI) and FAS. Muhammad’s team has achieved a 78 percent completion rate – ranking the university in the top percentile nationwide. The aid office is further along in this year’s financial aid cycle than ever before, according to Muhammad.

“It’s ironic that we’ve managed to put the humanity back into financial aid with an automated service,” he said. “With time-consuming file verification tasks off their plates, our staff has more one-on-one time to talk to students who need their assistance.”

Offered through a public/private partnership between CFI and FAS, the automated service first began four years ago as a pilot program in participating North Carolina community colleges. It offers an efficient, compliant way to handle verification using an online interview, web forms and electronic signatures in a “student friendly” format. Some participating schools have seen as much as 50 percent more aid processed, including Pell, and available by the fall registration/fee payment deadline. The service is now available to institutions nationwide.

“It has been enjoyable to work with CFI and FAS,” Muhammad said. “It was a learning experience on both sides. Both companies were responsive, caring, flexible, and concerned with what would be best for their customers and also for students.”

Finding that ‘Secret Sauce’

But the verification process can’t be completed on time without active student engagement. At WSSU, Muhammad has found the “secret sauce” for connecting with students through a multi-pronged approach that encourages them to respond to information requests promptly and turn in their documents early. His tactics include:
·        Regularly scheduled e-mail follow-ups from both CFI and WSSU

·        Actively tracking data and closely monitoring results

·        Offering a “One Stop” day where students can visit the financial aid office to ask questions and submit documents

·        Partnerships with other university offices to reinforce the importance of turning in documents on time

“In March, we began a concerted effort to track the progress of verification,” said Muhammad, who has a passion for tracking, and analyzing trends as well as discovering and removing stumbling blocks. “For every e-mail that doesn’t go out, a student may decide to go somewhere else.”

In addition to the communication plan provided by CFI and FAS, the financial aid office also sent out its own correspondence to guide students and parents to the School Servicing website. The office was careful to tailor the correspondence using similar language used by CFI. Muhammad developed a procedure for coding to extract data and engaged academic counselors to begin looking at spreadsheets of students in progress.

“We also asked our University College academic success counselors to reach out and contact students by phone,” he said. “If we determined that students were not returning to WSSU, we removed them from processing so we would have a smaller pool.”

In May, the financial aid office sponsored “One Stop” sessions where students could come into the office on a specified schedule to submit documents for verification and have their financial aid questions answered. Our emphasis was on continuing students. Historically, they have completed their tasks much later in the summer.

Bombardment Pays Off

“We kept bombarding students with information and began tracking our percent completions,” Muhammad said. “We wanted to assess the status of file completions before we got into final registration.”

Requesting a list of students currently in the verification pipeline, Muhammad and his team looked at various issues such as missing forms or documents, focusing on students who had completed three fourths of the process. If students hadn’t engaged by then, it was unlikely that they could complete the process in time for registration.

“We packaged 5,400 students for fall registration,” Muhammad said. “Of that, 1,570 were verified through FAS. Just before our multiple “One Stop” sessions in August, we already had approximately 5000 students packaged. We had 500 (60 percent) freshman who could walk on campus and start classes as they had completed all of their requirements. In the past, there would have been a bottleneck.”

Although Muhammad says he’d like to be “20 percent better,” he believes the office has moved from an “o.k. verification” process to a much better process. “I was glad to come in and not see a line out the door,” he said. “Typically, the financial aid office is blamed for creating bottlenecks. But we’ve demonstrated that our processes have gotten better, so other departments can feel more confident in our product.”

He noted with pride that the university’s Provost commended the office for making “substantial improvements in financial aid this year” at a luncheon to celebrate the success of registration.

Three Tips for Success

Muhammad offers three secrets to engaging students in the file verification process:
1.      Communicate in multiple ways. Students are not monolithic. Meet them where they are. Use postcards, texts, placards, video vignettes, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2.      Use a holistic approach to get other university departments involved as financial aid partners. Help colleagues understand the importance of a timely verification process. If students can’t enroll on time, they may go elsewhere. This impacts not only the bottom line, but also job security. Everyone at WSSU is responsible for keeping students enrolled. Muhammad says he uses the tagline,
“FTE (Full-Time Enrollment) impacts FTE (Full-Time Employment.)”

3.      Work hard to analyze and track results. Identify problem areas as quickly as possible. This involves some late nights. Every moment lost in the verification process is a moment of opportunity to retain students.

“I’ve always had a drive to make processes better for students,” Muhammad said. “I enjoy the thrill of the hunt to solve problems and address issues. When I looked at verification, I realized that we needed something different. It makes more fiscal sense for us to rid ourselves of time consuming, repetitive tasks such as verification so we can put resources elsewhere to benefit students. This kind of smart business model offers the potential for students to get the same kind of service improvements from all our departments.”

As the world gets smaller, Muhammad says he sees more opportunities for collaboration to occur in different ways. “CFI always processed our loans in North Carolina. I expect this kind of partnership between CFI and FAS to enable automated verification for both NC institutions and those all across the country.”

Edwin Black

Edwin Black

Edwin Black, a human rights investigative reporter and best-selling author, will speak on “Confronting the Health Implications – Roots and Dynamics of The Mideast Crisis” at noon on Tuesday, November 4, in the lecture hall of the Student Success Center in Hill Hall on the campus of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU).

Free and open to the public, Black’s presentation will focus on the health outcomes of war, with an emphasis on the effect of the crisis in the Middle East.

Black spoke on eugenics at WSSU in 2011.  His bestselling book “War Against the Weak” is considered one of the best books ever published about the American eugenics movement.  The book has also been adapted into a feature-length documentary film.

The author of 11 books, Black has been published widely in both print and digital news outlets.  Editors have nominated his work for a Pulitzer Prize 10 times and he is a past winner of the Best Book of the Year and Best Article of the Year from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.  Noted for his investigative reporting in the areas of human rights and genocide, Black also has been recognized by the World Affairs Council with its International Human Rights Award.

Black has been interviewed on hundreds of network broadcasts including Oprah, the Today Show, CNN, and NBC Dateline in the U.S., as well as on the leading networks of Europe and Latin America. His speaking tours include hundreds of events in dozens of cities each year, appearing at prestigious venues from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. to the Simon Wiesenthal Institute in Los Angeles, also in Europe from London’s British War Museum and Amsterdam’s Institute for War Documentation to Munich’s Carl Orff Hall. In recent times he has appeared to speak, lecture or testify on social justice issues at the North Carolina General Assembly, the U.S. House of Representatives and the European Parliament.

Black’s appearance in Winston-Salem is being sponsored by WSSU’s School of Health Sciences.  Parking will be available on campus in Lot E behind the K. R. Williams Auditorium at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Cromartie Street.

The Winston-State University Foundation recently established a scholarship to honor Belinda S. Womack, a 1973 music education graduate. Read more here.

Most people who go into education as teachers or administrators are sure not in it for the money. Recently staff members and students at Gibson Elementary School in Winston-Salem, showed their appreciation for principal Ron Davis by “suspending” him from school to be among superheroes. Read more here.

To look at it today, Whitaker Gymnasium on WSSU’s campus sits as kind of a throwback in WSSU’s storied history. It is, but what a history it has. Read more and learn.

This Thursday will mark the day that early voting in North Carolina begins. But of the state’s students will find themselves without an on-campus site to go to. Read more here.

Internationally Known Attorney to Give Law Lecture at WSSU on Oct. 30

Theodore M. Shaw, the inaugural Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights at UNC-Chapel Hill, will deliver this year’s J. Alston Atkins Memorial Lecture in Constitutional Law at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU).
The lecture will be Thursday, October 30, at 3:30 p.m. in the Donald J. Reaves [...]

Some don’t want to talk about it, or would rather seek counseling, or suffer in silence. WSSU and other area institutions are making a concerted and unified effort to stop sexual assault on their campuses and in their communities. Learn more here.

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