May 192017

Graduates show off their decorated mortarboards to commemorate the day. Check out WSSU’s Flickr page for more photos.

Many Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) graduates showed their creativity through their unique mortarboards and attire. But for some graduates, this was also a way to tell the stories of their journeys and where they are headed as they “Depart to Serve.”

As students marched into Bowman Gray Stadium during the Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 19, they shared their messages of gratitude, accomplishment and encouragement.

Dealva Glaspie, a biotechnology graduate, had a decorated mortarboard with the message, “I turned my can’ts into cans, and my dreams into plans.” Glaspie is the first in her family to earn a college degree. “I finally made it. I turned my dreams into plans,” Glaspie said.

James Bullock

Sherabiah Olglesby, a behavioral sciences and social work graduate, wore a stole with the imprint “black grads matter” to show her pride as a graduate of a historically Black college and university (HBCU).

“A lot of my friends went to predominately white institutions and believe that their degrees are better, but that’s not true,” Olglesby said.  “A lot of graduate schools want students from WSSU because they know that we have been properly prepared and are ready for the work force, and I think that is great.”

Olglesby plans to attend graduate school in the fall.

Taylor Gaulden, an interdisciplinary studies graduate, had a picture of her recently deceased grandmother on her mortarboard. “I promised my granny that I was going to do it, and I did.,” Gaulden said.

James Bullock, a sports management graduate and former member of the Rams football team, was at the front of the processional with a large crown atop his graduation cap. About 25 family members from Cleveland were there to cheer him on.

Berenice Rodriguez, a nursing graduate whose parents migrated from Mexico, displayed the message, “Lo Hicimos. Gracias mami y papi,” which means “We did it. Thank you, Mom and Dad.” Rodriguez is the first in her family to graduate from college. “I did what I’m doing for them.”

Berenice Rodriguez

Commencement Speaker

Attorney and CNN analyst Bakari Sellers delivered the commencement address. During his address, he spoke of his father, civil rights veteran Cleveland Sellers Jr., who was convicted and jailed in 1968 at the Orangeburg Massacre.

“We lit a torch of freedom whose light shines still for all the world to see, and it is that torch we pass to you today,” Sellers said. “So don’t be afraid to dare greatly and fail. Don’t be afraid to aim high and fall short. Don’t be afraid to be the miracles you already are.”

Sellers, a former South Carolina representative, said history is full of achievements that were not supposed to happen.

“Throughout history, Americans have always showed a true talent for exceeding expectations,” Sellers said. “Life isn’t fair but it’s not fixed either.”

Class of 2017

WSSU recognized more than 1,200 graduates during the ceremony.

The ceremony honored WSSU students who earned their degrees in summer and fall 2016 and spring 2017. Many outstanding students were among the class of 2017. More than 1,100 undergraduates and 129 graduates received degrees.

Graduates included:

  • Sisters Eomba F. and Edith Pungu, immigrants from the Congo who are earning their master’s in nursing degree to become family nurse practitioners. The sisters will cross the stage together for the second time as WSSU graduates.
  • Nursing Bridge to Ph.D. Scholars Nicole CalhounMorine Cebert and LaKita M.J. Knight, who will earn their master’s degree and continue their education this fall as doctorate in nursing students at Duke University.
  • Taylor Evans, a third-generation educator who has several job offers in special education.
  • Victoria Segwick, a chemistry major who will attend the Medical Sciences Ph.D. Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
  • Anthony Wells, a marketing major who plans to join AllianceBerstein as a private wealth consultant in New York City. While at WSSU, he studied abroad in Brazil and the Dominican Republic and studied at the Harvard University Business School.

Also at the ceremony:

  • Dr. Donna Gwyn Wiggins, associate professor of music, was awarded the 2017 Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.
  • Dr. Brenda Allen, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for her contributions during her eight-year tenure at WSSU. Allen was recently selected as the president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, her alma mater.

A bold past. A brilliant future.

For 125 years, Winston-Salem State University has fostered the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn. Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment. Join us in celebrating our 125th anniversary with events throughout 2017. Learn more at the 125th Anniversary website.

WSSU recognized more than 1,200 graduates during the ceremony at Bowman Gray Stadium.

May 182017

Kiana Rushdan (left) discusses her research during 2017 Scholarship Day.

Members of Winston-Salem State University’s newest graduating class have new opportunities to go along with their new degrees.

Faculty-mentored research is helping Winston-Salem State University undergraduates get a head start as they continue their education or transition into the job market.

Here are a few examples to illustrate the importance of pursuing undergraduate research. You’ll also learn where they’re headed next.

Lanazha Belfield

Lanazha Belfield

  • Major: Biology with a minor in physics
  • Hometown: Rocky Mount
  • About her WSSU experience: Belfield worked with Assistant Professor of Physics Tennille D. Presley on analyzing the effect of acute heat and exercise on the biophysical parameters associated with Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  • Next step: Continue her research, pursuing a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Bioscience at Wake Forest University.
  • Quote: “My research career at WSSU has been an amazing opportunity for me to travel and find what career path that I wanted to pursue.”

Beverly Dosso

Beverly Dosso

  • Major: Chemistry
  • Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
  • About her WSSU experience: Dosso studied with Dr. Azeez Aileru, director of MARC U*STAR, a federally-funded program that aims to nurture undergraduates for scientific research careers. Her research focused on neuroscience and hypertension.
  • Next step: Continue her research, pursuing a Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University.
  • Quote:“I can’t stress enough the importance of undergraduate research.”

Taylor Evans

Taylor Evans

  • Major: Special Education
  • Hometown: Fayetteville
  • About her WSSU experience: At WSSU, Evans worked closely with Dr. Lynn Zubov on a research project that focused on using exercise balls as classroom chairs for students.
  • Next step: Evans, a third-generation education major, has completed her student teaching and is weighing several offers to teach special education.
  • Quote: “Winston-Salem State University provided me with a plethora of opportunities. I will forever be grateful, and I will never forget the impact that this university has had and will always have on me.”

Zipporah Foster

 Zipporah Foster

  • Major: Psychology
  • Hometown: Durham
  • About her WSSU experience: This year, Foster presented at six regional and national conferences. She partnered with Professor Amber DeBono on research. Their research on the influence of perception on student athletes’ motivation and relationship with coaches was published in an academic journal earlier this year.
  • Next step: Will pursue her master’s degree at Eastern Kentucky University
  • Quote: “Take a risk to get out of your comfort zone.”

Eric Pridgen

Eric Pridgen

  • Major: Mathematics
  • Hometown: Jersey City, New Jersey
  • About his WSSU experience: Worked on mathematical research with Dr. Mark Hunnell and also worked on projects related to bioinformatics with Dr. Xiuping Tao. His research was supported through the MARC U*STAR program.
  • Next step: Will attend Columbia University to obtain a master’s degree in applied analytics through the HBCU Fellowship.
  • Quote: “The domain of WSSU is infinite and that has been one of the most rewarding parts. I have built a foundation that is solid, and I will humbly need more improvement to make the most profound impact in the world. I am thankful for my WSSU and HBCU experience.”

Kiana Rushdan

Kiana Rushdan

  • Major: Biology
  • Hometown: High Point
  • About her WSSU experience: Rushdan, the 2016-17 Miss Winston-Salem State University, worked with Dr. Mesia Steed to analyze innate expression and activity of matrix metalloproteinases in the isolated abdominal aorta during hypertension. In other words, high BP.
  • Next step: Plans to pursue a master’s degree in bioethics and go to medical school.
  • Quote: “I’ve learned soft skills through research that I can take anywhere in life, even corporate.”

Victoria Segwick

Victoria Sedwick

  • Major: Chemistry
  • Hometown: Indianapolis
  • About her WSSU experience: She transferred to WSSU as a junior from Fisk University. Through the MARC U*Star program, she partnered with research mentor Dr. A. Barkarr Kanu, assistant professor of chemistry. “He made sure we knew how to work every instrument as well as understand the theory behind them.” Her research helped develop a method to distinguish fire starters from one another in gas chromatography. A publication is in the works.
  • Next step: Will continue her research in the Medical Sciences Ph.D. Program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
  • Quote: “There’s research everywhere, not just WSSU, but downtown at Piedmont Triad Community Research Center (PTCRC), the hospitals and Wake Forest. We have access, and all we have to do is ask.

Alex Sumner

 Alex Sumner

  • Major: Computer Science
  • Hometown: Raleigh
  • About his WSSU experience: At WSSU, Sumner was paired with Dr. Mustafa Atay on research projects. He also completed an internship at Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio. As chapter president of Phi Beta Sigma, he gained knowledge about leadership and community outreach.
  • Next step: Plans to continue his education at North Carolina A&T State University in computer science.
  • Quote: “I’ve never been the most outgoing person, and I’m still not, but I have come so far from when I first arrived at WSSU.”

Anthony Wells

 Anthony Wells

  • Major: Marketing
  • Hometown: Charlotte
  • About his WSSU experience: At WSSU, he worked closely with Dr. Derick Virgil, associate dean for Academic Services and Assessment, to track the perception of HBCUs among high school students. He also had the opportunity to study abroad in Brazil and the Dominican Republic, study at Harvard University Business School and work as a marketing intern at Eli Lilly and Co.
  • Next step: Plans to join AllianceBernstein as a private wealth consultant in New York City.
  • Quote: “WSSU is a microcosm of the world that truly enables the student to grow into the best version of themselves. I am a direct representation of the change that takes place once you enter the arches of WSSU.”

Micalyne Zimmerman

 Micalyne Zimmerman

  • Major: Computer Science
  • Hometown: Charlotte
  • About her WSSU experience: Zimmerman, a distance runner for WSSU’s track and field program, had the opportunity to be part of two research programs under Dr. Elva Jones in the area of robotics. She also completed the BB&T Leadership Institute program.
  • Next step: Will pursue a career in web development. Zimmerman has a summer internship with Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio, in application development.
  • Quote: “A STEM career is very challenging but opens up a variety of opportunities to discover what is best for you.”


May 112017

Edith Pungu (left) and Eomba F. Pungu (right) will earn their master’s degree in nursing from WSSU on May 19. Eomba Pungu’s daughter, Amnazo Muhirwa, is following in her mom and aunt’s footsteps.

Eomba F. and Edith Pungu are sisters by birth and also sisters in nursing.

The sisters, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will cross the Winston-Salem State University commencement stage together for the second time in 10 years on Friday, May 19, earning their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

“I’m so excited. I feel honored and privileged to once again walk to the podium with my lovely sister,” Edith Pungu says. “I could not have imagined being here without the love and support of my big sister. She has encouraged me when I felt defeated and helped me to persevere when the journey seemed unbearable.”

Eomba Pungu says: “My younger sister has been my cheerleader and backbone throughout this entire process.”

And the Ram connection continues with the next generation.

Eomba Pungu’s daughter, Amnazo Muhirwa, is also following in her mother and aunt’s footsteps. She earned her bachelor’s in nursing from WSSU, and also is enrolled in the MSN program . Next year, Muhirwa plans to take her degree one step further, pursuing her doctorate in nursing at Duke University through the Pathways to Ph.D. program, a partnership between WSSU’s School of Health Sciences and Duke University’s Division of Nursing.

The sisters, who both work as nurses in Charlotte, say they are excited about taking their career to another level, as family nurse practitioners (FNP).

“I can better serve my community with this degree,” Edith Pungu says. “In my eyes, the opportunities are endless. Nurse practitioners serve a unique role for the healthcare community, I am so grateful for the knowledge gained during my time at WSSU –  both for my BSN and now MSN-FNP. I cannot forget to express my gratitude to all the faculty and staff for all the knowledge, encouragement and time they have invested to make this accomplishment possible.”

Eomba Pungu plans to open a practice to serve low-income communities to increase access to care and provide health education.

“As an advanced family nurse practitioner, I am privileged to now serve on the frontline of healthcare,” she says. “There is a clear need in our community for an increase in healthcare access. I have witnessed the unavailability of adequate medical treatment in communities as well as preventable illnesses and disease prevail in lower socioeconomic groups.”

From Congo to WSSU

Eomba Pungu emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the poorest countries in Africa, in 1992. Her sister joined her three years later.

“Life was difficult for most families in Congo. To put bread on the table for kids was very stressful for most parents,” she says. “You might be surprised to hear this, there are no middle-class families, you are either very rich or very poor.”

Edith Pungu says she has dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was young.

“I recall seeing nuns back home helping people, and I would tell my parents, ‘When I grow up, I will be like them. I would like to work in a hospital and help the sick’,” Edith Pungu said. “I believe nursing runs in my family and truly is my passion.”

After two WSSU degrees Eomba Pungu says she may be ready to put away the textbooks.

“I have learned to never say never,” she says. “As of now I would like to take some time to relax and regroup. I do not know what the future holds in regards to returning to school, but WSSU will always be my school. I am a proud Ram.”

WSSU Commencement

WSSU will celebrate its 2016-17 graduates with events on May 18-19. More than 1,200 graduates have received their degrees during summer and fall 2016 and spring 2017.

  • Thursday, May 18: The School of Health Sciences will celebrate graduates at the Pinning and Awards Ceremony at 10 a.m. in the K.R. Williams Auditorium.
  • Friday, May 19: The 2017 Commencement Ceremony will begin at 9:45 a.m. at Bowman Gray Stadium (rain location Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum). For those who cannot attend, the ceremony will be live-streamed on WSSU’s website.

For more information on Commencement, please visit

May 052017

SGA President Mona Zahir at the Zen Zone launch. More photos of the event are available on WSSU’s official Flickr page.

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) students will soon have a new place on campus to relax and focus.

This summer, two triple hammocks will be installed in the historic lawn between Carolina and Blair halls, launching a student Zen Zone.

Student Government Association (SGA) launched the Zen Zone on April 28, student reading day. For the launch, yoga mats were brought out onto the lawn, and pooches from the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club were available to pet and walk. SGA leaders also served ice cream.

Student Government Association President Mona Zahir said the idea of a Zen Zone – a green place where students could relax and “be free of cultural norms and judgement” – fits closely with SGA’s motto this year of “Challenging the Existing.”

“SGA thought this backyard of Blair Hall was essentially the getaway to relax and focus more on individual care,” Zahir said. “One student in particular approached me and gave me the biggest hug sharing how much we needed this and that she will literally will be there every day during the summer.”

Zahir, who will graduate from WSSU in May, said the Zen Zone also has strong support from the University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments (UNC ASG) and its #StigmaFree campaign, which focuses on student mental health. Starting this summer, in addition to hammocks, students will be able to use their RamCard at Student Affairs to check out yoga mats and picnic blankets they can use in the Zen Zone.

“I trust the future SGAs to keep this as an ongoing initiative because the launch was just the foundation.”

SGA worked closely with WSSU’s Facilities Department to secure funding for the hammocks and the sand beds for the Zen Zone launch.

Pups from the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club were on hand for the launch of the Zen Zone.

Apr 112017

WSSU students Jadah Pickney and Leah Walker perform a collaborative lab experiment.

A grant program from WSSU’s Office of Science Initiatives is helping support faculty-mentored research

Dr. Stephanie Dance-Barnes knows that science starts in the lab.

“When students take the lead in developing the types of experiments that are conducted in the research-based laboratory, they gain a better understanding of scientific concepts,” says Dance-Barnes, an associate professor of biology and co-chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU).

Dr. Stephanie Dance-Barnes

A new WSSU Office of Science Initiatives’ teaching grant program has helped Dance-Barnes redesign the curriculum for General Biology Lab I, a first-year biology lab used during BIO 1113 General Biology, to support faculty-mentored research.

Instead of a “cookbook” lab where students follow directions in a manual, she says, students are responsible for creating their own manual, devising experiments and collecting data as they would in a true research lab.

“Fine-tuning the course involves structuring a more meaningful, research-based laboratory experience that gives students the capability to take the lead in developing the types of experiments that are conducted,” Dance-Barnes says.

The redesigned lab course, in its third semester, also helps faculty better identify when students are having difficulties with biological concepts and lab techniques, she adds.

Dance-Barnes says since the lab was redesigned, the survey responses from students have been tremendously positive.

“Students perceive themselves as more confident learners,” she says. “They also reported having a better understanding of biological and scientific concepts and were better skilled at the processes associated with carrying out experiments.”

Although the primary goal is to bring more students into the STEM pipeline, students also learn communications and critical thinking skills that are valuable to employers, Dance-Barnes says. Further, the redesign also saves students from buying pricy lab manuals.

Once the course is successfully restructured, its blueprint can be used to achieve the department’s goal of refreshing all freshman-level biology courses, she says. She also hopes to see the outcomes of the funded work published.

Supporting Faculty

Dr. Carthene Bazemore-Walker, director of science initiatives and chief research officer at WSSU, says the redesigned course is just one example of how WSSU’s Office of Science Initiatives is improving student learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“By supporting high-quality faculty research, we are igniting student success and helping our students learn in new ways,” Bazemore-Walker says. “Through undergraduate research, we have to opportunity to not only produce graduates with the critical thinking skills employers covet, but also to create more informed citizenry that will elevate our society as a whole.”

Science Initiatives launched three grant programs in 2016:

  • Innovation: Grants of up to $5,000 for projects that improve teaching and learning in STEM courses.
  • Catalyst: Grants up to $15,000 for projects that creatively integrate research and teaching.
  • Frontier: Grants of up to $25,000 to support collaborative multi-disciplinary research projects in the natural and physical sciences.

In addition to Dance-Barnes, these faculty received inaugural grants from the Office of Science Initiatives:

  • Debzani Deb (computer science): Innovation award for the project “Using Peer Instruction to Improve Student Engagement”;
  • Xiuping Tao (physics): Innovation award for the project “Bridging Math and Physics: A Booklet on Calculus for Physics Topics and Problems.”
  • David Kump (biology): Frontier award for the project “Characterization and Effects of Electrically Stimulated Myotubes on Proliferation and Differentiation of Muscle, Bone, Cartilage, and Fat.”

A bold past. A brilliant future.

For 125 years, Winston-Salem State University has fostered the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn. Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment. Join us in celebrating our 125th anniversary with events throughout 2017. Learn more at the 125th Anniversary website.

Mar 312017
These WSSU scholars are ready to break the science gender barrier

The Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” introduced the untold story of three African American women who helped send America to space. More than 50 years later, women are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Three female Winston-Salem State University sophomores are ready to break down the barriers, and a unique mentorship program […]

Feb 212017
Faculty, students team up to send books to Nigerian university

When she heard that an accidental fire had destroyed the library at her alma mater, the University of Jos in Nigeria, Dr. Alice Etim, associate professor of management information systems at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), sprang into action to help. In November, Etim and Dr. James Etim, professor of education, teamed with colleagues and students from […]

Nov 212016
WSSU Department of Accounting and MIS engineer record-breaking food drive

Ah, ‘tis the season of giving, and students, faculty and staff from the department of Accounting and Management Information Systems (MIS) at Winston-Salem State University gave a lot, breaking their 2015 record by more than 1,200 cans of food. The can food drive, supporting the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, produced 4,256 […]