Central State University, a public, historically Black university located in Wilberforce, Ohio, swore in its first female president in its 126-year history on March 7.

Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond assumed the position from former university president John Garland on July 1, and was officially sworn in as part of a week-long series of events.

After spending seven years as the dean of the School of Education and Human Performance at North Carolina’s Winston-Salem State University, Jackson-Hammond came to Central State with excitement and vigor, said Gayle Colston Barge, who also left Winston-Salem to become Central State’s director of university public relations.

“Dr. Jackson-Hammond is an extraordinary visionary,” Barge said. “She is thoughtful and attuned to the students, faculty and staff. She was an uncanny ability to multitask that she can be a visionary, but cognizant of the details.”

Jackson-Hammond is a graduate of Gambling State University where she earned an undergraduate degree in communications arts and English. She has a Masters in communications and education counseling from the University of Louisiana and a Doctorate from Grambling State in Developmental Education, with a dual focus in Curriculum and Instruction and Student Personnel Services.

She is the former provost and vice president of academic affairs of Coppin State University, a historically black college located in Baltimore.

At Winston-Salem, Jackson-Hammond pushed her students to think outside of the box and explore career opportunities in non-traditional roles. Her program “Real Men Teach” pushed male students to not only become teachers, but leaders. “She wanted to ensure there were more young men in education,” said Barge.

Jackson-Hammond’s vision for Central State includes a six-point plan: a quality collegiate/academic experience for every student, targeted diverse student enrollment, reduced time to earning a degree, better retention and higher graduation rates, efficient and effective institutional operations and graduating students with the appropriate knowledge, skill and dispositions for professional careers or advanced degrees.

Central State currently reports a 50 percent five-year retention rate. According to U.S. News and World Report’s College Rankings and Reviews, the university has a 9 percent four-year graduation rate.

While few of the nation’s 105 HBCUs have had women presidents, among those who have, are Spelman College, Wilberforce University, Dillard University, Bennett College for Women, Kentucky State University, Langston University and the University of Virgin Islands.

The events leading up to Jackson-Hammond’s inauguration included Marauder Service Day, Charter Day and a celebration of the university and its community at an inter-faith service. A black-tie scholarship gala at the Dayton Arts Institute was scheduled to follow her induction.

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Krishana Davis

AFRO Staff Writers