On Sept. 9, Irma McClaurin walked down a red carpet, past a marching band and down a hallway into her new office, the president’s office.
It was the former University of Minnesota administrator’s first official day as the 15th president of Shaw University, in Raleigh, N.C.
The school’s first female president, she took over the oldest historically black college in the South, and with that achieved a life-long dream of hers. Shaw University is a private college with 2,700 students.
“Sometimes you wonder if you’re ready for something like this, but everything in my career has been moving toward this job,” McClaurin said.
Before Shaw, McClaurin was the University’s associate vice president for system academic administration and the founding executive director of Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center (UROC).
UROC is designed to create partnerships between the University and the north Minneapolis community. It explores the issues involved with urban communities and hosts ten University programs dedicated to research and outreach.
Robert Jones, the University’s senior vice president for system academic administration and lead administrator for UROC, hired McClaurin for the project in 2007.
McClaurin said she will draw on the lessons she learned with UROC and will use them to develop connections within the Raleigh community.
“It was a rare opportunity to build something from the ground up,” she said of UROC.
Jones accredits McClaurin with having invaluable strengths in the creation of UROC and said in a statement that her
“strategic leadership will serve Shaw University equally well.”
Her experience at the University is, in part, what made her such a good fit for the presidency, said Willie Gary, chairman of the Shaw University Board of Trustees. The board spent the last year interviewing “tons and tons” of applicants before deciding settling on McClaurin.
“She has tremendous talent as a leader and administrator and an educator,”
Shaw University will be evaluated for accreditation — a process certifying that a higher education institution meets certain national standards — in the next few years, and Gary said McClaurin will be a “lifeline” during that time.
As she begins her second week in her new position as president, McClaurin admitted that she is still learning. She has spent most of her time getting to know the campus and the people she is going to be working with.
Shaw University faculty and students alike are excited for the changes that McClaurin can bring to their campus. Lana Riggins, head of Shaw’s department of social sciences, described the change as “fabulous.”
“Dr. McClaurin has clearly worked very hard … everyone is just waiting to see what she will do for our university,” Riggins said.
Riggins said she hopes McClaurin will be able to increase fundraising to address the “financial challenges” the university is facing.
McClaurin said she plans to work on achieving steady enrollment as well as assisting students with their financial aid requirements and documents.
Shaw University junior Pamela Robinson said she is eager to see the program changes with McClaurin, and hopes that she spends her time focusing on the students.
“I’m sure we will see her influence on our campus very soon,” she said.