Chartered on December 18, 1869, Claflin University is the oldest historically black college/university in South California and the first in the state to admit students regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnic origin. Today, Claflin continues to welcome students of all races and genders who demonstrate a passion to change not only their own circumstances but to change the world as well. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It is also listed by the University Senate General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.
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Student-focused and Award-winning Academic Programs
In the past two decades, Claflin has gained an impressive reputation for producing outstanding STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduates as well. Claflin University offers 37 bachelor’s degree programs and 4 master’s programs. The bachelor’s degree programs with the largest total of majors are biology, psychology, business administration, criminal justice, and mass communication. Alongside this, it is also recognized as one of nation’s premier liberal arts universities.
Due to its rigorous, student-focused academic programs and its world-class faculty, the U.S. News and World Report ranked Claflin University ninth in its 2021 list of the nation’s top historically black colleges/universities (HBCUs). Claflin is the only HBCU in South Carolina in this ranking, and has earned a place among the top 10 in the publication’s prestigious rankings for 10 consecutive years. Furthermore, U.S. News and World Report also ranked Claflin University 9th overall, among the schools in the Best Regional Colleges in the South rankings.
In addition, several academic programs offered by the university recently earned distinctive accreditations. Some of the notable accreditations were the RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education); Department of Computer Science (Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology); and Department of Music (National Association for Schools and Music). Moreover, as a product of the faculty’s rigorous research efforts, Claflin University’s Henry N. Tisdale Molecular Science Research Center has been designated as a core research facility by the South Carolina Research Authority.
These rankings and recognitions affirm the university’s emergence as one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher education. “We are gratified by the national attention the university receives from this coveted ranking. However, our goal is to be consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best institutions among all colleges and universities,” says Dr. Dwaun Warmack (President at Claflin University).
Breaking the Generational Curses
Speaking about leadership, Dwaun affirms that today’s leaders must be able to connect with Gen Z students on many levels. He believes that Claflin University must articulate and implement its vision for the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community stakeholders. “Students don’t know that you care until you show that you care,” he adds. Most of Claflin University’s students are first-generation college students and a majority of them receive financial aid as well. The students are confident that earning a degree from the college provides a pathway towards excellence and breaks generational curses of poverty and other socio-economic changes.
Commitment to Sustaining Academic Excellence
The COVID-19 pandemic altered every aspect of culture and society, including higher education as well. Claflin University’s response to the pandemic has been compassionate and transparent. In the time of the crisis, the university remained resolute and steadfast in its commitment to sustaining academic excellence and exemplary customer service to students, constituents, and stakeholders. “The university has remained dedicated to fostering a transformative educational, cultural, and spiritual environment that promotes global engagement and visionary leadership,” adds Dwaun.
The state and municipal governments closed businesses and prohibited large gatherings to mitigate the potential spread of the virus. Consequently, Claflin University implemented its student engagement strategies by using interactive social media platforms and other technologies. The university produced a new virtual tour to showcase its historic and picturesque campus. It also expanded its use of Zoom and invested in a new text messaging system. Dwaun says that Claflin’s strategies to cope with the new normal were successful as the combined total of freshman and new students entering Claflin for the 2020-21 academic year was over 9 percentage points higher than the previous year.
Swift Transition to Online Education
In March 2020, Claflin University announced to offer its nationally-accredited academic programs 100 percent online due to the pandemic. Dwaun adds that the swift transition to online was not surprising as the university had launched online degree completion programs during the 2014 summer semester. Students can earn bachelor’s degrees online in Criminal Justice, Organizational Management (Business), Psychology, and Nursing (RN to BSN). Students can also earn master’s degrees online in Criminal Justice, Education (Curriculum and Instruction, M.Ed.), and Business Administration (MBA).
“The infrastructure was already in place to support the transition,” says Dwaun. He further adds that as nearly 10 percent of all courses were offered online before the pandemic, Claflin University’s faculty had extensive experience in teaching online and students were familiar with online assignment submissions. The university provided laptops and Wi-Fi hotspot access to students, allowing them to stay current with the classroom assignments.
Engaging Students with Interactive Programs
Although Claflin transitioned to virtual presentations, the Office of Student Development and Services, Office of the Provost, and Office of Communications and Marketing utilized Zoom, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms to implement interactive activities and programs to engage students outside the classroom. Dwaun asserts that The 2020 Spring and 2020 Fall Commencement Convocations, Coronations for the Royal Court, and Homecoming Day Parties were among some of the online events.
Soon after he began his tenure at Claflin, Dwaun announced that one of the university’s fundraising projects would focus on building a new student center that will serve as a central location for student activities and services. “Our students deserve a student center that offers educational, recreational, cultural, and social activities that meet the needs of Claflin’s diverse campus community,” he added. Dwaun envisions a facility that will be an inviting, inclusive, and vibrant gathering place for the faculty, staff, students, and visitors to the university.
Making Students Industry-ready
Dwaun states that preparing its graduates for the 21st-century workforce is Claflin University’s top priority. In 2016, the university was selected as the lead institution for the Carolina Cluster Pathway Program funded by a $6 million grant from the UNCF through the Lilly Foundation. The program aims to prepare students for the high-paying private and public sector occupations in the Carolinas and elsewhere. Claflin and other selected institutes have developed a wide range of academic programs, student internships, industry partnerships, and specialty certifications to achieve this goal.
Furthermore, Claflin University has developed partnerships with corporations such as Zoom, Dominion Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, and Gilead Sciences Inc. that include student internships and scholarships. “We have partnerships with other state and regional institutions that allow current students and graduates to earn master’s degrees in their graduate schools,” says Dwaun. He adds that these are reputable advanced degree programs that expand academic and career opportunities for Claflin’s students and alumni.
Goals for the Future
In the coming years, Claflin University aims to increase its enrollment and continue its commitment to academic excellence and exemplary customer service. Moreover, it strives to increase its fundraising to be able to increase financial support for scholarships to recruit and retain talented high school graduates and outstanding faculty. The university also anticipates being a more diverse campus due to its growing national and global reputation as a premier liberal arts university known also for its focus and strength in STEM.
“We will continue to graduate globally engaged visionary leaders who will strive to improve the lives of residents in their respective communities and the world,” asserts Dwaun. Additionally, Claflin also aims to become the engine for the economic development of its immediate community and region. As Orangeburg attracts more corporate entities, the university desires to ensure that the workforce meets the demands for new jobs and opportunities for employment, reducing the unemployment roll.
Dwaun hopes that within five years, Claflin’s Center for Social Justice will achieve national and global acclaim as a preeminent source for results-driven research, and productive conversations and collaborations that explore solutions for social injustice and socio-economic and political inequality.
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