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Physical Self-Defense Program

Empowering Norfolk State University Students through a Comprehensive Physical Self-Defense Program

In an unwavering commitment to prioritize the safety and well-being of its student body, Norfolk State University has recently introduced a groundbreaking basic physical self-defense program adopted by the national and international based curriculum of R.A.D (Rape Aggression Defense) Systems. This initiative, orchestrated through a collaborative partnership between the Office of Housing & Residence Life, OVW (Office on Violence Against Women) Campus Prevention & Response Grant Program, Campus Life and Diversity, and Norfolk State University Police Department aims to equip Norfolk State University students with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect themselves in various situations. With three successful classes already conducted on and off-campus residential sites, additional training, workshops and classes will be offered to students, faculty and staff during the upcoming spring semester. This signature program is a proving entity to be an invaluable resource for our campus community.

The vision and implementation of this vital programming is accredited to Norfolk State University Division of Student of Affairs, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life and Diversity, Dr. Faith Fitzgerald who recognized the need for an integrated approach to student safety. Dr. Fitzgerald along with Dr. Vanessa Jenkins, Executive Director of Health and Wellness were the grant writing contributors for the ongoing Department of Justice, (OVW) campus federal funded grant which assists with providing financial resources in lieu of education and prevention efforts of reducing Domestic and Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking here on our college campus. Under Dr, Fitzgerald’s visionary leadership, supervision, and approval also of NSU-CCRT (Coordinated Community Response Team) which address DVDVSAS concerns on campus, a self-defense program was born and implemented. The Division of Student Affairs commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive campus environment prompted Dr. Faith Fitzgerald to champion and support this initiative along with additional support and partnership from the Director of Housing & Residence Life, Mrs. ReNecia Thornton Barfield who further wanted to ensure that Norfolk State University students would have access to practical tools that extend beyond the academic realm.

The R.A.D Systems of Self-Defense Program is gender-based lead empowerment opportunity specific with structured curriculum designated for female identified students facilitated by certified female instructors and non-gender specific sworn law enforcement officers instructors who address not only physical defense techniques but also provide support and encouragement of its participants through enhancing the importance of situational awareness, communication skills, and the illustrating the  dynamics of healthy relationships in lecture. Also, during classes, the mission and in alignment of the federally funded grant which provides educational and prevention programming, training and awareness of Domestic and Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking. Each class is designed to be highly interactive, providing Norfolk State University female identified students with firsthand experience and practical knowledge that goes beyond traditional self-defense programs.

The success of the initial classes has generated considerable interest among Norfolk State University students, with many expressing gratitude for the practical knowledge gained. As word spreads about the program's effectiveness, there are plans to expand the course offerings. The Division of Student Affairs Assistant Vice President, Dr. Faith Fitzgerald envisions a Norfolk State University campus where every student is equipped with the skills and knowledge to navigate the complexities of personal safety confidently.

It is important to note that this initiative was made possible through the financial support provided by the Office of Housing & Residence Life along with the facilitation and ongoing support of R.A.D Systems certified instructors and program organizers La’Toya N. Edwards, Associate Director for Business Operations within the Office of Housing & Residence Life, Lt. Michael T. Steward, Administrative Lieutenant of the Norfolk State University Police Department and Dr. Tonya M. Shell, Program Director for the OVW Campus Prevention & Response Program. This partnership across departments on campus recognizes the importance of student safety within and beyond the confines of residence halls but moreover fostering a safe and informed campus and community.

In a world where personal safety is paramount, Norfolk State University's commitment to empowering its students is evident through integration of overall education and prevention programming and most importantly sustainability for the need of programming such as the R.A.D Systems of Self-Defense and continuation of grant funding in support of establishment of a campus prevention and response office spearheaded by Dr. Faith Fitzgerald. The collaboration between the Office of Campus Life and Diversity, the Office of Housing & Residence Life, OVW Campus Prevention & Response Program and NSU-PD reflects a united front in prioritizing student well-being at Norfolk State University. As the implementation of this program continues to grow, it is poised to become a cornerstone of the Norfolk State University campus experience, shaping students into informed, confident, and resilient individuals capable of navigating the challenges of the world beyond academia.

For more information about upcoming R.A.D Systems Basic Physical Defense Classes and/ or information and resources about DVDVSAS (Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking), please feel free to contact Dr. Tonya M. Shell, Program Director, OVW Campus Prevention and Response Program, 757 823-8603,