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NSU is National News

by Steven Opfer -

While Norfolk State University has a well-established reputation, NSU made national news more than usual over the past months. Here is a sampling of the news that received national attention.

pharrell williams talking to nsu studentsNorfolk State alumnus Leon Carter, the founder of the Sports Journalism Institute (Pictured above), received the Red Smith Award from the Associated Press Sports Editors, one of the highest awards in sports journalism that honors a long and influential career that helped shape the industry. A significant accomplishment in that career occurred when Carter founded the Sports Journalism Institute on the campus of NSU in 1993. Over the decades, SJI has continually supported young minorities entering the field.

In addition, SJI received the National Sports Media Association’s Roone Arledge Award for Innovation. “I always say let’s not just talk about diversity. Let’s do something about it,” Carter said. “From Day One, the goal of SJI was to help improve diversity.”

Mighty Dream

In another nationally recognized diversity, equity, and inclusion effort, internationally famous record producer and recording artist Pharrell Williams returned to Norfolk with A Mighty Dream, an expanded version of his Elephant in the Room business forum from the previous year at NSU. In this multi-day forum, business, opportunity, and money intersected with people of color, set against a backdrop of community engagement and jaw-dropping entertainment. Norfolk State University was featured prominently in the forum, including a meet and greet on campus between Williams and student leaders. The Spartan Legion Marching Band opened the forum with a drum line demonstration that got the forum off to a rousing start.

According to, the forum “…will become an annual event where corporate and NGO leaders who are prioritizing DE&I in their organizations will come to share their insights, set goals, make pledges, inform and inspire other leaders to be the best they can be.”

The Spartan Legion

nsu marching band at the rose parade in pasadenaThe Spartan Legion Marching Band stole the show again in January when they performed in the 134th Tournament of Roses Parade. The historic appearance put Norfolk State University on a national television stage in front of millions of viewers. An estimated 800,000 attended the parade in person. Local KTLA television coverage said, “This band is bringing it, bringing it! They’re dancing, they’re playing, they’re entertaining, they’re showing off.” Watch their coverage on youtube .

Level Up

To round out the fame of the 757 hip-hop stronghold, Missy Elliott’s childhood friend and Pharrell Williams’ cousin, internationally acclaimed record producer Timbaland came to campus to support the NSU Level Up Career Fair and inspire young Spartans. He discussed growing up in the Hampton Roads area, where he and Elliott collaborated while breaking into the hip-hop music scene. He also spoke on the challenges and demands of the professionalism necessary to rise to national fame and the mindset and perseverance required for that success.

Rayquan Smith

NSU’s national acclaim wasn’t limited to the Spartan Legion and connections in the hip-hop world. Spartan track and field star Rayquan Smith, a former running back for Spartan football, quickly took advantage of the NCAA’s changes in name, image, and likeness (NIL) rules to become the “King of NIL,” sealing more NIL deals than anyone in the nation. At last count, Smith had 58 deals, 18 more than NASCAR’s Kurt Busch. As a result, Smith has spent his senior year appearing on numerous sports shows throughout the country discussing NIL and speaking before national groups as a nationally recognized NIL consultant.

Chloe-Ryan Woolfolk

NSU was also on the national stage when HBCU student journalists visited the White House in February. Spartan Echo editor-in-chief Chloe-Ryan Woolfolk questioned Vice President Kamala Harris, an HBCU graduate, about equity efforts in addressing climate change. Vice President Harris complimented Woolfolk saying, “that’s a wonderful question, Chloe” and gave a long, detailed answer. The entire briefing is available on Youtube. White House Senior Advisor Keisha Lance Bottoms, also an HBCU graduate, moderated the event.

Jaylin Drewry

In another national event focusing on HBCUs, Jaylin Drewry, the immediate past president of the Norfolk State University Student Government Association, represented NSU at the Truist Diversity in Tech Summit earlier in the school year. The event brought together key stakeholders that can diversify the technology field to create a pipeline of talent from the nation’s HBCUs.

“Truist, keeping their promise to ensure the success of HBCU students, awarded me a $5,000 Scholarship,” said Drewry. “Thank you, Truist and Congresswoman Adams, for your dedication and continued support of our institutions.” Drewry is also a current board member on the Student Advisory Board for the national Campus Vote Project. As the only African American on the board, Drewry feels his voice is important to the effort.

“I have the opportunity to work with administrative, faculty, and non-profit partners to advance the Student Voting Network and Campus Vote Project as a whole,” Drewry said. In addition, Drewry participated in the Dr. Dennis E. Thomas MEAC Leadership Symposium representing NSU alongside other student leaders from the conference. Drewry also exercised an important voice at the state level, having served as Co-Chair of the Student Advisory Committee for The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. “I had the opportunity to speak before the council about the key issues that students in the Commonwealth are facing today,” Drewry said. “As individuals, it is important to use our voices and our platforms to speak out on behalf of others.”

Conrad Hall Donation

conrad hall massive financial donation to the schoolConrad Hall, a member of the Norfolk State University Board of Visitors, has contributed a gift of $1M to support the creation of the Conrad M. Hall Endowed Chair in Constitutional and U.S. History at the University. This position will add to the Departments of History and Interdisciplinary Studies and Political Science program offerings and will allow the University to recruit renowned constitutional scholars as professors to enhance the degree programs.