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Javaune Adams-Gaston, Ph.D.Javaune Adams-Gaston, Ph.D.

Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston is the seventh President of Norfolk State University. She began her tenure on June 24, 2019. As President, she is committed to ensuring that Norfolk State University fulfills its mission as an HBCU for the modern world, a university grounded by its heritage, focused on the future, and deeply committed to student success. Her vision is student success, opportunity, access, affordability, growth, and sustainability. A strong advocate for collaboration and developing strategic partnerships with local, regional, state, national, and international stakeholders, Dr. Adams-Gaston is committed to cultivating strong connections with alumni and the community. 

During her first year as President at Norfolk State University, the COVID-19 pandemic created multiple challenges for the nation and the world. President Adams-Gaston collaborated with her team to move the institution forward despite the issues created as a result of the pandemic. This led to the university achieving multiple successes. Under President Adams-Gaston’s leadership, Norfolk State University has successfully achieved the status of a U.S. News and World Report 2020, 2021, and 2022 as a Top 20 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) designation. Attained 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation by its major accrediting body, The Southern Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). This reaffirmation underscores the University’s strength, stability, and forward momentum. Enrollment increased to a six-year high in 2019, to 5,600 students. This included the largest freshmen class in many years, 1,200 freshmen students (FY20). For Fall 2022 the new freshmen class included 1,300 students enrolled and a total population of 5,785 students. The university has realized record operating revenues, 104% above projection, the highest in the history of Norfolk State. A new 740-bed state of the art residence complex was opened. And Dr. Adams-Gaston has been successful in acquiring multiple donations including a transformational gift of over $40 million from Mackenzie Scott, the largest single donor gift in the history of NSU and a generous donation of support from Landmark Foundation of $5 million.

A nationally recognized higher education leader, President Adams-Gaston has been asked to regularly serve on multiple boards. In these roles she has provided her unambiguous perspectives to HBCUs, Research I institutions, public universities, and independent colleges. Her appointments include: President Biden’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, NCAA Board of Governors, NCAA Constitution Revision Committee, NCAA Division I Transformation Committee, NCAA Academic Committee, Board of Directors – Association of Public Land Grant Universities (APLU), numerous SACSCOC Review and Reaffirmation committees, Executive Board- Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Chamber Board of Directors, Board of Directors- American Red Cross, NASPA Foundation Board Member Chair, Board of Governors- Children’s Miracle Network, Greater Norfolk Corporation Board, Board of Trustees – The University of Dubuque Board (Elected Member), Diamond Honoree -American College Personnel Association, Chair- NASPA Pillar of the Profession, and Chair - NASPA National Conference.   

Since President Adams-Gaston’s arrival, Norfolk State University has also expanded its online academic program curriculums to include a master’s degree in Cybersecurity and has been recognized nationally and been designated as a Department of Defense Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity and Department of Energy Cybersecurity Consortium Leader and named one of the Top School for Online Healthcare Administration. Under her leadership, the online master’s degree in Cyber Psychology launched in Fall 2020 in connection with Academic Partnerships, is the first of its kind in the nation. The University also opened the NSU Innovation Center in Downtown Norfolk, a learning space that integrates pedagogy and technology to help grow and serve as a channel for minority entrepreneurs. Norfolk State University has developed the Center for African American Public Policy, a first of its kind in Virginia which “serves to educate the public at large, empower minority communities and assist lawmakers on alternative ideas of how to solve issues that impact communities of color.” 

An innovator and collaborator, President Adams-Gaston plays a critical role in developing outstanding opportunities for students. Transformative progress including a partnership with Eastern Virginia Medical School, Old Dominion University, and Norfolk State University to develop the ONE School of Public Health, focuses on addressing health disparities. At The Ohio State University, she was co-architect of the Second Year Transformational Program (STEP). This 2nd year living-learning 4000 bed residential student program incorporates faculty engagement with small cohorts of students and experienced learning opportunities. At the University of Maryland, Dr. Adams-Gaston co-authored the creation of the President’s Promise to focus on all students engaging in experiential learning via internships, research, service learning, study abroad and leadership. All these programs continue and demonstrate the importance of connectivity between institutions for the development of students in higher education. 

Norfolk State University has received national recognition and visibility for several initiatives including the International Cyber Psychology Conference, the Voice of America’s 1619 Commemoration radio broadcast, hosting of a US Senatorial Debate and a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding to become a partner of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Tech Talent Pipeline initiative. Also, the Elephant in the Room Symposium was hosted on NSU campus in 2021 and participation in the Mighty Dream Forum sponsored by Pharrell Williams gained national attention. Dr. Adams-Gaston's leadership has also resulted in Norfolk State’s participation in the Virginia College Affordability Network, providing a pathway for students with the Hampton Roads region to attend the university with full tuition scholarships. Additionally, the University has secured contributions of more than $64 million for scholarships and financial support to enhance student success during her tenure. Her strategic planning has also helped to secure transformational partnerships with the Sentara Healthcare- Public Health Program, Appalachian School of Law 3+3 program, Academic Partnerships online learning platform, executed Memorandum of Understanding with University of West Indies Jamaica , London Metropolitan University, among other international institutions, Netflix, 2U, Apple, Amazon, USAA, Dominion Energy, and the Black Ambition Prize and many others. 

President Adams-Gaston is a higher education professional and scholar with more than 35 years of experience at nationally known research one universities. Prior to joining Norfolk State University, Dr. Adams-Gaston served as senior vice president at The Ohio State University and led forty departments in the Office of Student Life annually impacting over 66,000 students. With her selection in 2009, Dr. Adams-Gaston became The Ohio State’s first female African American Vice President for Student Life. She came to The Ohio University State from the University of Maryland, where she served in administrative and faculty positions. Her experience includes serving at University of Maryland, College Park as associate dean of academic affairs, faculty member, executive director of the Career Center, equity administrator, psychologist and first UMCP African American female assistant athletic director (Division 1) and as an Athletic Certification Peer Reviewer for the NCAA. Trained as a psychologist, Dr. Adams-Gaston spent more than 25 years as a licensed psychologist in private practice. She also served as a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. She was an affiliate assistant professor at The Ohio State University.

Dr. Adams-Gaston earned a bachelor's degree in biology, psychology, and general science, at the University of Dubuque; a master's degree in psychology at Loras College; and a Ph.D. in psychology at Iowa State University. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She considers her greatest achievement to be her family. She is married to Dmitri Gaston, MCRP, who served as a planner and management analyst in Washington, D.C. for over 25 years and as a planner, including creating diversity and inclusion education at The Ohio State University. He presently serves as a Planner/Grants Writer. They have three adult children, and they are extremely proud of them.