Bonita J. Brown elected chancellor of WSSU

Bonita J. Brown

Bonita J. Brown elected chancellor of WSSU
June 06
20:24 2024

For the first time in history, a woman has been chosen to lead Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). During a press conference held last week, Bonita J. Brown was officially announced as the 14th chancellor of WSSU. 

Kathleen Kelly, chair of the Board of Trustees, made the announcement. “Today marks a historic moment in the history of our university as we formally welcome our newly elected Ms. Bonita J. Brown, who is the first woman to hold this prestigious position,” Kelly continued. 

“This milestone is a testament to our commitment to an inclusive institution and fills us with immense pride.”

Kelly, who also served as chair of the Chancellor Search Advisory Committee, said they received more than 50 applicants for the position. That number was cut down to three finalists that were presented to the Board of Trustees and Peter Hans, president of the University of North Carolina System. 

And then there was one. 

A native of Welcome, North Carolina,  Brown won’t have a problem finding her way around Winston-Salem, having earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from Wake Forest University. After college Brown relocated to Washington, D.C. where she worked as a lawyer, before coming back to North Carolina in 2001 to join the leadership team at Livingstone College. Since then Brown has served in a number of roles at colleges and universities across the country including the University of North Texas, University of North Carolina Greensboro, and UNC School of the Arts. Brown also served as an assistant attorney at WSSU. 

In her most recent positions Brown served as vice president and chief strategy officer, and interim president at Northern Kentucky University. 

After taking the podium for the first time as Chancellor of WSSU, Brown revealed that her ties to Ram Country go back further than her time as part of the staff. She explained that her mother was a freshman at WSSU when she met her father. Growing up in the area, Brown also talked about putting on her customary red and white and marching in the WSSU Homecoming Parade. 

“By her junior year they were married and by her senior year I came along, so while she was in classes I was here, even before I was born, after I was born I was here on this campus,” Brown said. “So when I say this is home, this is absolutely home for me.”

Throughout all of the changes over the years, Brown said WSSU has stayed true to its motto, “Enter to learn, Depart to Serve.”

When discussing her decision to apply for the position at WSSU, Brown said now more than ever HBCUs are needed to protect historical perspectives and protect and create the culture.

“HBCUs continue to provide student-centered support that leads to upward mobility for African American students and other underrepresented populations,” Brown said. “HBCUs move students from what I call survival or local perspective to global perspective.”

According to the New York Times, WSSU is ranked the No. 1 HBCU in North Carolina, and number one among all universities when it comes to upward mobility, according to the U.S. News and Record and CollegeNet. WSSU’s nursing program is also the best among HBCUs in the country, according to 

While WSSU has made great strides, Brown admits there are several challenges ahead of her, including budget challenges, programming, enrollment concerns, changes to college athletics, and others. Brown mentioned that a point of emphasis for her will be ensuring that the university is “fiscally responsible and fiscally sound.” Brown also discussed the importance of creating an inclusive campus culture, community partnerships, and building connections with alumni. 

“Fiscal well-being is intimately intertwined with enrollment and we will have a vigorous focus on enrollment so that we can fulfill the mission of serving this region and providing access to anyone that’s in search of a degree,” Brown continued.  

“To students, faculty and staff,  please know that I will be here with you and I’m looking forward to our bright future ahead. It’s time for the work to begin.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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