Karrie Dixon, 13th chancellor of NCCU, speaks to the community on her first day of service. Photo courtesy of NCCU.

A new chapter begins at NCCU

July 8, 2024

The light bulb went off in Karrie Dixon’s mind as a teaching assistant at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. Experiencing the students’ barriers in their academic journey sparked an interest in higher education.

“I loved the classroom experience, so initially I thought I would stay as a professor … and have that be my journey in higher ed,” Dixon said, about her teaching in “Public Speaking and Interpersonal Communications.”

But the more she got to know her students, the more she was left to ask: “What can I do to position myself to address the barriers students’ face?”

Dixon’s goal to have a positive impact on the student experience has now brought her to N.C. Central University as the 13th Chancellor and second permanent woman Chancellor in its history.

Dixon earned her bachelor’s at N.C. State University in mass communications, her master’s at UNC-G in speech, communications and rhetoric, and doctorate at NCSU in higher education administration.

In all, she worked in higher education for 23 years. Her path in administration includes a stint as NCSU’s Assistant Vice Provost and the Chief Student Affairs Officer for the UNC system.

While Dixon was an officer in the UNC system, she oversaw the establishment of the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC), a tool that helps students and parents plan and pay for college. Dixon also serves on the Board of Directors of Project Kitty Hawk, an organization that aims to expand education opportunities throughout North Carolina.

Most recently, Dixon served as Elizabeth City State University’s Chancellor for six years. When she discovered the opening at NCCU, she fell in love with the opportunity and the Bull City.

“I knew, once I looked at the vacancies in the UNC system, if I was going to apply for one, it was going to be the one that I felt the most passionate about and wanted to lead,” Dixon said.

Four senior leaders will also assist Chancellor Dixon in leading NCCU. Ontario Wooden, an NCCU alumnus, was named interim provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. Wooden also serves as a member of the Chancellor’s cabinet.

NCCU Alumnus Alyn Goodson is Dixon’s executive vice chancellor. He will assist in securing funding for capital projects, academic programs, and campus operations.

Avery Staley, another NCCU alumnus, was named Dixon’s chief of staff. Staley will oversee change management initiatives, project management and program development. Staley served as Dixon’s vice chancellor, chief of staff and general counsel at ECSU.

The last addition was Sandra Powers as Dixon’s executive assistant. Powers also arrives from ECSU where she has served Dixon since 2020.

As Dixon navigates her first week as Chancellor, she is monitoring NCCU’s housing availability. NCCU’s enrollment increase and subsequent on-campus housing shortage was a problem many students complained about last year.

Dixon said that although enrollment growth is important, retention is critical.

“As we grow, we have to look at housing,” she said. “We have to look at strategic ways of accommodating students.”

Dixon also plans to review the campus master plan as the new administration aims to balance the incoming students with the Eagles already enrolled.

Cybersecurity is another topic on Dixon’s mind. NCCU continues to recover from last November’s cyberintrusion. In early June, NCCU announced the university had received a $9.4 million gift from Cisco Systems, an technology and hardware company.

Dixon said she has experience with the issue, leading ECSU through its 2020 ransomware attack. She will direct a recently received $9.4 million gift to enhance campus networks.

“I know how it can cripple an institution when you’re not prepared for it,” Dixon said. “But I also know what it takes to be more proactive with how we deal with the potential of a cyberattack, and, if we are faced with one again, the measures we need to take so it doesn’t happen again.”

Following her installment as NCCU’s 13th Chancellor, Dixon said she recalled the installation of Debra Saunders-White, NCCU’s first permanent woman Chancellor.

“As I walk around campus, I can’t help but think about and feel her presence,” Dixon said.  “I feel as though she is smiling and saying, “Do what you need to do.”

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Karrie Dixon, 13th chancellor of NCCU, speaks to the community on her first day of service. Photo courtesy of NCCU.
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