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The Multi-Platform Series Will Highlight Innovation and Impact at NC’s Historically Black and American Indian Universities

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — PBS North Carolina, in partnership with the UNC System and the Board of Governors Committee on Historically Minority-Serving Institutions (HMSI), announces the new series The Innovators: The Transformative Power of NC’s Historically Black and American Indian Universities. Comprised of digital shorts that begin rollout online on September 20 and a one-hour broadcast special on October 18, the series will bring focus to the six public HMSIs across North Carolina – Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), Fayetteville State University (FSU), North Carolina A&T State University (N.C. A&T), North Carolina Central University (NCCU), UNC Pembroke (UNCP) and Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). 

The Innovators will explore the one-of-a kind programs, innovative curricula, state-of-the-art research and community partnerships that refine the educational experiences and contributions of these campuses to the state.

“We’re incredibly proud to spotlight the enduring legacy and ever-increasing impact of these great institutions across the state,” said PBS North Carolina CEO Lindsay Bierman. “Each story reflects the unique and extraordinary mission of these universities and the tremendous power of the UNC System.”    

The Innovators project stems from the formation of the Committee on Historically Minority-Serving Institutions, created by the UNC System Board of Governors in 2018. The goal of the committee is to create strategies that will ensure these institutions’ growth by promoting investments, opportunities and awareness throughout the state. 

“I am thrilled to see the release and promotion of such powerful stories and am grateful to the chancellors of our six HMSI campuses for their commitment to this project,” said Reggie Holley, chair of the Board’s HMSI Committee. “These universities have worked together to share their distinctive and collective experiences with a statewide audience. Because of this, viewers will better understand how North Carolina’s Historically Black and American Indian Universities are educating our students, serving our communities and bolstering our economies.” 

The series features faculty, students and alumni from each institution documenting student aspirations and motivations, introducing the educators mentoring our next class of trailblazers and showcasing the institutions’ positive impact on our communities and state that will resonate for generations to come. 

Watch a preview of The Innovators.

The 18 digital shorts feature the following programs and innovations: 

  • ECSU students and faculty are discovering unique ways to approach challenges in our state with transformative advancements in aviation science, unmanned aircraft and emergency management. Taking to the skies, the Aviation Science program prepares the next generation of pilots with the only four-year aviation degree in the state. Students can earn their private, commercial and flight instructor pilot’s licenses, and acquire the skills required to meet the needs of a global industry. Building upon a 30-year legacy of aviation innovation, students in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program are developing drone skills and operations using industry-standard equipment and hands-on field experiences with the only four-year UAS degree in the state. Emergencies aren’t expected, but ECSU is training future leaders through its four-year Emergency Management program to respond when quick decision-making is necessary to save lives in high stakes, disaster situations.
  • FSU is dedicated to educating and empowering the 10% of North Carolinians in the military and to serving their family members. From the only Center for Defense and Homeland Security at an HBCU in North Carolina, to its nationally acclaimed ROTC program, FSU utilizes its research capabilities and partnerships with local, state and federal agencies to prepare military leaders for service and civilian world impact. The MBA@FayState program provides a flexible and affordable opportunity to advance careers and strengthen leadership ties between the private sector and military community. In another collaboration between veterans, the School of Nursing and its community partners increase access to health care and improve health outcomes in Cumberland County by training military veterans in post-service nursing careers.
  • N.C. A&T is preparing the next generation for the workforce with state-of-the-art academic programs focused on autonomous vehicles, cyber security and artificial intelligence (A.I.) in computer science and engineering. An interdisciplinary research team of students, faculty and auto industry leaders are developing cutting-edge solutions for safer, driver-less vehicles. As “smart” devices multiply, cyber-criminals grow smarter. N.C. A&T is helping us stay ahead of the curve with creative and nimble approaches to cyber security, including clinics to help eliminate stalkerware from cell phones. Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and N.C. A&T is closing the gap in A.I. research, preparing software engineering students to lead as A.I. becomes prevalent in corporate, industrial and private decision making.
  • With a 111-year legacy of innovation, excellence and public service, NCCU develops leaders in the sciences, health care, education, law, business and many other fields. Through its unique combination of scholarship and hands-on training in state-of-the-art learning environments, the university educates diverse individuals across North Carolina to contribute to emerging and critical workforce areas. The institution’s advancements in information sciences, nursing, biotechnology and more are helping to solve today’s most complex problems, improve overall quality of life, and move us forward toward a safer, more sustainable world. NCCU is a leader in scientific study, focusing on health issues that disproportionately affect minority and underserved populations. Through two major research institutes that focus on biotechnology and biomanufacturing on campus, students work alongside faculty conducting multidisciplinary and inter-institutional research on cardio-metabolic disease, cancer, neuroscience, human nutrition and COVID-19.
  • UNC Pembroke has a rich tradition of service to the southeastern North Carolina region, answering the call in health care, economic transformation, educational access and research. Situated in a community that is 40% American Indian, NC’s only Historically American Indian University offers unique pathways for students to enhance the lives of their neighbors through advancements in health care, agri-business and agricultural sciences and Alzheimer’s/Traumatic Brain Injury research. Through innovative partnerships between the local hospital, community leaders and UNCP, students from the College of Health Sciences travel throughout the community with a mobile clinic to meet critical health care challenges, including COVID-19 vaccine distribution, screening and health education. Groundbreaking research at UNCP is uncovering remarkable findings on the impact of traumatic brain injury on the rate of developing neurological disorders and possible pathways for the next generation of scientists to discover new cures. Sustainability, heritage and community drive agricultural research and agri-business programs as students and local farmers work collaboratively to improve business practices and profitability in the state’s agricultural sector while creating tomorrow’s workforce and supporting our food systems.
  • Technology and innovation intersect at WSSU as part of high-impact educational opportunities in motorsports, gamification and health sciences. As a leading university in gamification research, WSSU has built a platform to apply game design principles to computer science and physics education, helping conquer complex challenges and improve engagement with learning. From the campus to the racetrack, the motorsports management program, the only of its kind at an HBCU, is creating a next-level talent pipeline to fuel North Carolina’s six-billion-dollar motorsport industry. Bringing impact to health care equity, the School of Health Sciences’ student and faculty leverage cutting edge technology, research and service to reduce health disparities with the Rams Know H.O.W Mobile Unit.

The Innovators begins its digital rollout on Monday, September 20 with the first of 18 short stories — three stories from each university — culminating in the broadcast premiere of an hour-long documentary on October 18 at 7 PM on PBS NC. For more information, visit pbsnc.org/innovators and stream The Innovators stories anytime at video.pbsnc.org

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About PBS North Carolina 
As North Carolina’s statewide PBS network serving the country’s third-largest public media market, PBS NC educates, informs, entertains and inspires its statewide audience on-air, online and in-person. Through its unique partnership of public investment and private support, the statewide network includes in-person engagement, digital-first social and online content delivery, and four over-the-air channels—PBS NC, the North Carolina Channel, Rootle 24/7 PBS Kids and the Explorer Channel. Its transformational events and content spark curiosity and wonder for all North Carolinians. Additionally, PBS NC serves as the backbone for North Carolina’s state’s emergency services. Visit pbsnc.org and join the conversation at facebook.com/MyPBSNC and @MyPBSNC on Instagram and Twitter. 

About The University of North Carolina System
The UNC System enrolls more than 240,000 students at 17 campuses, including the state’s 16 public universities and the nation’s first public residential high school for academically gifted students. The UNC System is among the strongest and most diverse higher education systems in the country, with over $1.5 billion in research expenditures and universities that serve every region of the state. Affiliate organizations include UNC Health and PBS North Carolina, with its 12-station broadcast network.