College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Program Initiatives

Power of Four Research Fellows

On February 1, 1960, four freshman students from North Carolina A&T engaged in a singular act of protest that radically altered the trajectory of the modern civil rights movement and America. Their act of solidarity was not impulsive. It was methodical, well thought out, and deliberate. In keeping with the spirit of this powerful movement, the Center for Excellence in Social Justice will launch the Power of Four Research Fellows Program that will recruit a cohort of four freshmen students each year who will serve as the intellectual heartbeat of the center by conducting and producing research focused on inclusive community change and rooted in civic engagement that seeks to preserve and expand American democracy.

Research Fellows will be partnered with faculty mentors who will guide and advise students in their research interests over the span of their four years affiliated with the fellowship program. Faculty mentors will reflect various focus areas aligned with their own social justice research which will allow students to partner with content experts who can mentor and advise students during their enrollment.

Truth and Transformation: Rebuilding and Reimagining the Humanities at HBCUs Conference

In the spring semester of every academic year, the CESJ will host an annual conference series entitled Truth and Transformation: Reimagining and Rebuilding the Humanities and Social Sciences at HBCUs. As former Prairie View A&M University president Dr. Ruth Simmons once noted, Black colleges have led the way in sparking “truth and transformation” within the academy and throughout our society and our students have historically served as the spear tip of social movements that have sought to deconstruct bigotry, intolerance, and hatred in all its forms. Moreover, it was the humanities at HBCUs that powered the imaginations of Black college students to envision and bring forth a more tolerant and just society and it is the humanities and social sciences that can help us chart a path forward as we continue to study and elevate the human condition. The Truth and Transformation Conference will consist of two days of panels, presentations, and exhibits from leading scholars and artists in the field who will highlight the legacy, current state, and future of the humanities and social sciences at Black colleges. The panels will reflect the interdisciplinary nature of these fields as they have often operated at HBCUs. The conference will host three different keynotes over two days and will also host an awards banquet honoring two individuals who have greatly impacted the humanities and social sciences at Black colleges for their exemplary careers in the field and for their dedication to “truth and transformation.”

Building Bridges Initiative

In 1970 N.C. A&T launched a roundtable in an effort to “discuss community problems and plans for solutions to these problems.” Documented in Dr. Jelani Favors’ award-winning book, Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism, the program once brought 50 community members together every month to campus. In the spirit of that effort, the Building Bridges Initiative seeks to convene local leaders, organizers, and activists to discuss how A&T can use its resources to solve problems associated with inequities and other forms of racial discrimination. In the spirit of the past effort, The Center for Excellence in Social Justice seeks to once again make North Carolina A&T a hub of intellectual activity focused on solving problems that continue to generate wide disparities in Greensboro and surrounding communities. The "Building Bridges Roundtable" will give community members a seat at the table as equals and allow them to tap into A&Ts intellectual community to create a stronger and more inclusive city for all of its residents. A&T will offer at least 12 roundtables per year.

Aggies L.E.A.D (Leveraging Economic Autonomy and Development) Lab

The Aggies L.E.A.D. Lab will operate under the auspices of the Center of Excellence for Social Justice at North Carolina A&T State University and serve as our economic justice initiative. The lab will focus on generating economic empowerment and innovation within worker owned and operated industries in East Greensboro. The lab seeks to educate and empower students and local stakeholders on the significance of worker owned and operated businesses and thus create shared wealth for historically marginalized communities. The Aggies L.E.A.D. Lab embraces and promotes the model of “solidarity economy” designed by the United States Solidarity Economy Network. This economic framework is “grounded in principles of social solidarity, cooperation, equity, pluralism, sustainability, and participatory democracy” and “puts people and planet before private profits and power.” Not only are these values that promote sustainable economies, but they also seek to elevate communities that have been marginalized by generations of segregation and racist policies that have undermined economic growth and progress. will promote social justice, democracy, collective economic empowerment, and create a path forward for shared wealth, mutual understanding and respect, and economic autonomy for historically marginalized communities in East Greensboro. 

A&T students will gain the opportunity to work alongside thought leaders and academics who embrace worker owned industries as an alternative to late stage capitalism, as well as partner with local community members seeking alternate paths towards an economically sustainable and thriving community. In doing so, students will tap into the intellectual resources of North Carolina A&T and the surrounding community in an effort to chart a new path forward for East Greensboro and the surrounding areas. The Aggies L.E.A.D Lab will operate out of and work in conjunction with the new “Dream Center” located in Greensboro whose goal is to create new spaces dedicated to workforce training and community engagement.

Social Justice Scholar-in-Residence Program

The Social Justice Scholar-in-Residence Program creates opportunities for A&T students and the campus community to learn from and collaborate with exemplary scholar-activists who champion positive change in diversity and inclusion. The Social Justice Scholar-in- Residence will hold an appointment for no less than one semester, provide public lectures and seminars, and interact with students, faculty and staff as well as the Power of Four Research Fellows and their faculty mentors. This position will be held by a dedicated humanities or social science scholar. By placing A&T students in proximity with scholar-activists who continue to play a significant role in challenging systems of oppression and marginalization, the campus community will reinvigorate itself with the spirit of dissent that transformed the university into a major catalyst for social and political justice during the modern civil rights movement.

Youth in Action Prize

Beginning with the 2024 Sit-In Celebration, the CESJ will present the Youth in Action Award, which will be sponsored by Toyota in 2024. The award, which carries with it a $5,000 prize, is given to a youth between the ages of 15 and 28 who best exemplify the legacy and tradition of activism that was embodied through the courageous action of the A&T Four – Ezell Blair Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), Franklin Eugene McCain, Joseph Alfred McNeil and David Richmond Jr.

The award is presented to a youth who has made substantial contributions to grassroots activism in their local communities that uplift the causes of civil rights, civil liberties, and/or human rights. Strong consideration will be given to nominees whose activism and community engagement have:
  1. Significantly empowered marginalized individuals or a community.
  2. Produced critical thought and engagement on an issue that impacts a broad swath of humanity on a local, national, or global scale.
  3. Transformed policy that previously marginalized broad swaths of humanity on a local, national, or global scale.

A Social Justice/Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program

The CESJ’s certificate program will develop culturally competent diversity professionals and increase awareness of resources and dimensions of social injustice among students so they can become leaders and advocates for social justice. The certificate program will be offered from the Department of Liberal Studies, which will be a collaborating partner with the Center of Excellence for Social Justice. A&T would have a distinction in offering this undergraduate program as most diversity and inclusion certificate programs focus on graduate studies. The Power of Four Fellows will be the first students enrolled in the program and will become recipients of the certificate. The certificate will be awarded at the end of their senior year following completion of relevant courses.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

North Carolina A&T currently operates 18 research centers and institutes that were established by the university, 5 research centers that are funded by sponsoring agencies, and 6 collaborative research centers. The Center of Excellence for Social Justice seeks out opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration with the university centers that are aligned with the work and mission of the CESJ. We will collobarate with our Center for Excellence in Post-Harvesting Technologies and our Center for Environmental Farming Systems to address critically important issues confronting marginalized communities such as food insecurities and the promotion of sustainable agriculture as a matter of social justice. We will partner with our Center of Excellence in Product Design and Advanced Manufacturing as well as our Center for Advanced Studies in Identity Sciences to address and solve racial biases found within the burgeoning field of Artificial Intelligence. The CESJ’s Aggies L.E.A.D Lab initiative will establish opportunities for collaboration with our Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and their community engagement program. Lastly, we will partner with our Center of Excellence in Integrative Health Disparities and Equity Research to address and confront discriminatory and racist practices that exist within our health care systems.