JWU Charlotte Wins Grant, Expands Student Offerings

Back in 2021, the United States Department of Education recognized JWU’s Charlotte Campus as a predominantly Black institution — 45% of the campus’ student population identifies as Black or African American. With this designation came funding, by way of the Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI) Competitive Grant, where $1.25 million was allotted to the Charlotte Campus to invest in the student experience over a 5-year period. Diversity, equity and inclusion are part of the university’s mission and guiding principles, and with this grant funding, JWU Charlotte is expanding its programming, number of employees and resources to provide increased offerings to Black students and the entire student body.

“The grant is a real gift, as it allows us to launch new efforts that can result in systemic change, over time, through customized offerings that suit students’ needs.” -PBI Grant Lead Timothy Stiles

“Our student population has organically evolved into a predominantly Black institution since we opened this campus back in the early 2000s,” said Timothy Stiles, executive director of the Center for Academic & Career Excellence, and the Charlotte Campus PBI grant lead. “The grant is a real gift, as it allows us to launch new efforts that can result in systemic change, over time, through customized offerings that suit students’ needs.”

Members of JWU Charlotte's Residence Life team gather in front of a statue of Willie the Wildcat


JWU Charlotte is investing grant funds in four major areas: the campus’ First-Year Seminar (FYS) course; diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) programming; academic and career support; and financial literacy.

First-Year Seminar Course

As a result of grant funding, JWU Charlotte was able to launch its First-Year Seminar experience for the 2022-2023 academic year — a one-credit, pass or fail course. In the fall, the course welcomed its first cohort of first-year students who were educated on how to transition to college life. While required only for non-culinary majors this academic year, FYS will be required for all students starting fall 2023.

“This course helps students understand what is expected of them at the college level,” Stiles said. “We share details about the resources JWU has available to help them succeed. Additionally, students learn valuable skills that can be applied inside and outside of the classroom, including notetaking, exam tips, learning styles and personal values discovery.”

Grant money goes towards funding positions for Charlotte Campus educators leading the course, such as Heather Harrison, Ed.D., an instructor and director of FYS.

“This course allows our students to start off their college career at JWU strong,” Harrison said. “The PBI grant has several core goals — one of which is to improve the educational outcomes for our students. Through this FYS course, we can provide our students with a solid foundation to achieve well academically and socially. We have already witnessed the positive impact it is having on their journey.”

the inaugural JWU Charlotte First-Year Seminar gathers for an end-of-year celebration


Students who took the FYS course were surveyed about their experience. It revealed the top three student takeaways: an understanding of all resources that are made available to students through JWU services, how to navigate course scheduling and ways to implement effective time management skills.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Programming

When it comes to upholding diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), the Charlotte Campus is investing in educating people on what the terminology means and the actions each campus community member can engage in to ensure that all students and employees feel welcomed and included. 

a group of JWU Charlotte students pauses to take a selfie while on a PBI experience field trip


JWU Charlotte is also bringing awareness to DEIB through routine dialogue for students and employees. Regularly, experts are invited to hold campuswide trainings, most recently seen in two separate seminars that discussed the topics of unconscious bias and how universities can level the playing field in classrooms. Funding is also used to assist with hosting cultural-related activities and field trips.

“Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are topics that require ongoing conversation and attention," said Trudi Lacey, who serves as the director of athletics on the Charlotte Campus and the campus lead for diversity, equity and social justice. “With these funds, we now have more opportunities to address the concerns of our students by taking action to host DEIB activities that enable each student to feel seen and heard.”

PBI grant funds are also used to pay for Charlotte Racial Justice Consortium (CRJC) memberships for JWU Charlotte faculty, staff and students. CRJC is a partnership with several Charlotte-based colleges to research race and racism at a hyperlocal level in effort to bring about truth, transformation, racial justice and healing. JWU CRJC members are looking into its own campus history and surrounding areas. They will present the information to the JWU community for their awareness.

Another benefit of grant funds includes investments made into the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) collection inside of the JWU Charlotte Library. The library purchased print books, ebooks, games and puzzles for students that provide educational knowledge from a BIPOC perspective.

“We are committed to helping students feel like they belong at JWU,” said Jean Moats, director of library services. “This BIPOC collection helps to meet those needs of belonging for our campus community now and in the future.”

Academic and Career Support

The PBI grant stresses the importance of using the money for science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). JWU Charlotte is now able to expand its math tutoring services offered through the Academic Success Center.

JWU Charlotte has hired a grant-funded supplemental instructor to hold an optional tutoring class for students who are taking the Math 1002 prerequisite course. Currently, this supplemental class appears on a student’s schedule and allows the instructor to provide customized education to ensure a student’s understanding of the Math 1002 content.

“Math 1002 is a gateway course that historically has had higher withdrawals and lower grades,” Stiles said. “For those who are attending the supplemental class, we can see the difference in their grades when compared to those who are not taking advantage of it.”

Data show that Math 1002 grades were significantly higher for students who attended the optional tutoring class at least 76% of the time.

“For these STEM-related courses that most of our students are required to take, we are exploring how we can give them extra support. Mastering gateway courses is necessary to graduate. Supplemental opportunities increase their chances of performing well in their courses, staying on track to graduate on time and reduces the chance of jeopardizing financial aid,” Stiles said.

Financial Literacy

JWU Charlotte recognizes the value in educating its students on personal financial management, budgeting and investing. As part of the PBI grant, students have been provided with new, robust online tools to teach them financial literacy skills. On the site iGrad, students can access resources that help them understand the basics. Additionally, Student Financial Services staff make presentations during the newly launched First-Year Seminar course where the topics discussed focus on financial aid and student loans.

Furthermore, JWU Charlotte will be launching scholarship application events where students will receive one-on-one guidance from Student Financial Services staff on how to locate, apply and secure outside scholarship support. The goal is to launch these events during the 2023-24 academic year.

“Financial support is necessary for many students who seek higher education, and JWU wants to help ensure its students can locate additional scholarship streams they qualify for.” -Director of Student Financial Services MaShona McAfee

“The goal of these upcoming scholarship application events is to help our students identify additional scholarship opportunities and shepherd them through the application process,” said Director of Student Financial Services MaShona McAfee. “Financial support is necessary for many students who seek higher education, and JWU wants to help ensure its students can locate additional scholarship streams they qualify for.”

The grant will fund incentives to encourage students to attend external scholarship events.