New NSU Women’s Development Center Opens

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     The new NSU Women’s Economic Development Center was officially dedicated on the university’s campus during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, March 30.  A week of activities under the theme “Sistas In Step” preceded the ceremony as the new center made its debut. It will serve as a one-stop resource facility where women mainly will receive coaching, encouragement and training.

       Each day of that week, the center sponsored a special event “in step” with the theme. On Monday, Wells Fargo Senior Vice President Alexis Swann presented a seminar, “Step Into Financial Freedom”. Other seminars to follow were Tuesday, “Step in the Name of Love” with Author Cathy A. Staton; Wednesday, “Step into the Leadership Role” with local leaders; and Thursday, “Step Into the Struggles of a Single Mother” with Author Betty A. Mayfield. All seminars were open and free to the public. 

      On Friday, a luncheon in the Scott Dozier Dining Hall featured Motivational and Inspirational Author Jewel Diamond Taylor, who spoke to the full house from the topic “The Great Eight”. “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” Taylor urged, highlighting the importance of staying focused on one’s goals, dreams and aspirations to be successful.

      The occasion served to award several area women as “Phenomenal Women”  honorees. They were Barbara Errickson, Audrey Cornick, Brenda Andrews, Dr. Sandra DeLoatch, Sharon Houston, Norfolk Police Chief Sharon Chamberlin, Donyata S. Washington, Ann Dearsley-Vernon, Brittany Bailey, Virginia Senator Louise Lucas and Barbara Hamm Lee.

      The center is under directorship of Deirdre Sanderlin and assisted by Shanell McLamb.

      NSU received an $800,000 grant from HUD through the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program to create the on-campus facility. It was awarded as part of $2.4 million awarded to HBCUs to help revitalize neighborhoods and promote affordable housing near their campuses. Norfolk State is one of three schools that received the funding including Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina and Tennessee State University.

      The Women’s Center will champion activities that will address and mitigate barriers that low- to moderate-income women face and prevent them from becoming homeowners, gaining education and becoming mentally and physically healthy. Additionally, the center extends opportunities for new partnerships between the university and agencies. More than 1200 residents within the surrounding communities will have the opportunity to obtain self-sufficiency through programming in education, entrepreneurship and technology. Although the Women’s Center is being primarily created to assist women, services will be open to men as well.

     “This grant has the potential to change lives,” said Deirdre Sanderlin when the award was announced. “It will help women become better equipped to manage and educate their families.”

     Established in 1994, HUD’s Office of University Partnerships is a catalyst for partnering colleges and universities with their communities in an effort to address pressing local programs.

     For more on the Women’s Center, go to or call 757-823-8487.

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