On February 1, 2016, Makola M. Abdullah, Ph.D., was officially named the 14th President of Virginia State University (VSU) to revitalize the only historically black land-grant institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
On June 16, 2016, under his leadership, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaffirmed the University’s full accreditation. Under Embracing Our Opportunity for Excellence, Abdullah emphasizes focus areas to sustain VSU as an 1890 University in providing a transformative experience for students, strategically investing in academic programs, partnering together as a University to tell the story, embracing the University as a top Land-Grant University, and embracing the University’s role as Virginia’s Opportunity University.
As VSU president, Abdullah heads the No. 12 institution for historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) in America as named by College Choice. Out of 104 HBCUs, VSU is a winning institution with high-ranking programs, departments and students. VSU placed fifth among the nation for top producers of teachers; the Department of Art and Design was named the Best Fine Arts Program at an HBCU according to HBCU Digest. The Criminal Justice program ranks third out of 40 Virginia institutions analyzed by correctionalofficer.org. The Reserve Officers Training Corp program is nationally ranked in the country where two alumni were recently inducted in the United States Army Cadet Command Hall of Fame. VSU scholars are beyond great where the U.S. Fulbright Student Scholarship Board awarded a student an English Teaching Assistantship, 16 students participated in the prestigious Leadership Institute by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and a scholar served as a student ambassador for the White House Initiative on HBCUs. VSU significantly impacts the community. In June of 2016, VSU alumna, Deshauna Barber, was crowned Miss USA. The University also has an award winning Gospel Chorale, marching band and athletics program.
Abdullah is an academic administrator committed to excellence. He is an internationally renowned educator recognized for outstanding research. Throughout his career, the quantity of African Americans in the STEM discipline have increased, four Ph.D.s and six M.S. scholars have graduated, more than $20 million has been secured in funding from various federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautical and Space Administration, Boeing and Federal Emergency Management Agency, with more than $5 million given as a single principle investigator in research funding.
He is an advocate of historically black colleges and universities, and land-grant institutions. Prior to his appointment as president, he served as provost and senior vice president of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. (2013-2016), provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Fla. (2011-2013), and dean and director of 1890 land grant programs at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Fla (2008-2011). Many equate him to being a true educator and a forward thinker who embraces his presidency by holding on to something precious, and relying on alumni to recruit and steer academic excellence in future Trojans.
President Abdullah is a Chicago native who is the youngest African American to receive a Ph.D. and master’s degree from Northwestern University. His earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University in civil engineering. He serves as member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, and the 5000 Role Models of Excellence. He and his wife, Ahkinyala Cobb-Abdullah, Ph.D., are the proud parents of two aspiring HBCU college bound teens, Mikaili and Sefiyetu.