Virginia State University

Virginia State University
Former names
Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (1882-1902)
Virginia State College for Negroes (1902-1946)
Virginia State College (1946-1979)
Motto "Building a Better World"
Type Public
Established March 6, 1882 (1882-03-06)
Endowment $47.4 million[1]
President Makola M. Abdullah
Academic staff
Students 6,000
Location Petersburg, Virginia, U.S.
Campus Suburban, 236 acres (95.5 ha)
Colors Orange and Blue
Athletics NCAA Division IICIAA
Nickname Trojans

Virginia State University (VSU), also known as Virginia State, is a historically black public land-grant university located north of the Appomattox River in Petersburg. Founded on March 6, 1882, Virginia State developed as the United States's first fully state-supported four-year institution of higher learning for black Americans. The university is a member school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.


University entrance

Following the American Civil War, William Mahone (1826–1895) of Petersburg, Virginia was the driving force in 1870 to combine the Norfolk and Petersburg, South Side and the Virginia & Tennessee railroads to form the Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad (AM&O). The new line extended from Norfolk to Bristol. After the AM&O struggled to operate for several years under receiverships, the railroad was sold at auction in 1881 and became part of the Norfolk and Western Railway.

Mahone, a former Confederate general, led Virginia's Readjuster Party. He was a major proponent of public schools for the education of freedmen and free blacks. Elected by the state legislature as a United States Senator from Virginia, he arranged for the proceeds of the AM&O sale to help found a normal school for black teachers near Petersburg. Alfred W. Harris, a black attorney who was a state delegate, introduced the bill that established the institute. In 1882, the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute at Ettrick was established.

The next morning I asked my father about the school for coloured people, which was being projected under the influence of General Mahone at Petersburg, now a State Normal School. He told me much about it. It was to open the following fall. The Hon. John M. Langston, he said, a coloured man who was as well educated as any white person that he knew of, was to be the president. He said I might go if I wished and that he would do what he could to help me. It being a state school, and he having certain strong friends in the Republican Party (General Mahone among them), Hon. B.S. Hooper, a member of Congress from the Fourth Congressional District of Virginia, would probably arrange for me to have a scholarship.

Virginia State's first president was John Mercer Langston, former dean of Howard University's law school, and later elected to Congress as the first African-American Representative from Virginia (and the last until 1972). The board of trustees was composed of prominent African-American men, with one seat for a white man. Until the mid-1960s, following federal civil rights legislation that ended racial segregation, the faculty of the collegiate program and the normal school was exclusively African American.

In response to the 1890 Amendments to the federal Morrill Act, Virginia designated the normal school as one of its land grant colleges. The United States Congress required that states either open their land-grant colleges (supported by all taxpayers) to all races or else establish additional land-grant educational facilities for blacks. Following the Reconstruction era, white Democrats had regained power in the Virginia state legislature (and across the former Confederacy); they had established Jim Crow racial segregation in public facilities, including schools and colleges.

In 1902, the legislature revised the school's charter and renamed it the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. With expansion of programs and a four-year curriculum, in 1930 the college was renamed Virginia State College for Negroes, shortened to Virginia State College in 1946.

In 1979, the institution's addition of more departments and graduate programs was recognized in a change of name to Virginia State University.

The third season of BET's reality television series College Hill was filmed at Virginia State University in 2006.

In 2003, the university accepted its first students in its first Ph.D. program.

On July 1, 2010, President Keith T. Miller was named as the 13th president of Virginia State University. He previously served as President of Lock Haven University. Miller earned his bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees from the University of Arizona.

Main campus


The university has a 236-acre (0.96 km2) main campus and a 416-acre (1.68 km2) agricultural research facility. The main campus includes more than 50 buildings, including 16 dormitories and 16 classroom buildings. The main campus is located close to the Appomattox River in Ettrick, Virginia.[2]

Campus 2006

Residence halls


This is a list of the departments within each college:[4]

  • College of Agriculture
    • Agriculture and Human Ecology
    • Hospitality Management
    • Dietetic Internship, ADA Accredited
    • Cooperative Extension
    • Agriculture Research Station
  • The Reginald F. Lewis College of Business
    • Accounting and Finance
    • Management Information Systems
    • Management and Marketing
  • College of Engineering and Technology
    • Electrical and Engineering Technology
    • Mechanical Engineering Technology
    • Computer Engineering
    • Information and Logistics Technology
    • Manufacturing Engineering
    • Computer Science
  • College of Natural Sciences
    • Biology
    • Chemistry and Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
  • College of Education
    • Professional Education Programs
      • Graduate Professional Education Programs
      • Center for Undergraduate Professional Education Programs
    • Health, Physical Education and Recreation
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences
    • History and Philosophy
    • Languages and Literature
      • English
    • Mass Communications
    • Military Science
    • Music, Art and Design
    • Political Science, Public Administration and Economics
    • Sociology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Individualized Studies
  • College of Graduate Studies, Research, and Outreach (offering master's degrees in):
    • Biology
    • Career and Technical Studies
    • Counselor Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Educational Administration and Supervision
    • English
    • History
    • Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Mass Communications
    • Psychology
    • Sport Management

The university also has the Office for International Education and the Institute for Study of Race Relations.


The 2009–2010 student body was 62.2% female and 37.5% male.[5] It consists of 69.7% in-state and 30.3% out-of-state students.[5] 97.2% of students live on campus and 2.8% off-campus.[5] 91.1% of students self-identify as Black/African American, while 4.0% are White, and 4.0% are racially unreported.

The Woo Woos in 1977...
... and in 2007


Student activities

Greek life

Virginia State University has a very active National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) along with six other non Pan-Hellenic fraternities and sororities which include the following active fraternities and sororities:

Marching band

Directed by Interim Director James Holden Jr., the VSU Trojan Explosion includes the Troy Elegance Feature Baton Twirlers, Essence of Troy Dancers, the Satin Divas Flag Corps, in addition to the instrumentalists.[6]


Originally led by head coach Paulette Johnson for 35 years, the Woo Woos are a nationally recognized cheerleading squad known for original, up-tempo and high energy performances. The 30 member squad is composed of young women from all over the country. The squad focuses on community service as well as promoting school spirit. Tryouts are held annually during the spring semester for VSU full-time students. Instructional camps and workshops are offered throughout the state. In 2001, the university granted the Woo Woo Alumni chapter its initial charter. The organization has a rapidly growing membership that is actively involved in the promotion of the squad and its individual members. Shandra Claiborne, a former Woo Woo, led the team for one year following the retirement of Johnson. The squad has been under the leadership of former Woo Woo Cassandra Artis-Williams since 2013.

Notable people


Alumna Camilla Williams, first African American to get a contract from a major American opera company (namesake of Taylor-Williams Hall at the university)

This list includes graduates, non-graduate former students and current students of Virginia State University.

This is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by expanding it with reliably sourced entries.
Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Gaye Adegbalola 1978 Blues singer and civil rights activist
James Avery Actor
Deshauna Barber 2011 Miss USA 2016 [7]
Clara Byrd Baker Educator, civic leader, and suffragette [8]
Aline Elizabeth Black Educator and the focus of a civil rights suit
Joe Bonner jazz pianist [9]
Herman Branson 1936 African American physicist, best known for his research on the alpha helix protein structure [10]
Rovenia M. Brock Nutritionist, lecturer, health reporter, entrepreneur, and author [11]
Al Bumbry Major League Baseball [12]
Larry Brooks 1971 former NFL defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams and current assistant coach of the Virginia State Trojans football team
James Brown former NFL player
Pamela E. Bridgewater former U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and current U.S. ambassador to Jamaica
Rosalyn Dance 1986 politician, Member of the Virginia House of Delegates

from the 63rd district

Das EFX attended rap group
Silas DeMary 1993 Arena Football League player [14]
Wale Folarin DC Rapper (transferred to Bowie State University)
Roger L. Gregory 1975 Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [15]
Aaron Hall attended member of the Music Group Guy
Damion Hall attended member of the Music Group Guy
Delores G. Kelley 1956 member of Maryland State Senate, representing Maryland's District 10 in Baltimore County, Maryland
Reginald Lewis Businessman; owner of TLC Beatrice International
William H. Lewis c. 1890 former United States Assistant Attorney General
Naomi Long Madgett 1945 teacher and an award winning poet, she is also the senior editor of Lotus Press, which is a publisher of poetry books by African-American poets [16]
Thomas Miller prolific graphic designer and visual artist, whose best known publicly accessible work is the collection of mosaics of the founders of DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois. [17]
Héctor Martínez Muñoz first member of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico
James H. Stith 1963 African-American physicist and current professor of Physics at Ohio State University [18]
Roslyn Tyler politician, Member of the Virginia House of Delegates

from the 75th district

Billy Taylor Jazz musician
Camilla Williams 1941 First African-American to receive a contract from a major American opera company
Benjie E. Wimberly Member of the New Jersey General Assembly [19]
Avis Wyatt 2007? Professional basketball player



  2. "About VSU". Virginia State University. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  3. "Residence Halls". Virginia State University. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  4. Schools Archived September 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. 1 2 3 "General Characteristics of Headcount Enrollment" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 17, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-21.
  6. The Trojan Explosion Archived April 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. "African–American History Month at the Library of Virginia". Library of Virginia.
  9. "Joe Bonner at All About Jazz". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
  10. "The Protein Papers". Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved 2011-01-26.
  11. "Everything Dr Ro". Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  12. "Al Bumbry Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  13. "Rosalyn Dance Virginia House of Delegates". Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  14. "Silas Demary". Arena Fan. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  15. "Roger L. Gregory".
  16. "Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
  17. "Thomas Miller Biography". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
  18. "James Stith Physicist of African Diaspora". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
  19. "Football: New Hackensack coach Benjie Wimberly to juggle range of positions". March 1, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
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