SAU meets students where they are, prepares them


Saint Augustine’s University (SAU) was founded in 1867 as the St. Augustine Normal School and Collegiate Institute. The school was founded by reverends and leaders of the Episcopal Church to educate black children and train teachers. The school became a college in 1883.

In 1927, SAU became a four-year college, with the Class of 1931 receiving the first bachelor’s degrees from the institution.

SAU is now managed by Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail directed. McPhail set a clear vision with her leadership team.

Our university community works towards two very important goals (WIGS): student success and sustainability of the institution.

dr Christine Johnson McPhail, President of Saint Augustine’s University

dr Leslie Rodriguez-McClellon, senior vice president of student experience and operations at SAU, shared that the college’s mission and vision is about preparation – helping prepare students for college, preparing them for the world of work after college and preparing adult learners when they enter (or re-enter) college.

What is the preparation like for Saint Augustine students?

This emphasis on preparation and learning takes many forms.

Falcons Ascend is an early intervention program hosted at several Raleigh high schools and developed by the college to prepare students for their post-secondary careers.

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SAU also has a College Readiness Academy that focuses on improving reading and math skills.

“Our core belief is that we make no mistake when admitting a student – so if you’re a SAU student, we’re here to support you.”

dr Leslie Rodriguez-McClellon, senior vice president of student experience and operations at SAU

TRIO programs – called “TRIO” because there were originally three programs – are part of the work package of the SAU and are funded by the federal government. These include outreach and student service programs that support first-generation college students and those on low incomes.

Antonio Stephens, director of TRIO programs for SAU, shared that the university’s approach is designed to support students in their academic journey in mathematics and science.

“We know that fear of math and science is a real detriment to our students,” Stephens noted, describing their efforts in eastern North Carolina to connect students with STEM more generally—and SAU in particular.

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SAU has a summer bridge program aimed at preparing students for college success before enrolling when they need additional work to prepare for college for the fall. It also houses a Wake County Early College on campus. All of this work of preparing and mentoring their students is in support of the entire SAU mission.

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“We meet our students where they are – and we work to advance them,” Stephens said.

The Scroll of Saint Augustine at Raleigh

Veronica Creech, SAU’s vice president for economic development and external engagement, noted that the institution’s ambitions extend beyond the campus walls. SAU has embraced a lofty ambition centered on the concept of “20 Minute Neighborhood”.

It hopes to play a key role in creating local employment opportunities by supporting entrepreneurship among its students and alumni, local schools, lifelong learning opportunities, green spaces and more.

See the following presentation for more details:

20 minutes neighborhood in the SAU of Nation Hahn

According to Creech, the vision is for their community to be rebuilt from a place of inclusion.

“Entrepreneurship is an essential act for our students and alumni,” said Creech.

And according to Creech and the SAU leadership team, it is the entrepreneurship, assets and rich history of the SAU that will allow it to play a role in helping its neighborhood continue to rebuild both after the Great Recession and to support after COVID-19.

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Imagine SAU (new).

As the SAU moves forward, they have a strategic plan aimed at reshaping the university.

The plan focuses on student success, community engagement, and financial responsibility.

Your mission: “Saint Augustine’s University’s mission is to nurture a learning community where students can prepare academically, socially, and spiritually for leadership in a complex, diverse, and rapidly changing world.”

Their vision: “Saint Augustine’s University will be a nationally recognized, world-class, learning-driven, private HBCU that emphasizes academic excellence; academic success; and commitment to the workforce, economy and community with a particular focus on STEM education and careers, innovation and entrepreneurship, and racial disparity.”

Their strategic priorities include:

  • Stabilize registration and improve retention.
  • Improve infrastructure including facilities, staff and technology.
  • Improve curriculum and academic support services.
  • Strengthening business practices and increasing results in the development of external resources.
  • Rebuild internal trust, community engagement and strategic external partnerships.

You can find the full plan by clicking here.

When we visited the SAU, we were treated to a moving performance that told the story of the institution. You can watch the performance below.

nation rooster

Nation Hahn is Director of Growth for EducationNC.



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