NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As Norfolk State University gets ready to host its first United States senatorial debate, the school’s president is weighing in on what it means to the university.

Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston was chosen to be Norfolk State’s seventh president in 2019 and the school has already taken a special place in her heart.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said about her time at NSU. “It is an exciting place on trajectory to continue our excellence. I will tell you the thing that drew me here and continues to be most important are the people of NSU, the excitement around the tradition, who were are and around what they become as they are a part of NSU, so it’s been wonderful.”

Earlier this month, the historically Black university celebrated its 85th anniversary. The school was founded in 1935 during the Great Depression for Black students who could not afford to attend a four-year institution.

Adams-Gaston says the school’s founding principals and the community that came together to help those in need is something they continue to strive to achieve.

“I am so proud of that tradition, of excellence, and the ability to have access, affordability, and success for students. For 85 years, that’s what we’ve been doing and we’ve been doing it well,” she said.

Adams-Gaston is also proud of the school for recently being named one of the top 20 HBCUs by U.S. News.

She says a number of factors go into these rankings but one they’re most proud of are their relatively small class sizes.

“They get that interaction with the faculty and when you talk to alumni, they talk about what that interaction meant to them and how they helped them in life,” she said.

Norfolk State has a 16:1 student to faculty ratio. Adams-Gaston says 56 percent of their classes have less than 25 students and 99 percent have less than 50 students.

With a brighter future ahead, Saturday’s debate is just another bright spot to look forward to.

The debate between Sen. Mark Warner and challenger Dr. Daniel Gade will focus on racial disparities and inequities in education, healthcare, economic mobility, and the criminal justice system.

Adams-Gaston says there no better place to hold the debate than Norfolk State.

“We have held up the banner ensuring that there is racial equity, that there is a sense of social justice,” she said. “We send our students out and we ensure that they’re thinking about who to vote for and why they’re making those decisions and particularly in how to engage in social and political process. It’s really important and we are so honored to be chosen.”

The university and its Center for African American Public Policy (CAAmPP) has partnered with WAVY-TV 10, an NBC-affiliate and Nexstar Media Group station, The Virginia Bar Association, and Visit Norfolk to host the debate.

The 90-minute debate between the candidates will stream on and on WAVY-TV 10’s Facebook Live channel and on the University’s radio station, WNSB-FM 91.1. at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3.

WAVY-TV 10 will air the recorded debate on Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

The debate will be moderated by WAVY-TV 10 journalists Anita Blanton and Regina Mobley, an alumna of Norfolk State.

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