Glenn Carrington succeeded so well professionally that, after a lengthy career in law and finance, he purchased a home in the tony South Florida enclave of Palm Beach Gardens with the intent of retiring. That was five years ago. A week later, Carrington got a call from his alma mater, Norfolk State University. Would he consider accepting the deanship of the NSU School of Business?
“I said, ‘Not really,’ ” Carrington recalls, “because I’d just bought this house and planned to be a snowbird. But I hung up the phone, and I realized I had to do this. When I thought about it, I wouldn’t have had the option of owning a place in Virginia and a place in Florida if it weren’t for Norfolk State. I owe so much to this university.”
His father, Carrington recalls, held a seventh-grade education and was “brilliant.” Carrington went to Norfolk State on a basketball scholarship. Academically, he skated through without apparent dedication or direction. He thought he might like to manage a grocery store.
But in the halls of Norfolk State, Carrington found the support, as he tells it, of mentors who recognized within him a well of latent talent and encouraged him to pursue a more ambitious agenda, one that sent him to law school at the University of Virginia. A job at a legal firm led to a leadership position at the IRS and senior roles at the accounting firms Arthur Andersen and Ernst & Young, where he served on the executive board and authored a book on mergers and acquisitions. He is a two-time recipient of the Tax Excellence Award given by the National Bar Association’s Tax Section.
Dean of the NSU business school since 2017, Carrington imparts lessons he has learned in life and business to some 700 business students, most of whom attend the university on financial aid. NSU is one of two Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Hampton Roads, the other being Hampton University, sometimes known as “the Black Harvard.” Carrington’s zeal for his mission at NSU is infectious, as this recent conversation with Site Selection demonstrates.
How have you drawn upon your career successes to differentiate the educational experience at NSU’s School of Business?
Glenn Carrington: I have a program here called First Day Ready. So, when you hit the streets upon graduation, when you have your first job, you know what is expected of you on day one and how to get it done. You know from the very start that you’ve got to be exceptional. That’s the attitude that we’re trying to promote here, and it’s done wonders for us. We have established partnerships with around 50 companies that want our graduates. In terms of how we approach training our students, there’s an academia part and an experience part. You put them both together, and you’ve got one solid graduate.
Glenn Carrington changed plans to accept a Norfolk State deanship. “I had to,” he says.
Courtesy of Norfolk State University
How else do you help to guide your students into the professional world?
Carrington: As one example, we have just entered into a partnership agreement with Supernova Consulting to create a program called Supernova Consulting Scholars. They’re going to take five of our best students each year and put them on Wall Street. They’re being exposed to Wall Street as finance majors. We are all so excited about this, because African Americans don’t often get a chance to work on Wall Street. Now the sky is the limit for these students. Supernova Consulting is using Norfolk State as a test case, because they recognize the will that we have here, the will to succeed. These students are high achievers, and so we put the pedal to the metal with them, put them under some pressure and put them in a competitive position where they have a chance to succeed.
For aspiring Black professionals, what are some of the advantages of an HBCU education?
Carrington: We think that HBCUs and this HBCU in particular are very powerful and have the recipe for you to succeed. Our tuition rates are about one-third less or one-half of what other schools charge. More important, we offer a stable, safe, nurturing environment, especially for low-income and first-generation students. If you come to us and you’re a little behind in say, your writing skills or whatever, we will put together a package to make sure you advance your skills and become better. Something that’s so very important for African Americans is to have your confidence up. This university will help you to build your confidence. That is a critical element in learning to fight through the bad times and take constructive feedback.
You speak of power. Where does that power come from?
Carrington: You can take somebody who comes here and maybe they’re not really prepared, and they can be flipped. They can be changed. I was part of that change. I was part of that power. When I started here, I think I slept through most of my classes. But by the time I left I was making all A’s. It’s a powerful experience that charges you up for life. It can change the direction of people, as it did for me. If I hadn’t come here, I’d be working at the grocery store. HBCUs are powerful because they know how to reach their target audience.
How do you see the mission of HBCUs evolving?
Carrington: Right now, the huge thing is cost. The cost of an education is escalating so much that you can’t sustain it unless you can get financial aid. We have got to find ways to raise money to enable these students to get an education, because that’s the only way we can keep up. It’s the only way that we can keep our programs up to speed. Another important thing is that majority schools are not for everybody. They don’t have the ability to reach back and give somebody the extra help they might need. A lot of successful African Americans tell me they wish they had started at an HBCU. To help find yourself, sometimes you need coaching, and we can deliver that. The support team you gain here will be with you for the rest of your life. And there’s nothing more valuable than that.