Tashni Dubroy recognizes that, at 34, she is young to be named the president of a university. In fact, she says she knew when she applied to be the next president of Shaw University she was doing so “against all odds” because of her youth.
But she says one of the pleasant surprises since being named the president of the historically black university in Raleigh on Monday was learning that Henry Martin Tupper was also 34 when he founded Shaw in 1865. If Tupper could start a university at such a young age, Dubroy reasons, surely she can lead one at the same age.
“I already know, based on the conversations I’ve had with my mentors, that I have a tough task ahead of me,” Dubroy said in a telephone interview this afternoon. “I came into this position with thick skin. I need to gain a few wins very early. I have to move the university forward on an avant-garde journey.”
Dubroy is the third Shaw alum (and second youngest person) to lead the university, but she also earned a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from NC State in 2007.
After finishing her studies at NC State, Dubroy worked as a research scientist at BASF before starting her own business, a hair care company known as Tea and Honey Blends that Dubroy co-founded in 2008. She went to work at Shaw as an associate professor of chemistry in 2011, and quickly moved up to become the chair of the university’s Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. In 2014, Dubroy was named to Shaw’s administrative team as the special assistant to the president for process optimization.
Despite her rapid ascension, Dubroy says she didn’t grow up with dreams of becoming a college president. But she “vividly remembers” wanting to be a college professor.
It didn’t take long, though, for Dubroy to set her sights higher after she got a taste of academia.
“I’ve always wanted to see Shaw shine,” she says. “I realized that for the university to be where I thought it should be, I needed to be in a more decision-making role, more of a leadership role. But I didn’t anticipate being a president this soon.”
Dubroy has a game plan for her new role, saying that Shaw needs more innovative programs, needs to diversify its revenue streams and enhance its customer service atmosphere. She says her business background will help in that process. Dubroy is in the process of selling her hair care company.
“I would not be able to be an effective college president without an entrepreneurial background,” she says. “Having the vantage point of a business person gives you an understanding of what it takes in order to be in the business of academia.”