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Full Circle: Dr. Naronda Wright shares her journey back home to her professional roots

Dr. Naronda Wright reflects on the journey of resilience and determination that brought her not only back to Georgia Southern University but also to her historic appointment as the first African-American president of the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals.

Naronda Wright has been appointed as the first African-American president of the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP). A distinguished alumna of Clark Atlanta University, where she earned her doctoral degree, she also holds her master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Georgia Southern University.

Wright currently serves as the Associate Dean of Graduate Student Services at Georgia Southern University. Her diverse background includes seven years of military service, work with at-risk youth, and continued dedication to leadership and community service.

A journey of determination and excellence 

Wright’s path to this historic role is a testament to her resilience and commitment to education. Initially, she joined Georgia Southern University without an undergraduate degree in 2007, but she faced significant barriers to career advancement. Despite working diligently for six years, she was unable to apply for new positions due to her lack of formal qualifications. 

Motivated by these challenges, Wright embarked on an educational journey that began with earning her undergraduate degree, followed by her master’s degree, but she didn't stop there. In the fall of 2021, she started her doctoral degree at Clark Atlanta University.

In the midst of working towards her doctorate, Wright shared that she lost her father unexpectedly, but she stayed the course and finished her doctorate this past May at Clark Atlanta University: 

"As I took my place to be officially hooded at Clark Atlanta University, I was overwhelmed with all the feels and memories of what it took to get to that point. The loss of my dad shortly after beginning, a job change, moved to a new city all were things that could have thrown me off my journey, but I persevered with the love and support of so many wonderful wonderful people," said Dr. Wright.

"I am still full from the experience and all the pomp and circumstance of the moment and that despite the journey, I overcame all the obstacles with the support of my husband, family, Cohort family and CAU faculty. The CAU motto is ‘I’ll find a way or make one’ and I will live by that motto, knowing that with God it is all possible!"

Naronda Wright graduated in May 2024 with her doctoral degree in Education from Clark Atlanta University. 

Professional ascent and full circle return

Wright left Georgia Southern University in 2022 to take on the role of Director of Graduate Admissions at Augusta University. Over the next two years, she successfully managed the graduate admission office, demonstrating her leadership and expertise. 

In November 2023, an Associate Dean position opened at Georgia Southern University. Recognizing the opportunity to return to her professional roots and bring her journey full circle, Wright applied and was offered the position. Her return symbolizes not only her personal triumph but her commitment to the institution that played a pivotal role in her academic and professional development. 

Vision for leadership and inclusivity 

When asked about her historic appointment as NAGAP president, Wright emphasized the importance of creating opportunities for minorities in leadership roles.

“It’s really about wanting to be able to put other minorities in leadership roles, having the ability to give other people a voice, and showing people that we all have to do our part,” she stated.

Wright also shared an invaluable lesson she learned throughout her career: the importance of surrounding oneself with individuals who are more knowledgeable than you.

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. You should always surround yourself with people who can pour into you and uplift you,” she advised. 

A role model for future generations

Naronda Wright’s story is one of perseverance, education, and breaking barriers. Her ascent to the presidency of NAGAP marks a significant moment in the organization’s history and serves as an inspiration to aspiring leaders, particularly minorities, seeking to make a difference in their fields. 

Wright’s journey from a determined professional without an undergraduate degree to a pioneering leader in graduate admissions highlights the transformative power of education and the importance of representation in leadership.

She stated, “I want to make sure people see me being involved. I want to leave it better than I found it, but I also want to leave a path and legacy for others to follow.”

As she steps into her new role, NAGAP and the broader academic community look forward to the innovative and inclusive vision she will undoubtedly bring to the organization.