What started as a one-time 26 percent drop in enrollment in Shaw University’s adult ed degree program in 2012, culminated in a 66 percent total drop by 2015, causing alarm throughout the historically black college’s administration.

But it also inspired action. When Shaw grad Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy (pictured above) took the helm of the downtown Raleigh university just over one year ago, she was determined to reverse these and other enrollment declines and to forge closer ties with the broader Triangle community.

She wanted to better train Shaw students for 21st century careers, and to meet the needs of Triangle employers looking for talent.

Her focus? Entrepreneurship, innovation, technology and establishing Shaw as a leader and partner in building a strong regional economy.

A pair of new partnerships with Capitol Broadcasting Co. (ExitEvent’s parent company) and American Underground exemplify the work Dubroy and her team at Shaw are doing. More will come once new campuses open in those companies’ buildings in Durham and Rocky Mount, curriculum changes start to happen and students begin to interact with entrepreneurs and businesses in the community.

Shaw’s Durham CAPE campus was the second-most attended campus, but was based in a non-descript building in Research Triangle Park (RTP). Now classes will happen in the original American Underground on the American Tobacco Campus.

Although numbers may fluctuate for a few weeks, Dubroy expects roughly 80 students—a 166 percent increase from last year—to begin classes there this week.

Downtown Durham strategic for access to entrepreneurs

The move to downtown Durham is strategic because the students will be exposed to ATC-based companies like Bronto Software and Mckinney and will be fully integrated into the American Underground community complete with networking opportunities and events, says Klein.

The new programming and degree offerings will likely reflect the startups and companies nearby and could even be designed to help the CAPE students gain the skills they need to start their own company or work with one of the many hiring startups nearby.

It’s a strategic move for American Underground too.

Klein says over the past 18 month, his team has embraced the notion of becoming a “complete campus for entrepreneurs” where startups not only benefit from the space and exchange of ideas with other entrepreneurs but also from the assistance and expertise of organizations like CED, NC IDEA, and The Startup Factory—all who partner with and are housed in the American Underground community.

And while it counts Duke University as a founding partner and has supported The Iron Yard Code School through its rapid growth and expansion, the Shaw partnership introduces a yet-unreached population to the startup community.

CAPE students are typically working adults over the age of 23, some have families, some are military veterans, and most are minorities. Bringing these students to the American Underground campus adds new, diverse talent to the local pool. Klein also hopes the setting can inspire new entrepreneurial ventures from a primarily minority group of students.

While the partnership is still new and processes and strategies for getting students introduced to the startups are still being designed, Klein says he envisions collaborating with American Underground’s already strong network and job fair events like the Tech Jobs Under the Big Top.

Klein says the most exciting part of the partnership is the opportunity to work with an“outstanding visionary leader” and her team to together “plan for a more successful region.”

Dubroy, meanwhile, hopes the region’s startup community sees that, “Shaw University is getting its wings. We have turned the corner as far as our strategic direction is going and partnerships with AU lend credence to the fact that Shaw University is actually EPIC.”