Sheri Shaw dressed in green with a teal backdrop

March 22, 2021

Giving takes on many forms for Sheri Shaw: the gift of time to mentor a student, monetary support of scholarships, community activism and engagement, and even organ donation.

When Shaw was an undergraduate, she donated a kidney to her cousin, Vernon Anderson, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She continued her education after the transplant with the help of scholarships, course extensions and additional support.

“My college community, family and friends wrapped their hands around me and helped me navigate the process of becoming a 20-year-old kidney donor. My part-time job at the time wrote a corporate grant to pay all my bills for six months,” recalled Shaw, assistant dean for student success in the College of Health and Human Services. “I believe the testimony was that of community building, education and impact. I have enjoyed sharing the story of being a living organ donor, the impacts of organ donation, and educating communities on the topics of organ donation and diabetes.”

Shaw’s desire to educate people about the importance of health began at the age of 15 after the loss of her brother, Eugene, to asthma. She grew up in Decatur, Illinois, a factory town where many residents suffered from asthma and respiratory issues, especially Black children, Shaw said.

“I wanted to honor my brother’s 20 years of life and I knew of no better way than to create a scholarship for him in his honor, become a health educator and to spend my life discussing health disparities, inequities and preventative practices,” she said. The scholarship, funded by her family, past teachers and friends of her brother, is given to a Black male high school student in her hometown bi-annually.

Because of the support Shaw received as an undergraduate, she also wanted to be in a professional position where she could help students dream and feel inspired. She began her academic career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she created the award-winning Mannie L. Jackson Illinois Academic Enrichment and Leadership Program within the College of Applied Health Sciences. She later worked at Drexel University in the LeBow College of Business, developing policies and operations to enhance efficiency and the student experience as the director of undergraduate student services. Shaw also established and implemented the award-winning LeBow BRIDGE Program during her Drexel tenure.

In 2016, she joined UNCW, where she provides academic and leadership support to CHHS’ faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students while overseeing the college’s Student Success Center. For the past two years, Shaw has helped to create spaces to support Black women in the areas of health, professional development, advocacy, and has provided a voice around these topics on her podcast, “Black Woman Working.” She also serves as the advisor to the Black Women Association on campus. 

“We all need someone to remind us that we are capable of achieving our goals and that we can rise from the challenges and hurdles that present themselves,” she said. “In each role that I have had in education, what has made the role worthwhile is the students. There is electric energy that comes from students in the middle of the actualizing their dreams.”

Shaw also gives back to the community by serving on numerous boards including the North Carolina Community College Foundation, YWCA Lower Cape Fear, the Willie Stargell Foundation, Leadership North Carolina and WILMA’s Leadership Institute.

Having the ability to donate to UNCW to help create, grow and build is full-circle for Shaw, she said. Shaw is recognized by the Clocktower Society for her continued support.

“I know of no greater feeling than giving back to the individuals and communities that have invested and poured into me,” she continued. “In addition to the health benefits – yes, giving back has been shown to make people physically healthier and lower stress – giving back allows me to be a part of strengthening a community and contributing to society. It has been a staple in meeting other community members, bolstering new relationships, sharing expertise, and learning new skills or improving skills. Giving back has allowed me to work toward a community shared goal of raising funds for an opportunity that can truly have a major impact or change a person’s life.”

Seahawks Give, an inspiring day of giving, is slated from April 6-7. Your gift will have an exponential impact on the UNCW area that means the most to you. Visit uncw.edu/seahawksgive to learn more.

--Venita Jenkins