'Just Do You’ features Dr. Danielle Gray-Singh

August 10, 2011 – Meet the newest member of the Wildcat family at Fort Valley State University. Dr. Danielle Gray- Singh’s effusive personality and bubbly disposition is disarming. When you meet her the first time, it’s as if she could be your sister, a best friend or a favorite aunt.

In this week’s “Just Do You” column, the new associate vice president of academic affairs talked to marketing and communications’ intern, Mark C.L. Walker, about how she’s adapting to Wildcat Nation, this being her first week. She calls the position atFVSU a “dream job.” After hours, she’s a “shade tree mechanic” who tinkers with vintage cars.

How did you come across this job?

The position was advertised on FVSU’s website. I am also acquainted with a number of people who work at Fort Valley State, so I was well aware of the changes that were taking place. Fort Valley became a very exciting place to me.

One thing that interests me is an academic home that trains persons of color. FVSU is constantly conducting the checks and balances to improve on the products that are offered.

I’ve witnessed FVSU changes since 2004, when the school was a third of its current size. To see this explosion really lets me know that something great was happening at Fort Valley State University and I needed to be here. (laughs)

Congratulations and welcome to the Wildcat family. What do you think about the job so far?

I think it’s going to be exciting and challenging. I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of the discussions to improve and enhance the current curricula in the STEM field, humanities and social sciences.

I know there are a number of things underfoot, for example, the development of more graduate level courses and programs. Specifically, the master’s in public administration is attractive to me. I’m looking forward to participating in the process with the people who are working at the ground level, making and building these types of things.

What were you doing before you came here?

I was at Tuskegee University where I served as their department head of science and I worked there for four years.

Before, I was at Princeton University, serving as the assistant academic dean. I’m actually returning to senior administration.

For five years prior to that, I was at Emory University as the senior deputy director for the science and technology center, which at the time was the only one of ten offered in the country. We looked at behavioral neuroscience and I was also a faculty member in the neuroscience behavioral program at Emory University.

You sound like a very interesting person professionally, what hobbies do you enjoy off the clock?

I love vintage cars. I also love rebuilding vintage cars. My husband and I have been working on a 1994 Mustang 5.0, that’s now been ‘dipped in chocolate.’ (laughs) The car’s color is a chocolate color with gold flakes, an original BMW paint. We fixed up the car and even put 20-inch rims on it (laughs); and it’s also a convertible.

It was fun. We got it from a salvage yard and we literally rebuilt it. It didn’t run, we had to drop in the engine and do almost everything to the car and now you can say it’s ‘ballroom ready.’ The fact that it’s moving and that everything works lets us know we did something great.

Where did this love for re-vamping cars come from?

My love developed while working in my father’s garage. He always believed if he could think about it or read about it he could fix it. My family never had to take a vehicle to a shop and when my siblings and I got our first vehicles, he made sure we could change a tire, service our brakes and change our oil.

Watching my father successfully work on cars and learning the cost of getting your car worked on by someone else helped me realize that this was something we need to know how to do.

What other vehicles have you refurbished so far?

I’ve done this one. This was our sort of trial run into rebuilding cars. Other than playing around with our own vehicles, the Mustang is our first.

Is there any car you would like to one day re-build?

I would love to have any car from the 50s and 60s to play around with. I think America made some outstanding cars during that time and just to have a Ford truck from that year would be great.

Are you planning to participate in car shows?

We would love to. I heard FVSU hosts “Wheels in the Valley” and I would love to enter our car into the contest.

“Just Do You” is a periodic column that features profiles of FVSU staff, faculty and students. If you’d like to recommend the next JDY feature, contact Vickie Oldham at (478) 825-6319 or oldhamv@fvsu.edu.