RALEIGH, N.C. (Feb. 29, 2024)  — Kuldeep Rawat of Elizabeth City State University has been named winner of the 2023 Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service.

The award honors faculty who exemplify the University of North Carolina System’s commitment to service and community engagement. Created in 2007 and renamed in 2013 to honor Gov. James E. Holshouser, Jr., the award was designed to “encourage, identify, recognize, and reward public service by employees of the University.” Rawat was named one of two Holshouser award recipients at the Feb. 29 meeting of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Rawat began his tenure at ECSU as an assistant professor in the fall of 2004. He is now the Marion D. Thorpe endowed professor in the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Engineering Technology. Rawat also serves as dean of ECSU’s School of Science, Aviation, Health and Technology, and as the director of the university’s flagship aviation science program.

During his 19-year tenure at Elizabeth City State, Rawat has led multiple initiatives that serve the university, the surrounding community and the state. These include his work on the NASA Aerospace Academy Program and on a Mobile STEM Lab program, reaching K-12 students from 21 county school districts in some of North Carolina’s most economically disadvantaged, underserved and rural regions.

By giving students hands-on experiences in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Rawat has opened a world of opportunity for families from all backgrounds and walks of life. The NASA Aerospace Academy has impacted over 3,500 students, 100 K-12 teachers, and 600 parents during the past five years. Notably, the Mobile STEM Lab has reached nearly 15,000 students, parents and teachers since 2017, and has proven valuable in community outreach and relationship building. Rawat’s work has also focused on helping ECSU students graduate with STEM degrees and move into high-demand, high paying jobs by way of partnerships with Apple, NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Federal Aviation Administration. 

“We are very proud of Dr. Rawat and his outstanding work to enrich the legacy of ECSU, and to build new bridges that reach communities in the surrounding region and across the state,” said ECSU Chancellor Karrie Dixon. “He is a shining example of ECSU’s public service mission, and we congratulate him on this well-deserved award.”

“Because of Dr. Rawat’s vision and hard work, students from the smallest towns in eastern North Carolina can discover new opportunities and build paths that will change the course of their lives for the better,” said UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey. “We thank Dr. Rawat for his incredible contributions to generations of North Carolinians and congratulate him on this award.”

Rawat’s work combines teaching and public service to meet regional needs. As the architect of ECSU’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), Rawat has led multiple projects that established the university as North Carolina’s hub for drone activities. Rawat has explored the use of drones in farming, land mapping, infrastructure inspection and conservation efforts along North Carolina’s coast. He also helped to establish the only UAS training facility in North Carolina, which now supports drone education for the farming community, energy companies, law enforcement and local and state agencies, among others.

In another effort to address local needs, Rawat applied for and won a federal grant to strengthen broadband access, workforce development and digital inclusion in rural and underserved communities. This was a major achievement given the region’s digital divide and its impacts on health, employment, wages, household income, population growth and other measures of economic vitality. Today, Rawat continues to help implement broadband across the region, supporting a future where families have access to education and opportunity by way of technology.

“When people ask me what makes North Carolina’s public universities special, I point to faculty like Dr. Rawat, who see the needs of their students and communities and respond by taking action,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “Dr. Rawat is an outstanding faculty member who knows that teaching and public service go hand in hand, and that relationships and community — as much as education and research — are key to making the change we want to see in the world.”