In 1885, Representative Hamilton McMillan (August 29, 1837 – February 27, 1916), of Robeson County, introduced legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly giving the Indians of Robeson County a legal identity and schools of their own. On March 7, 1887, the General Assembly enacted legislation, sponsored by McMillan, creating the Croatan Normal School (now The University of North Carolina at Pembroke).
Fifteen students and one teacher composed the initial complement. With the goal of educating Native American teachers, enrollment was limited to the Native American Indians of Robeson County.
In 1909, the school moved to its present location, about a mile east of the original site. The name was changed in 1911 to the Indian Normal School of Robeson County, and again in 1913 to the Cherokee Indian Normal School of Robeson County. In 1926 the school became a two-year post-secondary normal school; until then it had provided only primary and secondary instruction.
In 1939 it became a four-year institution, a change followed in 1941 by a new name: Pembroke State College for Indians. The next year, the school began to offer bachelor’s degrees in disciplines other than teaching. In 1945 the college was opened to members of all federally recognized tribes. A change of name to Pembroke State College in 1949 presaged the admission of white students, which was approved in 1953 up to forty percent of total enrollment; the Brown v. Board of Education decision of the following year eliminated all race restrictions.
In 1969 the college became Pembroke State University, a regional university which was incorporated into the University of North Carolina System in 1972. The first master’s degree program was implemented in 1978. On July 1, 1996, Pembroke State University became the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
As of 2003, UNCP has 204 full-time faculty members and an enrollment of 4,472 students engaged in fifty-five undergraduate programs and fifteen graduate programs. The university’s profile and attention has increased recently as the result of an aggressive statewide advertising campaign, in which billboards and radio advertisements have touted UNCP as a place “where learning gets personal.”
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is a master’s level degree-granting university and one of 17 schools that comprise the University of North Carolina system. With a total enrollment of 6,944, the university offers 41 bachelor’s and 17 master’s degrees.
With student-faculty ratio of 16:1 and the average class size hovering at 21 students, Pembroke occupies the enviable position of being able to treat each student as an individual. Because of the rigors of the curriculum and the personal attention students receive, graduates go on to create vibrant, interesting lives for themselves.
Located in a small community, Pembroke is one of the safest campuses among UNC schools, and, according to U.S. News and World Report, it is among the nation’s most diverse.