Page 1

March 2014

Volume 1, Issue 3

HBCU Digest

March 2014

Community Impact


Publisher Jarrett L. Carter, Sr. Editor Autumn A. Arnett Assistant Editor Kyle Yeldell Contributors Robert E. Constant Richard A. Harris Imani J. Jackson Stedmond Perkins Shana Pinnock Pearl Stewart Christina Sturdivant

5 Letter from the Editor


Building a sustainable athletics infrasrtucture By Robert E. Constant


Institutions working to promote a sense of community By Stedmond Perkins


HBCUs respond to credit card regulations with proactive programs By Pearl Stewart


Alabama’s Talladega College has a rich history of graduating leaders By Imani J. Jackson


HBCU primary schools set standard for college completion By Christina Sturdivant


HBCU Digest pays tribute to Morgan State’s Dr. Ruthe Sheffey By Richard A. Harris


HBCU Digest is published monthly by Carter Media Enterprises, LLC. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. HBCU Digest and the HBCU Digest logo are protected through registered trademark. For advertising and subscription information, contact

Recent graduates a key resource for their alma maters By Autumn A. Arnett


Some HBCUs serve mostly non-Black students in the 21st century By Shana Pinnock


Robert Poole, M.F.A. ’02 Filmmaker

Crystal de Gregory, Ph.D. ’03 Founder & Executive Editor HBCUStory, Inc.

Anna Wilkins Presidential Scholar Political Science Major


Brooke Davies SGA President Chemistry Honors Student


“Cultivating Scholars & Leaders One by One”


John Rigeuer, Ph.D. ’03 Scientist, Commissariat a L’Energie et aux Energies Alternative (CEA) Grenoble, FRANCE

HBCU Digest

March 2014

Letter from the Editor Dear Reader, During what was to be the cover photo shoot for this issue, I had the pleasure of sitting with six HBCU alumni who discussed the impact that their respective schools had on the person they would each become. And, despite the fact that most seemed to select their schools for non-academic reasons (responses mostly revolved around visiting campus during a major social event and being hooked — Market Friday and Aggie Fest, for example), they all credit their respective institutions for molding them into the individuals they are today. And they all felt they owed their institutions a tremendous debt because of the knowledge and experiences and nurturing and true sense of family they received. That conversation, if we could have bottled it up and played it back for all of the Digest readers, perfectly summarizes the spirit “Community Impact” theme we selected for this issue. In addition to graduating over 20 percent of all Black bachelor’s degree-holders, HBCUs leave an indellible mark on not only their surrounding communities, but their graduates. HBCU professors are often heralded for taking a personal interest in their students and serving as mentors and guardians for years after the students graduate. In nearly every conversation I have had for various Digest stories, subjects credit the relationships with faculty and staff on campus as being a major supporting factor that saw them through to graduation. Often, mainstream conversations about HBCUs revolve around negative news: low graduation rates, financial mismanagement, administrative in-fighting. But rarely do those outside of the HBCU Nation acknowledge the nurturing mentors, the efforts to improve the conditions of their surrounding communities, the resilience and adaptability of these institutions. It is my hope that the stories on these pages cause you to reflect on your own HBCU experience and your responsibility to do your part to promote the strengthening of HBCUs across the country. Most sincerely,

Autumn A. Arnett Editor HBCU Digest


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March 2014

Digest Opinions

Building a Sustainable Athletics Infrastructure By Robert E. Constant During March Madness, it is appropriate to explore concrete examples of what HBCU athletic departments can do with zero or limited resources to build sustainable and competitive athletic programs. In order to build a solid infrastructure, athletic departments should consider four strategies and tactics that work to strengthen the department for the long-term and instantly improve efficiency. 1. Establishing more partnerships with corporations and small businesses Start by building relationships with those companies that understand the value of HBCUs. Read the mission statement of these firms and look for key words like diversity, culture and/ or inclusion in their mission statement. If you are looking for ideas, Fortune magazine lists the most diverse companies to work for in the U.S. Firms like Darden Restaurants, CarMax, Cisco, Qualcomm, Men’s Wearhouse and Marriott are probably prime prospects for funding. If you can get to the Chief Diversity Officer, or head of Regional Marketing, plan to discuss the value of partnering with your institution. Invite these decision-makers to your homecoming and classic games so they can experience the pride and pageantry of game day. In addition, invite prospective sponsors to symposiums and conferences on campus to speak or witness first-hand our creativity, and resourcefulness as potential partners. 2. Leveraging the resources of the NCAA Even more than funding, the major

disparity between PWIs and HBCUs is learning from their fellow members. The whole purpose of most conferences like NACDA (National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics) is to take advantage of the experiences that the member institutions possess. All member schools are dealing with cut, limited or zero budgets, however they still have to find ways to compete each year. Why not ensure your school can tap into these resources to tackle pressing issues like limited budgets, staff and marketing resources? 3. Establishing a year-round internship program Having the human resources in place to create, plan and execute the marketing plan is vital if HBCU administrators want to control their narrative. To fulfill this goal, we must think more strategically and consider training undergraduate or graduate students to perform many of the promotional and marketing duties on and off campus. Start an internship program by partnering with your local Sports Management programs or Business School. If your institution secures a lucrative sponsorship, you will need a team dedicated to fulfilling sponsorship obligations during pregame, halftime and postgame activities. At Savannah State University, a marketing club allows students to be more involved in the day-to-day operations of the athletics department. Student interns could be your saviors – handling all student incentive programs, game advertising, pregame promotions, in-game promotions, halftime activities, kids’ club activities, and postgame

responsibilities for free! Their payback is free merchandise, food and the invaluable experience of working for an NCAA athletic department. 4. Creating advisory boards for athletics Creating advisory boards should be viewed as another way of creating an affordable workforce that can help you accomplish important tasks on your agenda. Having a team of alumni and/or friends of the university who are committed to seeing you and your programs be successful is a major resource for your department. Moreover, recruiting a team with skills in marketing, sales, public relations and fundraising is a major asset for the athletics department. Senior leadership could form three committees that they would manage throughout the year. Create a fundraising, a special events and a homecoming committee. With the wealth of expertise you will receive from your advisory board members, the department will be in position to build a sustainable infrastructure in athletics. If there is a need for a new locker room project, or if there is a special project that needs immediate attention, this is the group that could give valuable feedback. The best aspect of assembling this sort of power group is these advisory board members become your most loyal advocates and donors as they become more attached to the program through their engagement.

Robert E. Constant is a graduate of Tuskegee University and presently serves on the development team at Rutgers University as the institution’s associate vice president.


HBCU Digest

March 2014

Sustainable Ingenuity Institutions Working to Promote a Sense of Community

By Stedmond Perkins


HBCU Digest


BCUs continue to sweep the nation with innovative research initiatives, while promoting the holistic growth of African-American culture. In addition to their groundbreaking research and commitment to serving largely overlooked students, they recently have been taking the initiative to build sustainable communities that not only benefit the university, but community members and other colleges and universities. In the name of self-preservation In Dunbar, W.V., state budget cuts inspired West Virginia State University President Dr. Brian Hemphill to seek ways to operate more efficiently and effectively to enhance the sustainability of the university and maximize its resources. “West Virginia State University must evolve and be on the cutting edge in this state,” he said in an official letter. Under Hemphill’s leadership, the university has sought to “explore and implement green initiatives resulting in a reduction of energy consumption and related costs throughout the campus.” At WVSU all computers are being mapped to centralized copy machines, rather than having individual printers which would require more ink cartridges. The print setting was also changed to doubled-sided printing from one-sided. Such a change promotes recycling, expense reduction, and energy consumption. Opening university facilities for community rentals supports the university’s goal to identify areas in which redundancies may be minimized and collaboration maximized through partnerships. Additionally, the WVSU extension service provides knowledge to the university and community. It has four focus areas, which are 4-H Youth development, agriculture & Natural resources, community & economic development, and family & consumer sciences. The agriculture & natural resources focus area provides educational programs and technical assistance to farmers. Its programs include agriculture workshops, backyard habitat, urban forestry, Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education, the SCRATCH Project, and community & adaptive gardening. “They are really focused on capitalizing community history and resources to tackle a very complex project,” said Kimberly Osborne, vice president for university relations and operations to WVSU. “They have a variety of programs to help revitalize areas along [West Main] street and the West Side business vector.” West Side Main Street is a street revitalization collaboration project between WVSU extension service, the city of Charleston, and the West Side neighborhood association. Together, they are working together to address revitalization in the business district of Charleston’s West Side. Main Street is a model for community revitalization to reinvigorate the neighborhood and the older historic areas to make them more powerful for economic development.

March 2014

Art projects, a master street planning initiative, and grant programs are available to assist with funding for business owners who wish to renovate the facade of their business. Forrest Carter, sophomore communications major at West Virginia State University, served as a student representative at the recent budget efficiency summit. “Just the fact we are improving as a university is a step forward,” he says. In efforts similar to those at WVSU, officials at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff are also working hard to comply with the sustainability trends that are becoming popular at other HBCUs. “I feel that UAPB’s effort to join the sustainability movement is gradually on the upcoming,” says Jonathan Smith, a biology and pre-medicine student at UAPB. “The STEM program always promotes the green initiative by having monthly campus clean-up events and recycling products on a daily basis, as well as [using] eco-friendly foods in the cafeteria such as using cage-free eggs.” The efforts on UAPB’s campus also extend to environmental changes as well. The school’s overall emissions are declining, which was a result of a $52 million energy saving performance contract. “We’ve made significant headway in reducing emissions,” said Carlos Ochoa, Director of the Office of Sustainability. “We’re close to 1995 levels of carbon dioxide emissions even though we’ve been growing physically as an institution. Our footprint has gone down per square foot on campus per fulltime equivalent student, staff and faculty.” Building character, building communities At Paul Quinn College in Dallas, for example, the WE Over Me Farm, was created on the school’s old football field. In 2009, PQC President Michael Sorrell decided to cut the football program, because it did not have a positive impact on the school. In order to save funds and develop a positive, hands-on effort to contribute to the school and community, Sorrell, with the help of Trammell Crow Company and the Pepsi Foundation, conceived the idea to build a farm on the two-acre abandoned field to address the food desert in the Highland Hills community in Dallas. Students support the farm efforts as part of a work study program to offset cost of tuition, where they make $10 an hour to reduce student debt. “The WE Over Me Farm addresses the food desert in the Highland Hills community and provides fresh fruit and vegetables to the community, as well as donating them to nonprofits in the area,” says Ashley Daley, communications director for WE Over Me Farm. She adds that some of the fruits and vegetables are sold as well, to help cover operating costs. Although the farm directly affects the Highland Hills community, it benefits the city as a whole because it provides fresh fruit to restaurants which, in turn, gives the restaurant customers natural, crisp-tasting produce to consume, rather than possibly having frozen produce.

Left: At Paul Quinn College in Dallas, President Michael Sorrell received a lot of backlash for his 2009 decision to convert the school’s football field into a student-run farm to eradicate what he called “a food desert” in the community surrounding the school.


HBCU Digest

Layonna Crawford, 5, of South Charleston, fills up a water jug at West Virginia State University (WVSU) durinng the school’s December service as an emergency water distribution location. WVSU has increased its efforts to collaborate with and impact its surrounding community.

Daley believes that the farm is a great model for other institutions to use. “You can take a space that wasn’t traditionally thought of as a farm being there and transform it a couple years later to a full-functioning, two-acre farm. I think that’s a great model that any and everyone can benefit from. It’s just understanding that you can take land anywhere, give it a little ‘heart and soul,’ and produce fresh produce for not only yourself, but for everyone.” Currently, the farm is in the spring planting stage. The biggest initiative this spring and summer will be providing classes about sustainable farming and healthy eating to community members. “It warms my heart educating people about being able to sustain [themselves],” says Chanson Goodson, a sophomore legal studies major. “I like when people come and are actually interested in building their own garden.” The experience does not just benefit members of the community; it has also proved transformative for some students as well. Chanson Goodson, a sophomore legal studies student and self-proclaimed “city boy,” says, “It gave me a different look on life.” At Howard University, students’ lives are being similarly transformed through their work with the university’s Peace Corps. “As a Peace Corp Vol-

March 2014

unteer in El Salvador, I … organized and oversaw workshops given to women in regards to their civil rights and prevention of domestic violence; men on the topic of sexism; and youth regarding self-esteem, STD awareness, and sexual abuse,” says China Dickerson, a Howard Law student who served in the Peace Corps through Howard after undergrad. “I coordinated youth activities such as sporting events, leadership camps, job skill trainings, primary and secondary education scholarships, and cultural events. I also instructed ESL (English as a Second Language) class of first and second-year high school students.” Howard was recently ranked as the number one HBCU to produce service volunteers within the Peace Corps. “Howard prepared me for my Peace Corps experience by teaching me to be flexible to change, an advocate for justice, and a citizen of the world,” Dickerson says. “People of color are needed abroad to represent the true diversity of America; diversity which includes differing ethnicities, religions, political beliefs, and morals.” The demand for people — and institutions — of color to contribute to the overall efforts of sustainability and promote stronger communities is ever-present, and the efforts at these four schools (and others across the country) are making waves in that direction.


HBCU Digest

January 2014


HBCU Digest

March 2014

Card Games HBCUs Respond to Credit Card Regulations with Proactive Programs By Pearl Stewart


arryl Jackson, Alabama A&M University’s director of student financial aid, recalls seven or eight years ago when he was working elsewhere, that “on move-in day and during orientation and registration, you would see a number of tables on campus with lenders from various institutions giving away credit cards. Students could just pretty much sign their names and they would get a credit card and a free mug.” For the most part, those

days are long gone, thanks to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 which prohibits credit card issuers from extending credit without assessing the consumer’s ability to pay, and strictly regulates the extension of credit to individuals under age 21. The act requires the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prepare an annual report concerning agreements between credit card issuers

and institutions of higher education or certain affiliated organizations such as fraternities, sororities, alumni associations, or foundations. The December 2013 report found “a continuing decrease in the number of colleges and universities sponsoring credit card programs, the number of new accounts being originated under such programs, and the compensation paid to the institutions pursuant to these programs.” The total number of open


college credit card accounts at year-end declined from 2009 to 2012 by approximately 40 percent. In just one year, from 2011 to 2012, the number of credit cards issued to college students declined by 23 percent. One of the reasons for the sharp decline may be that those on-campus giveaways of credit cards and swag have disappeared from most campuses, especially HBCUs. HBCU student finance officials say that their

HBCU Digest

dents, many of whom tend to be first-generation collegians, were often highly susceptible to the on-campus offers. “Many of the students —18 and 19 years old — just saw it as money,” Jackson says, “not understanding how it had to be paid back and that the interest on credit cards was significant.” “Now federal regulations have changed all that — students can’t just walk up and get a credit card,” Jackson says, adding that the crackdown was a positive step, because in the past, too many students were ending up with a combination of student loan debt and credit card debt, with high interest rates, well beyond their ability to repay. Specifically, the CARD Act prohibited the issuance of credit cards to consumers under the age of 21 without a written application demonstrating the applicant’s independent ability to pay or a cosigner aged 21 or over with the means to make payments. The legislation also limited credit card issuers’ ability to market credit cards to students on or near campus and at school-sponsored events by prohibiting “the use of gifts or any tangible items” to induce students to apply for credit cards. Another result of the legislation is that card issuers offering any products to students through the universities — checking accounts, debit cards and the like — are now required to provide financial literacy information to students. And the education institutions must publicly disclose any credit card agreements between a card issuer and the institution. Dr. Brenda Spencer, direc-

tor of retention at Florida A&M University, says the university recently hired two student debt counselors to focus on financial literacy for students. “We have been proactive in doing a lot of outreach, especially with our freshmen and sophomore students to really get on the front end of the situation,” she says. Spencer says parents are included in the seminars when students and parents arrive together to participate in orientation activities. In addition, she says a required “first-year experience” course includes various aspects of personal finances, including debt management, budgeting and setting priorities. Finding Creative Solutions FAMU’s director of advancement, Dr. Thomas Haynes, says students’ debt problems have flowed over into alumni fundraising and other areas. “It’s in our vested interest to help students in this area,” he says, noting that graduates facing huge debt loads whether from credit cards, student loans or both, are not able to become alumni donors. More importantly, they are unable to afford or qualify for housing and other quality-of-life commodities. This was a growing problem before the CARD Act went into effect. Now, he points out, FAMU students have started their own foundation called “students giving back to students,” which raises funds for scholarships. “We think this is very significant because it helps to create a culture of philanthropy among the students. “Financial literacy is extremely important… but it’s

just one spoke in the wheel,” Haynes says. “This problem is bigger than that.” He says that with cutbacks in financial aid, students also need to be able to earn money, so their financial partners are encouraged to offer scholarships and paid internships. At Alabama A&M, Jackson says they face the same challenge, so partnerships with financial institutions are aimed at not only addressing financial education and literacy but also offering students opportunities for summer employment, mentoring and full-time employment after graduation. Jackson says AAMU’s finance seminars are also a part of the mandatory orientation process. According to the 2013 CFPB report, colleges and universities have largely abandoned the credit card relationships they previously had with banking institutions. Not only had there been an overall decline in the issuance of the cards, but in 2012, most of the college card agreements were no longer between the financial institutions and the schools themselves. Instead, approximately 43 percent of college card agreements still in effect were between an issuer and an alumni association affiliated with an institution. An additional 28 percent were between a card issuer and an institution itself, and 27 percent were between a card issuer and other organizations affiliated with an institution or a college foundation, such as sororities and fraternities. Officials at the HBCUs point out that many of their graduates during the early 2000s were saddled with so much debt that they are still

March 2014

paying off credit card balances, in addition to financial aid debt incurred during those years. Some students even ended up in bankruptcy before even embarking on their careers. Today, partly as a result of the federal regulations and partly because of the disastrous fallout from of the previous decade, HBCUs have taken heed. Mandatory financial literacy seminars, bans on credit card solicitation on campus, debt counseling personnel, financial aid counseling and summer internships are now elements of the new era accountability and responsibility. One of the chief players on that new landscape is Alabama-based Regions Bank, which has formed partnerships with HBCUs in the Southeast. Regions Financial points out that 83 of the 106 HBCUs are located in the 16 states it serves. Both Alabama A&M and Florida A&M are Regions partners, along with Spelman College, Tennessee State, Alabama State and Jackson State universities, according to Regions Financial spokesperson Evelyn Mitchell. Regions Financial also has an online financial education curriculum available to students at the partner institutions. Jackson says AAMU views this as such an important topic for students that, in addition to the orientation sessions, his staff spends the month of February – financial aid awareness month — conducting internal seminars in the residence halls on a range of finance-related subjects. “The more financial literacy we can share with our


HBCU Digest

March 2014

Fertile Alabama’s Talladega College has a By Imani J. Jackson


Dr. Helen McAlpine (J.F. Drake Technical School), Dr. Juliette Bell (UMES) and Dr. William Harvey (Hampton) are among the Talladega graduates currently serving as HBCU presidents.

private liberal arts college in Alabama was founded by slave descendants, aided by the American Missionary Association, and now quietly graduates college and university presidents-to-be. That institution is Talladega College, a school with just over 700 students, a 12:1 student-teacher ratio, and some of the most prominent leaders in Black academia. Current president Dr. Billy Hawkins said Talladega College cultivates more higher education presidents than any other college or university in the nation. The numbers are indeed impressive, as nearly a dozen Talladega graduates earned presidencies at colleges and universities. Sitting presidents include Dr. William Harvey at Hampton University, Dr. Juliette Bell at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Dr. Helen T. McAlpine, at J.F. Drake Technical School, an institution named after another Talladega College alumnus. Hawkins attributes Talladegan prominence to history. “It goes back to when the institution was founded,” he says. “It was founded on academic excellence, and for a lot of years that held very true.” Institutional leaders, current students and alumni echo that message. “Academics were held in such high regard that I wanted to be part of the leadership team,” says Tysus Jackson, vice president for institutional advancement at Talladega College. “We believe in leadership through academics,” adds Student Government Association President Raven Black. “We strive to inspire our students to work to the best of their abilities.” “The expectation of accomplishment was there,” says Dr. Joshua Johannson, a Talladega alumnus and current practic-

ing OBGYN. “I thought [Talladega] was a good place to develop leadership.” That leadership focus began with academic goals for people who were not included in the traditional American education framework. Talladega College resulted from a meeting of the minds of two men, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant. Talladega natives and former slaves, they met with newly freed men in Mobile, Ala. in 1865. According to the college’s website, a vow of academics resulted. School and religion were also central themes. The men regarded “education of our children and youths as vital to the preservation of our liberties.” To them, true religion was foundational to virtue, and they wanted to “promote these blessings in our common country.” On a larger scale, the nation was in a time of tumult, although foreshadowing progress. The Civil War ended. Some slaves were free. Savery, Tarrant and General Wager Swayne of the Freedmen’s Bureau gave their best efforts to establish a physical structure fit for training minds. The bureau provided former slaves and impoverished whites food, shelter, education and services. At first, a one-room schoolhouse resulted. Compact and composed from abandoned lumber, the institution kept a steady stream of students and was forced to expand. Swayne convinced the American Missionary Association to purchase the nearby Baptist Academy. The building was named Swayne School and opened in 1867 with about 140 students. Ultimately, a school built from slave labor for white beneficiaries was transformed into Alabama’s first private, liberal arts college committed to educating black citizens, Talladega College. Talladega found footing as America


HBCU Digest

March 2014

Ground Rich History of Graduating Leaders was building academic communities for Blacks. In 1866, Fisk University was founded. In 1867, the Peabody Fund was established. The fund brought about endowments, scholarships and education funding for former slaves. That same year, Congress established Howard University. ‘Expectations of Greatness’ This history of HBCU establishment, and a burgeoning Talladega College explains the aspirational haughtiness many graduates of the institution now possess. Hawkins says that Talladegans believe in a warranted “arrogance.” Their students are taught school pride because of history and “expectations of greatness.” According to the president, students are taught, “I’m the best. We’re the best. And we can compete with the best.” People often say an institution or entity’s leadership speaks to its capacity to grow. Hawkins practices what he preaches. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in teacher education from Ferris State University, a master’s of arts degree in education administration from Central Michigan University, and a doctorate of philosophy in education administration from Michigan State University. He completed post-doctoral studies at Harvard University. The president says that Talladega’s history included accepting the best and brightest from Black communities, which positioned the school with top elite universities in the nation. “If you go back to the beginning of Talladega, it was that type of institution where the affluent African-Americans sent their very bright, smart sons or daughters,” he says. More than three-quarters of Talladega graduates study in graduate or professional school.

Those expectations of excellence began decades ago. Hawkins says that between the 1930s and1960s, it was common for 10 or more valedictorians to enter a class. A continuous stream of high achieving student bodies keeps the college competitive. Talladegans understand “when you complete your undergraduate [education], you’re going on to graduate school,” Hawkins says. This emphasis positions them to “elevate” themselves “at the highest level in their fields.” Student successes are also traced back to the faculty who developed them, the president says. Messages of academic performance and leadership are not muddied for subgroups at Talladega. The college serves first-generation college attendees and people with different development levels. It is a cultural microcosm, one that believes in gender-neutral skill development, according to school leaders. “It’s very clear,” Hawkins says. “Our SGA president has been male, has been female. Currently, she is female.” “African-American women are in leadership positions,” Jackson says, stating that although the school has a mostly-male student body, alumni and the campus community support “talented men and women, equal opportunity to engage in leadership and the same expectations” regardless of sex. “In the past five years, we have had three female SGA presidents,” Black says, adding that that she models herself after those ladies, because they had such positive effects on campus. Hawkins says that Talladega takes affirmative steps to engage women. The college hosts “Women Changing the World Week” on campus every spring. The tradition began five years ago and results in a campus-wide convocation

featuring an accomplished female speaker. While many HBCUs do serve first-generation college goers, Hawkins emphasizes the variety of students within the category. “They come to us at various academic levels,” the president says. “For some we have to make adjustments, providing the appropriate academic support to bring them to a level where we can prepare to them to perform at a high academic level.” In order to keep graduating viable scholars, regardless of student background or generational history, Hawkins instituted a presidential honors program, with a 3.5 minimum GPA requirement. Eighty-five students are currently enrolled in the program. If anything, Talladegans seem to form a circle around each other. Hawkins attributes the college’s notable alumni to a dedicated faculty. Black speaks of dedicated and involved alumni. Alumni acknowledge their peers from Talladega. As national higher education aims continually rise, Talladegans are equipped to meet and reset the bar. With dedication to handling its student body well, the proof is in Talladega’s population and alumni base. The SGA president plans to attend Georgia State University for graduate school, earn a degree in public relations, travel and work for a public relations firm. Hawkins hopes to increase the number of students in his presidential honors program to the hundreds within a few years. As Talladega continues to serve its niche in a fast-paced global economy, the community remembers the college president’s advice:“You have to uphold the Talladega name.”


HBCU Digest

March 2014

Char ting a Path

HBCU Primary Schools Set Standard for College Completion By Christina Sturdivant


fter experiencing setbacks at her previous school, Tya Wicker finally settled on a home last year at the Southern University Laboratory School for her remaining two-year stint in high school. “It’s more of a friendly environment at Southern Lab,” says Wicker. “My previous school was a public school. It was big and my classes were literally the size of Southern Lab’s student body. It is really different having small classes where

everyone knows everyone and I can see all my classmates every day.” Not only has Wicker found a more intimate setting among her peers, at Southern Lab she is able to get an early glimpse into college at a historically Black university. “The laboratory school is unique in that our students get a first glance look at college life because we’re located on a university campus,” says Dr. Ronnie Harrison, Southern Lab head of schools.

“They have resources that regular public school students cannot have. How many students can actually walk out the front door and sit in a college class?” The Lab School is a K-12 primary/ secondary institution founded in 1922 and located on the campus of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The school has graduated over 5,000 students since its conception, but was recently in danger of closing. Three years ago, Dr. Harrison joined


HBCU Digest

March 2014

the school’s staff. One year later, Preston Castille became pres- Almond. ident of the Southern University Laboratory School foundaAs an alumna of Coppin State, one of Almond’s goals is to tion. The two are credited with stabilizing the institution. expose students to the rich heritage and resources at her alma “Two years ago, Southern Lab was losing about $800,000 a mater that are available upon graduation. year and the university was actually considering closing the “I graduated from Coppin State in 2000, and I know what lab school,” says Castille. “The university allowed volunteers Coppin State did for me around education and the support such as myself to come in and help.” from the people and mentors that I met here, so I want to Over the period of two years, encourage students to get that student recruiters were hired, scholsame level of support, instruction arships were offered and marketing and passion that I received,” says was upgraded that increased the Lab Almond, who became head of Schools’ enrollment by 80 percent, schools at Coppin State Academy generating $2 million in revenue for in August 2013. the school. This year, 100 percent of the Castille continues the revitaliza75-student senior class applied tion process by offering students to Coppin but only about 25 will more hands-on opportunities to ultimately attend. Although she interact with Southern University’s does not aim to deter students professors and students. Through from attending top-tier universithe Southern University mini lab ties, she plans to increase the numproject, students at the Lab School ber of Coppin Academy students are connected with four key univer- Students in first, third and twelfth grade participating in a admitted into the university to 40 sity programs—nursing, business, mock trial exercise at Southern University Lab School. percent. Left: Students at Southern University Lab School read daily engineering and law. To achieve this goal, Almond One of the most successful part- to increase vocabulary and comprehension. is working closely with universinerships has been in the school of ty administration to implement law, where Lab School students compete against other local direct resources to the university for academy students. schools in mock trial competition. The team’s coach is a “We’ve been able to work with deans from the various Southern University law school professor who instructs with schools and the provost has really been instrumental in the assistance of his law school students. making sure that some of our programs have gone forth like “And so the law students get to learn more about practicing the dual enrollment where our students are able to take any law by teaching students and learning from their professors college class they were eligible for and receive college credit,” and then high school students work with the younger kids says Almond. who are learning some of the basics of speech and debate at Cori Bullock, a senior who plans to get her master’s in the elementary and middle school level,” says Castille. “So biomedical engineering, has seen the benefits of the academy’s what we get is a smooth flow of learning from the youngest programming. One of her most beneficial classes for college kids all the way up through college students, professional prep is Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID). school students and the actual professors.” “They made me do college essays and I was prepared to give The mock trial program has also been a catalyst in strength- them to the schools that I’m applying to,” she says. “Also, the ening educational resources for the surrounding community. dual enrollment really helps me because I already know what Southern Lab is located in the heart of what the Louisiana to expect once I get into college.” department of education calls the Baton Rouge Achievement Bullock has already been accepted into Hampton University Zone, with over 20 failing schools within the geographical and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, among others. area. Because the mock trial program is open to all students in While head of schools Timothy Roberts does not lead his the region, it has played a role in the recovery process across students on the grounds of a black college campus, he has the region. been able to bring the HBCU experience to youth in CleveWith the financial and programmatic turnaround, Castille land. is certain that Southern Lab is destined to become one of the “Through a program that I run here in the city, I have seven top academic and most unique programs in the state. of my young men from the campus of Morehouse College “We’ve come from a unit within the university that it was along with their friends come here during breaks from school considering shutting down completely to a thriving institution to spend time with our young people talking about their exagain that is operating at a profit,” says Castille. periences at the HBCUs that they attend. We also have young At Coppin State Academy in Baltimore, revitalization is ladies from Spelman, Norfolk State, West Virginia State and also underway. The nine year-old K-12 School located on the Clark Atlanta,” says Roberts, who has been head of schools for campus of Coppin State University has recently undergone the past two years. administrative changes, to include a new head of schools, Aisha Further, students at HBCU Preparatory School, formerly


HBCU Digest

known as Phoenix Village Academy, are instructed about the history and importance of historically black colleges in their daily curriculum. “Our students understand clearly that at one time in our history, blacks were not able to go to the universities and therefor,e people put together historically black colleges and universities so our people could gain access to quality life through education,” says Roberts. HBCU Preparatory School was conceptualized in 2011 by Timothy Goler, who sought to build a network of primary and secondary schools modeled after HBCUs. “I asked myself what is the most successful model in the United States of America for educating black people—irrespective of age—and said the most successful model doesn’t happen in elementary school, middle school, or high school it happens in college—it happens in the HBCU arena,” says Goler, a graduate of Norfolk State University. With its pilot school in Ohio, Goler seeks to create a network of schools across the country that are an extension of the history, tradition and legacy of HBCUs by creating a nurturing, student-centered environment with a strong cultural foundation. Twelve-year-old Taylor Barnes, for instance, appreciates the

March 2014

school offers a drumming class. “I like to get it all out on the drums and it makes me feel a lot better after drumming is over,” says the sixth grader who hopes to become an ornithologist. The ultimate key, Goler believes, is having attentive and genuinely vested teachers and staff. As head of schools, Roberts is laying the groundwork by connecting with the community. “We keep our hands on our children but we keep our hands on their families,” says Roberts. “That is where the true foundation is and that is what we need to start building up in our communities—families who are really excited about the opportunities to watch their children grow through education and for them to grow through education.” HBCU Prep School has been rated excellent in the state’s report card for the past six years and has a waiting list for its kindergarten, 4th grade and 6th grade classes. With proven success, Goler believes that the network will create a reversed continuum for HBCUs. “We’re trying to create an extension of the system—HBCUs have to go downward,” he says. “And you can’t just talk it, you have to create the pipeline.

Below: Third grade students at Southern University Lab School take part in a law studies class with local judges and attorneys.


HBCU Digest

March 2014

Living Legend: By Richard A. Harris

If you toured the Morgan State campus in Baltimore and stumbled upon the school’s communications center, there is a good chance you would encounter Sheffey Lecture Hall, a tribute to Dr. Ruthe Sheffey, who was an integral member of the Morgan State University community for more than 60 years. Her impact on Morgan State has been more far-reaching than a typical classroom influence. An award-winning teacher, a leading student mentor, and a major financial donor to the university, Sheffey is a living legend on campus. “I consider Dr. Sheffey to be one of the rare breed of Morgan professors who, in the classroom, light up the eyes of their students and fill the classroom with the joy of learning and growing,” says Dr. Burney Hollis, dean emeritus of the Morgan State University College of Liberal Arts. “Sitting at her feet in classes in composition and literature is like drinking from a great fount of knowledge and experience; the more

you drink, the thirstier you become. Over the years, she has put excitement into learning, and many students have benefited from her tutelage and her example.” “I have had the rare opportunity and good fortune not only to be a student in Dr. Sheffey’s class and a faculty member under her chairpersonship, but also to serveas her departmental chairperson and her dean,” Hollis adds. “As my teacher and chairperson, she was my beacon; as my faculty member, she was a pillar of my success. In all of our relationships for nearly fifty years, we have share a mutual respect and admiration, and we have shown strong support and appreciation for one another.” After earning her bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan College (the school’s name changed in 1975), she went on to earn her master’s degree from Howard University and her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing a postdoctoral study at Johns Hopkins University, she


HBCU Digest

March 2014

HBCU Digest Pays Tribute to Morgan State’s Dr. Ruthe Sheffey began teaching both French and English at Claflin College in South Carolina before ultimately returning to her alma mater, Morgan State. Sheffey’s passions were clearly expressed in her teaching and her talent began to exude throughout the campus. She won the Outstanding Educator Award from the Maryland Association for Higher Education in 1994, and the CLA Service Award from the College Language Association in 1996.She has written two books, Impressions in Asphalt (1969) and Trajectory: Fueling the Future and Preserving the African American Literary Past (1989). And though she retired in July of 2011, her former students continue to achieve at high levels. An updated list would include a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, a Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, a head speechwriter for a U.S. president, a nationally acclaimed singer and multiple academic leaders. An expert in 18th century literature, Sheffey’s fervor for the

subject began at an early age. “My mother loved literature and loved poetry...she knew lots and lots of poems by heart. She made a living in the arts, and that’s where I got that love from. She loved Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven.’ When I would invite friends over, those are the kinds of stories she would tell us; Poe’s ‘Raven’ and other poems.” Possibly the most notable of all of Sheffey’s achievements at Morgan State was the founding of the Zora Neale Hurston Society in 1984. Societies had been created for African-American writers, but none for female African-American writers. “In the late 70s, the Morgan public relations department found out that [Hurston] had received an honorary degree from Morgan, and wanted me to write a piece on her,” says Sheffey. “I became so interested in her, I kept going. I went to CLA, MLA and other meetings where we met scholars from HBCUs across the country. Many of those scholars founded


HBCU Digest

March 2014

the Langston Hughes Society. I was one of the early presidents thering her education, advancing both academically and proof that society, and I realized that we didn’t have one for a fessionally, then not only going back to teach at her alma mater prominent female African-American writer.” but helping nourish and improve the university, can be followed It is believed in academic circles that Hurston’s popularity, as a template for past, present and future HBCU students. as well as the overall recognition of female African-American Hollis fondly recounts an anecdote that summarizes the writers and their literary works, grew after Sheffey’s creation standards to which she held her students. of Hurston’s society. “This is not a personal story, but it is one with which I am “The Hurston Society’s popularity has spread across the quite familiar,” he says. “Dr. Sheffey set very high standards country, and its bi-annual conferences have attracted a large for her students and believed that it was her responsibility to and diverse body of scholars in African-American literature,” push them to their limits. In one of her composition courses, Hollis says. “Because one student took her of it and a number of insistence on excelother societies establence very seriously lished with Morgan and strove always leadership, Baltimore to do his very best. has become a Mecca Dr. Sheffey noticed for literary scholars, that, after in-class giving the association writing assignments, a national and regionthis student often al importance.” failed to turn in the In 2004, Sheffey assignment. Instead, established an enhe would ruffle up his dowed scholarship paper and toss it in for English majors at the trash can. Seeing the school, and she that the student was herself has given more unlikely to pass her than $100,000 to the class if he continued university. this practice and “We have launched knowing that the stuso many students into dents was very bright, the middle class,” she Dr. Ruthe Sheffey with Morgan State university President Emeritus Dr. Earl S. Richardson Dr. Sheffey retrieved says. “Those students in front of Sheffey Lecture Hall in MSU’s School of Communications building. one of his papers from need to remember the trash can. She was that there are other people behind them, who are struggling amazed at the quality of the writing that he deemed inadeand have thecapacity to break through. … It’s about compasquate and was tossing aside. His writing was, in fact, some of sion, caring, giving back.” the best in the class. That student was James Alan MacPherSheffey’s own inspiration for giving came from seeing actual prog- son, winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 1977 ress as a result of the efforts of those giving back to the campus. collection Elbow Room.” “I see tremendous growth,” Sheffey says. “When I entered Despite the tremendous strides that have been made at in 1943, Holmes Hall and Carnegie Hall...It was an aspiring Morgan State, Sheffey believes a growing lack of altruism, college, and now there’s all of these schools and a beautiful compassion and soft-heartedness necessary for long term setting. There is progress in the area of funding, and esteem.” success has been a swing in the wrong direction. Typically smaller universities, many HBCUs lack funding “One thing that disappoints me is that there is not as much from government and private donors. Reflecting the institulove as there used to be,” she says. “So much of what life tions’ commitment to educating low-income students, HBCU comes down to is about love. Faculty caring about students, tuition rates tend to be 50 percent lower than their PWI and students caring about the faculty who teach them.” counterparts, which translates to fewer operating dollars for “About five years before I retired, I had a student to curse in the institutions. Coupled with historically lower funding from class. And other boys in the class escorted him out and said foundations, corporations and federal and state governments, ‘we don’t have that at Morgan,’” she adds, lamenting a shift duplicating Sheffey’s mindset and influence to cultivate a givin culture that has kept students from holding each other ing culture are critical to the survival of the institutions. accountable to a standard of excellence and respect. The circular pattern of Sheffey’s accomplishments may be Dr. Ruthe Sheffey has truly set the bar quite high for other the most effectual aspect of her resume. Like the passing of a HBCU graduates. Her exceptional standards for teaching, torch or leaving markings on an uncharted path for others to belief in tradition, and continuous dedication to the Morgan follow, Sheffey’s road traveled is equally as important as her State campus exemplify her plan to keep “Fueling the Future accomplishments. Her process of beginning at an HBCU, fur- and Preserving the Past.” 22

HBCU Digest

March 2014

Dr. Ruthe Sheffey’s teaching career at Morgan State University has spanned over 60 years. She is the founding president of the Zora Neale Hurston Society, Founding Editor of the Zora Neale Hurston Forum, a recipient of the Iva G. Jones Medallion Mantle (the highest faculty award at the institution), a charter member of the MSU Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Morgan State University Outstanding Woman Award, and the MSU Academic Affairs Award for Outstanding Teacher. In 2009, the Ruthe T. Sheffey Lecture Hall in the Communication Center was unveiled, and in 2010, she received a commendation from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley during the state’s annual Black History Month Award program. She received the Outstanding Faculty Alumni Award in 2013.


HBCU Digest

The Alumni Difference

March 2014

Recent Graduates a Key Resource for their Alma Maters

By Autumn A. Arnett


HBCU Digest


ften the most overlooked, yet most valuable resource any institution can boast is its alumni. Alumni can serve as ambassadors, recruiting new classes of freshmen to the campuses that shaped their own lives. They can serve as fundraisers, encouraging other alumni as well as professional contacts to donate to the institutions and help further specific initiatives or just contribute to the neverlarge-enough endowment funds. They are the institution’s best storytellers and the biggest champions. “Attendees of HBCUs know their story better than anyone,” says Morehouse College alumnus Nicholas Austin. “They know the life-long benefits — ever expounding professional networks, self-confidence, sense of pride/self-worth, friends for a lifetime, etc. They breathed it, tasted it, lived it. The story is part of who they are. What better person to tell the story?” Austin tells his story at recruiting events he hosts for the college several times per year, and through mentoring prospective and current Morehouse students. For Bennett College alumna Kenya Gray, introducing her alma mater to students at Friendship Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C. served as a not only a sense of pride, but a way that the school teacher, who did not believe she made enough money to make a huge impact with donations, could give back to Bennett. “My intensive love affair with recruiting began the day a young lady came to my classroom to ask me to help her with her college application for none other than Bennett College. I was so elated,” Gray says. Eventually, her work with helping students with college applications during her lunch hour transformed into Gray becoming the school’s college access counselor, which enabled her to help more than just future Bennett Belles, though she maintained her intense recruiting on behalf of Bennett College. “In the course of those six years I spent at FPCS, I talked about Bennett so much that I transformed the high school into a feeder school for Bennett by sending between 3-5 girls from each graduating class to Bennett,” she says. “I am proud to personally have a hand in more than 15 girls who attended and graduated from Bennett between the years 2008-2013.” Those 15 girls, she realizes, translate into tangible dollars on campus, by way of tuition paid, for her alma mater. Now a relationship manager at the United Negro College Fund, she continues her work of sending students not just to her HBCU, but to HBCUs across the country. Delaware State University alumnus Delano Hunter says that working on behalf of one’s alma mater is not a difficult decision. “For me, it starts with a great appreciation for the opportunities provided by the university. The opportunity for a quality education, to develop my leadership ability, to travel to world via studying abroad, and the chance to mature socially,” he says. “DSU taught me to believe in myself and that I could compete with any other student in the world.” Hunter also says that as the recipient of a full scholarship from the university, he feels that not giving back to Delaware State “would be a crime.”

March 2014

“Most HBCU alumni will agree on the importance of preserving our institutions for current and future generations. However, that future will not secure itself without us all doing our part,” he adds. “Alumni are the torchbearers for their schools,” Gray says.“The gospel of an education is a song that our ancestors have been singing for hundreds of years. It changes the trajectory of families; consequently, it changes the trajectory of communities. It is our responsibility to lift as we climb.” Every Little Bit Counts For many recent alumni, the idea that one must give a substantial amount to make a difference deters their giving. “I believe the reason HBCUs struggle with converting students to donors is multifaceted,” says Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) President Dr. Robert Jennings. “First, most students at our institutions are on one or more forms of financial assistance. At The Lincoln University, 96 percent of our students are on financial aid and the majority of our students graduate with a debt in excess of $40K. Thus, it becomes difficult for students to start immediately giving back, especially when there has been little or no mentioning of this while they were enrolled. … Another reason we have difficulty converting students to donors is that we often do a poor job of staying in touch with alumni.” Citing the high number of students receiving financial aid, and thus high amounts of student debt upon graduation, Jennings says recent alumni “are often seeking to pay back loans and sometimes feel that a small gift is embarrassing and ultimately end up sending nothing.” “Again, this is a lack of helping them to understand while they are enrolled the importance of giving, regardless of the amount,” he says. “Alumni gifts help us to report a decent percentage of alumni who gave and often positions us to make a better pitch to corporations and foundations who often ask, ‘how much do your alumni support the school?’” “You don’t have to be a millionaire to pay it forward to your alma mater,” Hunter says “State and federal funds are drying up for HBCUs. To remain relevant and competitive, we have to expand our endowments and fundraising ability. The primary catalyst should be alumni. We all owe so much to our beloved institutions.” Gray says that, in addition to money, alumni can lend themselves as extension of HBCU public relations offices, which will also serve as a great help to the institutions. “When I talk to recent alumni or current students, my number one advice for giving back is to be a vocal advocate for their school,” she says. “Always be proud of your alma mater. Provide the school with the free PR that it so desperately needs to show the world what great things are happening on your campus. Every time you tweet, hashtag your school; every time you Facebook, tag your school’s official page; each time you take a picture for Instagram, attach the appropriate tag for your school. Publicity is what drives up the application pool; pride for the school keeps current students’ matriculating. As an alumna of a school with little to moderate name


HBCU Digest

recognition, it is important to show what good things are happening in our community. Seasoned alumni are excited to share and more inclined to provide a financial contribution when they see progress.” Hunter believes that critical to the success of this effort is writing a check and encouraging others to do the same. This is the idea behind recent campaigns at Xavier and Howard universities, where alumni groups have started “Give Back Your Graduation Year” campaigns, encouraging young alumni to overcome the idea that they couldn’t give enough to make a difference. Keith Laing, a former Hilltop editor and one of the co-architects of Howard’s campaign, says of his fellow classmates, “We’re all former student leaders and we got tired of reading distressing headlines about our alma mater that we love. We started having email chains about what was going on and somebody decided to organize the calls into a conference call and then we leveraged our connections to try to establish a working relationship with the university administration.” From this effort came the “give back your graduation year” campaign at Howard, which has seen success in the trial run. “Every one would average giving 20 dollars, which most people spend on a burrito and pop at Chipotle,” says Danielle

March 2014

Perry, the unofficial “president” of the Howard alumni campaign. “I don’t think it’s much to ask for a yearly donation to the university.” A Giving Culture “I think giving is a personal decision,” Austin says.“Monetary giving immediately comes to mind, but giving should only be limited by the depths of one’s imagination. I have some friends that mentor and tutor current college students. Others write checks. Some participate in recruiting efforts. I think what matters here most is that you simply GIVE.” “You build a culture of giving among current students by informing them during freshman orientation that they are needed to sustain the institution now that they have enrolled,” Jennings says. “You must also mention this to them at least once or twice during each year they are enrolled. You fully explain, as my president at Morehouse College did when I was a freshman, that if the institution fails or go out of business, it will be partly their fault and that their degree will not have as much value as it will have if it continues to thrive and survive. Students must be told that they have responsibility to do several things for the institution and that it starts while they are currently

Bennett College alumna Kenya Gray takes pride in recruiting on behalf of her alma mater. She started off informally assisting students with college applications, and now works closely with the director of admissions and vice president of enrollment management at college fairs, recruitment workshops and throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area to expose young women in the District to Bennett College. 26

HBCU Digest

enrolled,” adds Jennings. “Supporting our HBCUs financially has to become a part of our culture,” says Hunter, who is leading the young alumni effort to engage alumni in the DC area aged 40 and younger as part of the DSU Inspiring Greatness Campaign. “Black folks are amongst the most generous with our money. We raise family members as if they are our own and support our churches and places of worship with regular tithes and offering,” he says. “However, that generosity hasn’t extended to our institution. If we can start to instill the importance of financial support to student during their matriculation and actively engage younger alumni, we have an opportunity to change behavior going forward.” The HBCU Difference Gray reflects on the impact her time at Bennett had on her life when considering the debt she owes the university. “Bennett College is the place where I learned that ‘whatever I envision, I can achieve,’” she says.“The same rings true for all alumni across the country.” Austin, who often compares his Morehouse experience with his experience as a law student at Georgetown University, says his experience at Morehouse is a testament to the nurturing

March 2014

environment that makes HBCUs great. “Morehouse changed my life. I was that kid with high ACT/ SAT scores and a near 4.0 GPA,” he says.“Probability says that I could have attend any school in America and more likely than not have realized my dream of becoming an attorney. … Morehouse instills in its graduates that personal success is only as important as what you choose to do with your success. Morehouse showed me the importance of building families, communities and cultures for the common good of us all.” Conversely, he says, “Georgetown felt cold. Sure, a worldclass institution by any measure, yet distant and lonely. I knew my Georgetown education could open any door I needed opened in the legal world, but it could not give me that sense of home. That ever-present feeling of belonging to something.” “While I’m ever thankful of the opportunities Georgetown enables me to enjoy everyday in my law practice, there’s just something about being at a place where you feel you’re wanted, welcomed, even celebrated. My Georgetown classmates don’t call me on my birthdays, my Morehouse ones do.” “For me, Bennett College was the place where the girl I was met the woman I became,” Gray says. “I want other young ladies to see the potential in themselves to become globally responsible women who have the courage to move mountains.”

At the University of the Virgin Islands, Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Affairs in the Office of Institutional Advancement Linda Smith (second from left) says it is important to reach out to current students to involve them as volunteers on behalf of the university, so that once they graduate, the importance of giving back to the institution is already engrained in their minds.


HBCU Digest

March 2014

Historically ≠ Predominantly Some HBCUs Serve Mostly Non-Black Students in the 21st Century

By Shana Pinnock


rior to the Civil War, there stood no structured post-secondary system of higher education for African-Americans who were denied admission to, or altogether prohibited from, traditionally White institutions. For over 100 years, historically Black colleges and universities have served the mission of educating the underrepresented minority; however, for some HBCUs, the social and economic implications of the post-World War II environment brought a sudden shift in the racial composition of their student populations. Schools like Bluefield State University in West Virginia, Lincoln

University of Missouri and West Virginia State University now serve majority White student bodies. The 1954 decision of Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court declared segregation illegal, marked, arguably, the start of the shift in these schools’ student populations. “Ever since Brown v. Board, Lincoln has enrolled White students,” says Lincoln President Dr. Kevin D. Rome. “The number increased pretty quickly, although I don’t believe there was ever an intentional set plan to integrate the campus based on the new population.” Dierdre Guyton, director of Bluefield

State’s alumni affairs department, agrees. “There was a demographic change already happening in the surrounding area. After Brown v. Board, [Bluefield] seemed to be the most attractive option for many Whites in the area.” Guyton refers to the out-migration of African-Americans in West Virginia who originally settled in the region due to the abundance of coal mining jobs. However, new technology soon made mining jobs obsolete, and “when the mines shut down, [Black] people quickly started to move out of the state,” says Guyton. This relocation of a once vast AfricanAmerican community easily contributed


HBCU Digest

March 2014

to the Bluefield State and West Virginia State student bodies now. You can’t help but wonder if these White students are now housing a nearly 90 and 70 percent White population, re- going to take the steps to preserve [Bluefield State’s] history.” spectively. African-Americans comprise only three percent of Despite the large “other” student populace at some of these West Virginia’s population. Post-WWII, as veterans — many HBCUs, many administrators still feel as though they are of them White — returned to West Virginia eager to use their serving their schools’ original missions of serving the unnew education benefits. derrepresented minority. St. Phillip’s Community College in Rome notes that despite Lincoln University’s majority San Antonio, Texas houses a nearly 50 percent Hispanic, 35 White population, its African-American student body still percent White, and 15 percent African-American, Asian, and manages to have a traditional HBCU experience. “other” student body. “Lincoln is a special place because we really have two stuSt. Phillip’s is unique in that it is also classified as a Hispandent populations. The first are commuter students who are ic-Serving Institution (HSI). usually not as engaged in social activities, and happen to be “I think it speaks to [St. Phillip’s] having a rich culture,” says majority White. Then there are the traditional HBCU undercurrent St. Phillip’s student Jessica Torres. “I personally like graduate students who live on campus. They are engaged in the diversity, but I can see where some people would become clubs, organizations, and student government and, I’ve found, upset if all of a sudden their schools had the comfort of havare of color.” ing people who look like them, Despite the seemingly diverse to very blatantly not.” student population at Lincoln, Rome has found the integration A New Reality of the races merely symbolic and But Dr. George Cooper, not an actuality. executive director of the White “The interaction [among the House Initiative on Historically races] happens, but not to the Black Colleges and Universities, point that it should be,” he says. says that the HBCU commu“Our students have very separate nity should not be upset by this experiences and we are not as changing reality. unified as an institution as we “The reality is that our HBCU should be. The time has come for institutions have never said us to integrate those experiences. they were only going to educate We can’t continue to coexist, but Black students,” Cooper says. not uniformly exist.” “These were schools that were Some alumni of Lincoln and accredited, or working towards Bluefield State would vehemently accreditation, and due to the disagree with Rome’s sentiment. politics and race relations at the “The racial change to the stutime, were only able to educate dent body is a touchy subject for African-American students. many of our alum,” says Guyton. Schools like Bluefield State and “There are some who are positive West Virginia State have always about it and some who are negaacknowledged their HBCU tive. I think their main concern is history and have remained true at least preserving the history of to their missions — which is rethe school.” cruiting and educating students Rome agrees that there is a of all colors. If their number of push and pull for alumni conenrolled Black students changed cerned about maintaining the due to outside economic school’s history. factors, how can we blame the Schools like West Virginia State University maintain their HBCU “For many of our alumni there designation despite Black students being in the minority. institution?” is a struggle and I can see both Some alumni of Bluefield State sides,” he says. “There is a definite attitude of ‘we’re losing would disagree, citing the bombing of the school’s student something in our history,’ that we’re going to lose our unigymnasium in 1968, during a time when racial tensions over versity instead of embracing the opportunity that there is a the hiring of the school’s first White president and the assasrichness now in our community that should be celebrated.” sination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were running high. In One Bluefield State alumna, who graduated in 1951, protest, some Black students participated in the bombing of the building. laments that it’s often painful to return to her alma mater and Though the explosion did not produce any injuries, the find it has completely changed. school’s administration responded by closing the campus “I just can’t believe how few Blacks there are on that campus dormitories — buildings that primarily housed the college’s


HBCU Digest

out-of-state Black students. This change led to an even more rapid transformation in Bluefield’s student body. There are many students, past and present, of these HBCUs that do not blame their institutions for race population changes. Instead, they question how these historically Black, but majority White, colleges are able to maintain their HBCU status. The Higher Education Act of 1965, signed under the Lyndon B. Johnson administration was established in an effort to increase financial funding for universities and students. As amended, Section 322 (a) of the Act defines an HBCU as “…any historically Black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered, or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.” Under this definition, it seems, any HBCU, despite its lack of African-American predominance, is unlikely to lose its HBCU status, and federal funding, unless legislators were to make a massive amendment, a change Cooper says “would take away a lot of the history of these institutions. Our nation is based on the fact that we have diverse institutional missions; this is what [the Obama administration] is embracing.” What, then, about institutions that began with predominantly White student bodies that now house an overwhelming

March 2014

population of African-American students? The United States government does not recognize these schools as HBCUs, for obvious historical reasons, but does take measures to ensure that they, too, receive federal funding for contributing to the access of education and opportunities to the underrepresented African-American community. These institutions are thus classified as Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs). Under Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965, to be eligible for federal grants, each college or university must have no less than a 40 percent African-American student body. Schools such as Chicago State University, Medgar Evers College, Prairie State College and the University of West Alabama among others, are institutions that have seen rapid growth in their Black student populations. PBI government grants are focused on three core areas: enhancing STEM education, internationalization and globalization and improving outcomes for African-Americans.” “It truly doesn’t matter whether these schools are HBCUs, PBIs, or predominantly white institutions,” declares current Medgar Evers student Wrayana Sprosta. “ [Medgar Evers] does not have to be classified as an HBCU, and now-white HBCUs do not have to be stripped of their historical status. Acknowledgement of the past and present is wonderful, but really all that matters are these schools are helping students get an education that they, otherwise, may not have had the opportunity to receive.”



Crystal a. deGreGory, editor-in-Chief sydney freeman, Jr., manaGinG editor

March 2014  

Community Engagement Edition

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