New Directions for Leadership in the College Presidency at MSIs


Roland Bullard

The search for MSI presidents continues to be a daunting task as institutions struggle with declining enrollments, governmental support, increased alumni concerns, and smaller donation pools. Coupled with the fact that, according to American Council on Education’s On the Pathway to the Presidency (2013), more than 60% of college presidents are at retirement age, and the presidential selection pool is shrinking, it may be time to cast the ‘net’ a little wider when recruiting the next generation of MSI presidents.

That said, despite the limited presidential selection pool, chief student affairs officers (CSAOs) are least likely to be selected for appointment. In fact, in 2007 fewer than 200 college presidents listed CSAO as one of their two prior positions. Additionally, in my dissertation research, where a sample of executive search firm partners was interviewed, one of the most compelling findings was that search firms often overlook even seasoned student affairs executives as viable presidential candidates. Some firms reported that they would never even consider a CSAO for the post.

Five recent presidential hires, however, may signal a trend in hiring for MSI chiefs with student affairs backgrounds. While this is not an exhaustive list, these five presidents serve as interesting case studies:

  • Kevin Rome accepted his first presidency this fall at Lincoln University (Missouri) after serving in three consecutive posts as senior student affairs officer. In his most recent position at North Carolina Central University, he implemented retention initiatives focusing on student satisfaction. The Eagle Service Center, for instance, is a “one-stop shop” model that is being implemented widely as it ensures students receive efficient support services from a central location.
  • Dwaun Warmack began his tenure at Harris-Stowe State University this summer, after serving, among other roles, as the chief student affairs officer at Bethune-Cookman University.  Warmack brought a student-centered, data-driven approach to the institution that resulted in years of record enrollments even in the face of what many called the “Parent Plus Loan debacle.”
  • Logan C. Hampton was recently hired as the 10th president of Lane College. Prior to this appointment, he held the position of vice president for student affairs at University of Arkansas – Little Rock. During his time at UA-LR it is reported that he greatly improved student services, programs and facilities.
  • Brian O. Hemphill is the 10th president at West Virginia State University. The former student affairs chief at Northern Illinois University, he is a nationally known practitioner and scholar on issues of student development, retention, and community concerns. His vision: “West Virginia State University will become the most student-centered, research and teaching, land-grant University in the state.” Dr. Hemphill also recently received a five-year contract extension after a successful start to his tenure.
  • Walter Kimbrough enters his third year at Dillard University after a successful stead as president of Philander Smith College (PSC). Kimbrough’s tenure at PSC included improvements to the physical plant, increases in the endowment, and alumni giving. However, most impressive may have been his legacy of a more socially conscious student body. Additionally, his intentional engagement on the social media front has also garnered national attention with prospective/current students and the popular media.

The common thread in the career paths for these presidents is their preparation in student affairs administration. Additionally, these candidates have exhibited qualities that are needed to advance the mission and sustainability of MSIs. These skills include: student engagement, increasing alumni giving, data-driven decision making, and success in enrollment management.

That said, in the hiring of these candidates, do we see a hiring trend for MSIs emerging? What would this trend say about the evolving priorities and commitment of presidential search committees? Do these selections suggest that there is a renewed focus by MSIs on our most important asset and resource: students? Should search firms look more closely at executives in student affairs for presidential candidates? Possibly. However, further research is needed to assess the effectiveness of these professionals after three to five years on the job to determine if this is a trend worth noting. Kimbrough and Hemphill’s success at PSC, Dillard and WVSU, respectively, may be a strong indicator of the positive outcomes of a student affairs-trained leader at the helm.

For additional information:

Governmental Support:

Smaller donation pools:

Declining Enrollment:

Alumni Concerns:

Dr. Roland Bullard is Vice President for Student Development at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter: @drbullard

Why Tribal Colleges Matter: Our Response to The Hechinger Report

Cheryl Crazybull

Cheryl Crazy Bull

In regard to the article “Tribal colleges give poor return on more than $100 million a year in federal money” in the November 26, 2014 issue of The Hechinger Report which also ran in The Atlantic under the title “The Failure of Tribal Schools”: Sarah Butrymowicz misses several salient points about the challenges facing tribal colleges (TCUs) and their students concerning the colleges’ mission to give—and their students’ goal to earn—a higher education.  We appreciate the importance of analyzing data as it pertains to higher education given the challenges faced in this country when addressing student completion and the cost of higher education.  But as with all analysis, context is the most critical basis for any examination.

Butrymowicz looks at the need for TCU students to receive remedial education when entering college, as well as their graduation rates, but she touches only lightly on the underlying reasons for this. The answer is not simple, but it is tied to socioeconomics. Poverty and its attendant social issues are what prevent so many Native students from entering a college or university, let alone graduating. This nation’s TCUs have been remarkably successful in helping students overcome incredible barriers to entering college and have over time consistently helped students to achieve their educational goals and attain successful employment.

TCUs are able to achieve this despite the roadblocks that prevent Native Americans from entering a college or university, which are well in place before students graduate from high school. According to the Fact Sheet issued by the White House on December 3, 2014 for the sixth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, in poor reservation communities nearly half of Native American people (42 percent) are under the age of 24; more than one-third of Native children live in poverty; and Native youth have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools. Last June President Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in North and South Dakota (also home of the TCU Sitting Bull College), spurring him to unveil initiatives this week to help young Native Americans and the education system serving them. The White House said they are in a “state of emergency” and the educational, socioeconomic, health and other issues facing young Native people are “nothing short of an academic crisis.”

In the December 3 issue of The Washington Post, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the current status of education and poverty impacting Native Americans is unacceptable. Yet Jewell added that the political arena, its funding constraints, and the lack of budget for the coming year makes it difficult to say if the $2.6 billion budget the Obama administration requested for Indian affairs to address the issues of endemic poverty and substandard education will be available.

The results of that substandard education and poverty that Jewell refers to include low academic readiness (74 percent of students require remedial math instruction and 50 percent require remedial reading or writing). This can be traced to a lack of modern services in schools and Native communities, including lack of college-prep track courses, inadequate funding for Title III student support services, and the lack or scarcity of college counselors and 21st century counseling programs in Native high schools. Tribal colleges counter that by working to get their students performing. They provide students with the tutoring, mentoring, and additional coursework they need to succeed at the college level.

College tuition costs combined with a low income are also a barrier to higher education attainment, perpetuating the inequity when it comes to Native Americans completing a certificate program or earning a college degree. According to the American Community Survey 2013, in 2013 inflation-adjusted dollars, the average per capita income of an American Indian or Alaska Native is $16,777, with 28.9% living below poverty (poverty figures are often much higher on reservations).  According to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), the average cost of a TCU education was $14,566 for 2013-14. Looking at these figures, it is clear that for most Native students the possibility of earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree without financial assistance is a distant dream. Any interruption of aid or occurrence that to most people would be a bump in the road, such as a car repair or family emergency, can force Native students to give up plans of entering college or leave school never to return, making their dream of a higher education unobtainable. Data from the American Indian College Fund, the nation’s largest provider of scholarships for American Indian and Alaska Native students, shows that only 1 in 20 of our scholarship applicants can afford to attend college without financial assistance, reinforcing the financial need of Native American students.

Unemployment is also a major challenge in tribal communities. According to the U.S. Department of Interior in a study using statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, in several states (including Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota, where there are large populations of Native Americans and many TCUs are located) data shows that less than 50% of Native Americans are working who are ages 16 and older and who are living in or near tribal areas of federally recognized tribes.

Participation in the federal Pell Grant program is another way to gauge student need. According to The College Board, the national average for all students receiving Pell Grants at all schools in academic year 2012-13 was 36%. This compares to AIHEC data that shows Pell Grant recipients at TCUs are nearly 80% of the student population. With the maximum Pell Grant amount per academic year at $5,645 and an average cost of a TCU education at $14,566, this leaves an average of $8,921 of unmet financial need for TCU students. Yet only two TCUs participate in the federal student loan program, so many students cannot attend without additional financial assistance.

Native Americans must overcome other challenges to accessing a higher education and succeeding once they are in school. These issues include long commutes (the average commute for a TCU student is 30-100 miles one way, and there is little or no public transportation available in remote reservation areas—requiring impoverished students to have access to a vehicle); a large number of first-generation students at TCUs (59% of all students and 52% of first-time entering students are first-generation students—AIHEC data); and social issues including self-esteem issues and high rates of suicide on reservations due to unresolved historical trauma. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death amongst Native Americans ages 15-24, according to federal statistics.

These are the barriers faced by both Native Americans seeking a higher education and the TCUs whose mission it is to provide it. The good news is Native communities and Native students clearly value a higher education and TCUs are heavily invested in and dedicated to the students and communities they serve. Yes, TCUs are the most poorly funded institutions of higher learning in the United States compared to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and state land-grant institutions, as Butrymowicz illustrates. She notes that current TCU funding per student is $5,850 per student compared to federal authorization to fund at $8,000 per student (which compares to the average of $20,000 per student that Howard University, a historically black college, receives per student). Despite this, TCUs write off an average of $100,000 in tuition costs annually for their students—making do with less than their educational counterparts to keep their doors open for the communities they serve. And despite the overwhelming financial obstacles to obtaining a higher education, Native student enrollment has grown by 23% over the past five years according to AIHEC, as more students see a higher education as a path to self-sufficiency, a better life, and a way to help their communities.

TCU students, once they overcome these challenges to enter college, contribute positively to the socioeconomic situation of their states and tribal college communities along with the schools themselves. According to a study conducted by North Dakota State University, the five tribal colleges located in North Dakota generated more than $142 million of economic impact to the state in Fiscal Year 2012 and employed 815 full-time and 209 part-time workers.

The American Indian College Fund believes that providing additional resources for financial access to a post-secondary education at TCUs and support for TCU programs and initiatives focused on student success is the best way to increase the number of Natives who receive and complete a higher education. These programs must start as early as kindergarten to prepare students for future success through STEM, literacy, leadership, and mentoring programs, to name a few. Programs should also provide access to post-secondary education for students and faculty; and higher education should provide meaningful higher learning opportunities. Finally, all learning opportunities should be paired with support for meaningful employment for Native graduates. As long as we ignore Native students’ unmet educational and financial needs alongside the unique social and historical barriers they face in accessing a higher education—while continuing to evaluate the value of TCUs on the basis of taxpayer benefit rather than the benefit of a higher education to Native students and their communities—Native students will continue to be at a disadvantage.

Reprinted with permission from the American Indian College Fund

Cheryl Crazy Bull is President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. She also serves on the advisory board for the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

HBCUs and the Urgent Need for Effective Governance


Alvin J. Schexnider

Recently, the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) released an exceptional document, Consequential Boards: Adding Value Where It Matters Most. This report is the handiwork of the National Commission on College and University Board Governance chaired by former Tennessee Governor Philip Bredesen and comprised of a blue ribbon panel of higher education leaders and policy experts. It is arguably, the most important statement on higher education governance ever released and its importance cannot be overstated. The release of the report is timely for all of higher education and particularly for colleges and universities experiencing fiscal and enrollment challenges. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) especially will want to read the report carefully given their individual and collective plight.

Consequential Boards offers seven recommendations and while each has major value, they are interdependent. In order to achieve the desired results, all must be addressed and implemented as a unitary goal. They are as follows:

  1. Boards must improve value in their institutions and lead a restoration of public trust in higher education itself.
  2. Boards must add value to institutional leadership and decision making by focusing on their essential role as institutional fiduciaries.
  3. Boards must act to assure the long-term sustainability of their institutions by addressing changed finances and the imperative to deliver a high-quality education at a lower cost.
  4. Boards must improve shared governance within their institutions through attention to board-president relationships and a reinvigoration of faculty shared governance. Boards additionally must attend to leadership development in their institutions, both for presidents and faculty.
  5. Boards must improve their own capacity and functionality through increased attention to the qualifications and recruitment of members, board orientation, committee composition, and removal of members for cause.
  6. Boards must focus their time on issues of greatest consequence to the institution by reducing time spent reviewing routine reports and redirecting attention to cross-cutting and strategic issues not addressed elsewhere.
  7. Boards must hold themselves accountable for their own performance by modeling the same behaviors and performance they expect from others in their institutions.

Why is this report particularly important for HBCUs?   First and foremost, this is a watershed moment for the nation’s 105 black colleges and universities. Many, if not most, appear to be struggling financially and perform less than average on metrics like retention and six-year completion rates. It is doubtful that most can survive without substantial changes in their business model, leadership and governance. In my judgment, it is in the realm of governance that HBCUs are most challenged and that is why Consequential Boards warrants their immediate attention.

The single most important decision a board makes is hiring a president. Usually, when an HBCU president leaves, he or she is perceived as having failed. What is often overlooked is the governing board’s role in the matter. If the president fails, the board has to assume some responsibility. Governing boards must support presidents while holding them accountable. Boards must not get involved in the daily operations of the institution but must ensure that policies and procedures are in place and followed by the president and the leadership team. The performance of presidents should be regularly evaluated and so should the performance of boards. Today, perhaps more than ever, boards must ensure that trustees possess the skill sets required for effective governance: knowledge of higher education, finances, information technology, strategic planning, marketing and branding, etc.

In 1900, there were 10 black medical schools. By 1923, there were only two: Meharry Medical College and Howard University Medical Department (as it was then called). With the creation of Morehouse School of Medicine in 1975, there are now three. In short, we should not delude ourselves about the fact that HBCUs are imperiled and neither should we be surprised when some are closed as have several in recent years. The simple truth is that some HBCUs are not salvageable. By addressing the urgent need for effective governance we can improve the life chances of some of these incredibly invaluable institutions.

Alvin J. Schexnider is the author of Saving Black Colleges (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He is a former chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, a board governance consultant to the Association of Governing Boards, and an advisory board member to the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Race and Doctoral Student Socialization: Looking to HBCUs and MSIs to Address Vulnerabilities in Doctoral Education


Pamela Petrease Felder

A recently published article by Felder, Stevenson & Gasman (2014) focused on race and doctoral student socialization suggests that racial interaction, racial encounters and the embracing of racial interests continue to be some of the most difficult issues to navigate during the doctoral process for marginalized students. Oftentimes, these issues are situated within the exchange of student research interests and the purpose of meaningful faculty support. Further research on this exchange can facilitate greater awareness about how we can support the next generation of faculty leaders and practitioners. Two reports in particular have emphasized the need for this additional study: The Path Forward (2010) and a subsequent report titled, Pathways through Graduate School and into Careers (2012). In addition to discussing general trends about U.S. graduate education, these reports also suggest that research about underrepresented students within doctoral process should consider how a lack of understanding the underrepresented student experience creates vulnerabilities in our graduate education system and sustained our individual and organizational capacity for innovation related to an awareness of the nuances associated with the graduate student experience.

The role of HBCUs and MSIs in addressing vulnerabilities is essential to identifying and attracting talented students from historically marginalized groups. Comprehensive efforts are in place but greater importance must be placed on strategies to incorporate transitions into doctoral education; emphasizing degree completion. Efforts to develop effective strategies for supporting academic success and degree completion must consider attrition and the reasons students silently trickle out of programs. These efforts should be central to the institutional mission for recruitment and to the building of student service infrastructure. Understanding why and how students leave their doctoral programs are just as essential to understanding why and how students graduate. This knowledge is also essential to creating interventions that are aligned with specific organizational aspects associated with the student experience.

New kinds of innovative approaches for implementing these efforts should be considered and they should prioritize diversity practices and research. This includes novel ways of academically advising marginalized students. Felder and Barker (2013) discuss the value of understanding how research interests converge between students and faculty member and using characteristics associated with successful advisement strategies as models for student-faculty exchange. Talented students enter doctoral programs with expertise about being academically successful. Should their academic journeys involve tremendous hardship and challenges, their knowledge of overcoming them is wrought with rich cultural insights about navigating the academic process. Expression of this knowledge should be supported and challenged to cultivate new knowledge pathways focused on building practical competencies that are transferrable to a variety of professional contexts. For the doctoral students this should also include consideration of academic and nonacademic career opportunities.

Another important effort is building capacity for the preparation of future faculty members. In doing this it’s important to consider the rapidly changing demographics within college university contexts and the ways technology plays a role in facilitating capacity development. Culturally relevant technology including social media can be instrumental in communicating ideas, building relationships, and demonstrating support and a coalition-building of ideas. However, it’s important to consider how this technology can hinder meaningful dialogue and the translation of identities across generational and disciplinary gaps. Preparation of future faculty means that students will enter professional domains to work among multiple-stakeholders with a variety of generational and disciplinary backgrounds. Many diversity models emphasize the importance intercultural and multicultural competencies in developing infrastructures supportive of racial and cultural awareness.

Ultimately, strengthening the capacity of doctoral programs at HBCUs and other MSIs can improve our understanding of race and doctoral student socialization as they relate to vulnerabilities within doctoral education. Though racism has been considered a national birth defect, with sustained attention to understanding the perceptions of doctoral students who may be concerned with improving conditions associated with race, there is tremendous potential for healing the wounds of our past and improving our nation’s ability to compete and thrive globally.

Dr. Pamela Petrease Felder is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland – Eastern Shore (UMES) and an affiliate of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.


Latino Student Success at HBCUs


Taryn O. Allen

A recent report by the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions highlighted the diversification of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country, but particularly in Texas. Home to nine HBCUs, Texas offers a unique context to explore the increasing diversity in HBCUs, as it is at the intersection of a booming Latina/o population and the HBCU network of the South. Texas HBCUs are slowly beginning to reflect the demographic reality of the state.

Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas is an Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), and St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas is recognized as an HBCU and an HSI. In fact, seven of the top ten HBCUs with the highest percentage of Latina/o students are located in Texas. Latino representation in HBCUs is further demonstrated in the development of campus activities and student organizations established to promote Hispanic culture. For example, Texas HBCUs have hosted film, dance, art, food, and music events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. In addition, Texas HBCUs have chartered Latina/o student associations, professional organizations, and Latina/o Greek Letter Organizations (LGLOs). Recently, Paul Quinn College made school history by crowning a Latina as Miss PQC – a first for its 86-year-old pageant.

To further understand the collegiate experience of Latina/o students enrolled in Texas HBCUs, I conducted two qualitative studies at two four-year HBCUs. The students in these studies shared opportunities and challenges they encountered at their institutions and offered suggestions for long-term strategies to support Latina/o students socially, culturally, and academically.

First, they highlighted the importance of educating students and families on the history and purpose of HBCUs. Some students shared they did not know they were attending a predominantly African American institution until their first day on campus. Early conversations in the recruitment process can inform students of the traditions and legacy of HBCUs and help counter “culture shock,” especially for Latina/o students from culturally homogenous communities. Orientation sessions, small groups, and mentoring programs can introduce buen ejemplos (role models) who can assist Latina/o students as they acclimate to a new college environment.

Second, Latina/o student associations, sororities, and fraternities can enrich the on-campus experience, but they present unique challenges as well. Several participants attempted to establish these organizations, but they became frustrated when the groups did not thrive. They also struggled to identify opportunities to fully participate in campus traditions (e.g., homecoming). These organizations and their budding leaders would benefit from extensive advisor support, leadership trainings, as well as on-campus programming collaborations to develop a sense of familia (family) and promote a strong sense of belonging.

In addition, students in LGLOs sometimes struggled to find their place on campus. Each LGLO has its distinct history, mission, national and regional organizational structure, and new member intake process. Therefore, their support and needs are different from National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternities and sororities that were founded at HBCUs and traditionally have Black members. Educating advisors and administrators and honoring the distinctions of LGLOs’ processes and procedures can better support the members and help Latina/o-founded sororities and fraternities prosper.

Finally, students expressed interest in increasing the Latina/o presence in classroom materials and discussions. Students greatly appreciated the welcoming and receptive faculty at their HBCU. They felt these close relationships would be strengthened if faculty had greater knowledge on Latina/o history and leaders. Although they enjoyed learning African American history and literature, the curriculum made them curious of Latina/o contributions to society and students yearned for more information on their own heritage. Acknowledging the diversity in the classroom and ensuring curricula reflect the backgrounds of students provide academic and interpersonal validation and foster a sense of comunidad (community).

Latina/o student success is a national imperative and especially critical as this population continues to struggle with degree completion. As the Latina/o population continues to grow, HBCUs, especially those in Texas, can offer a viable educational opportunity. Increased diversification has direct and indirect influences on campus culture, faculty and staff development, teaching and learning, and alumni relations, and HBCUs must be proactive and respond promptly and thoughtfully. Since each campus is unique, faculty and administrators should carefully consider their current policies and practices as their campus diversifies

Dr. Taryn O. Allen is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) and an affiliate of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Homecoming: The Importance of Paying it Forward


Atiya S. Strothers

If you are a parent who has or has had a child in college, the moment in which they come home is often met with feelings of joy, love, happiness, anticipation, and a grocery list of the student’s favorite foods. Preparation is done at home to make sure their room is how they left it, or in some cases, a tad cleaner. The college student may find new things at home that were not present before and most importantly the people they care for dearly are the ones that make a visit home worthwhile. This same feeling and experience is what happens during this season of homecoming seen at colleges and universities across the country.

Homecomings at HBCUs are rich in tradition and bring thousands of alumni, their families, and friends together. It is a time of reconnecting, reminiscing, and creating new memories. There are many memorable moments at homecoming including the homecoming bazaar, step show, tailgating, and of course the band (who really watches the game?). The experience of an HBCU homecoming undoubtedly holds a special place in the hearts of many alumni.

HBCUs do not have the large endowments of their historically white peer institutions; therefore alumni giving plays a major part in the sustainability of these institutions and traditions. Just as much as the tailgating and band are engrained in the culture of a HBCU homecoming, so should be the idea of making a contribution to your alma mater.

At Morgan State University, President David Wilson implemented ‘The Five Dollar Scholarship Fund’ reflecting his personal story. On the day he went to college, his father was very proud to give him five dollars to send him off. This fund offers the opportunity for many alumni to donate throughout the year and during homecoming season. The ‘Fine Line of 79’ of the Alpha Gamma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. exemplified this idea as they came together to donate $1,260 towards this fund as they celebrated 35 years on Morgan’s yard. Similarly, Howard University (HU) launched a “Bridging the Gap Student Aid Campaign.” Through various avenues, including social media, the campaign has become known to many. The HU classes of 1971-1983 donated $25,000 to their alma mater towards this campaign during homecoming. These campaigns are in place to help students and are examples that no matter the amount, every dollar counts when you are continuing the mission of providing quality education.

Black alumni are recognizing the importance of giving back to their institutions in order to support the next generation of HBCU scholarship. This is critical for the Black community overall. Blacks have tremendous buying power in the United States — $1 trillion worth. What would happen if we used more of that power and put it into our businesses and our schools?

Investing in our HBCUs is an act of ‘paying it forward.’ As we make our way home and indulge in the nostalgic places, foods, and memories, imagine what momma would think if we not only came home, but we also brought something back to invest in our home. During this season of homecoming, I dare you to ‘pay it forward.’

Atiya S. Strothers is a Ph.D. Student in the Theory, Organization, & Policy (TOP) Program in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University.

Hispanic Serving Institutions & Federal Support

POT_luna-duarte, maria-2 copy

Maria E. Luna-Duarte

Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) offer opportunities for Hispanic students to enrich their academic experience. A successful program that promotes the continued growth of Latino enrollment in Higher Education is the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program. The USDA partners with colleges and universities across the country with a high percentage of Latino students to provide support to faculty and students via fellowships, scholarships and internship opportunities with the federal government. HSIs are oftentimes underfunded and these programs create an opportunity for funding to allow them to continue to fulfill their missions.

A program that faculty and staff at HSIs can benefit from is the E. Kika de La Garza Fellowship Program. De la Garza was the Democratic representative from Texas that served on Congress for more than 30 years. The fellowship was established in his honor given that during his tenure, he sponsored numerous pieces of legislation related to education and agriculture. This fellowship program allows faculty and staff from HSIs to work in collaboration with the USDA to gain an insider view and understand the work of various areas and programs of the federal government.

During the year of 2012, I had the opportunity to be an E. Kika de La Garza Fellow with the USDA in Washington D.C. Through this fellowship I not only had the opportunity to grow as a professional, but I was also able to learn about the opportunities available for Latino students. Working with faculty and policy makers in the country’s capital gave me a new perspective on how stakeholders address the educational challenges faced by this community.

The fellowship also helped me to understand the role of the federal government in educational matters related to the availability of programs from K-16 and the educational policy making process since the partnership between the USDA and the other areas of the federal government is often interrelated. As a result of the fellowship and with the help of one of the USDA regional directors, I was able to return to the HSI where I work, Northeastern Illinois University, and reach out to community partners to begin programing for children and youth. I organized workshops and events to provide Latino college students information about the various opportunities related to scholarships, internships and employment opportunities available with the federal government.

Another program offered by the USDA is the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program, which “is intended to promote and strengthen the ability of HSIs to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences.” The significance of this program is that those grants help attract Latino students to major in the STEM fields and agricultural sciences, assist with their retention by creating opportunities for individualized support, and help them complete a degree in the sciences. The remarkable goal of this program is to help Latino students to become professionals who can one day become part of the agricultural scientific workforce.

Latinos remain underrepresented in the STEM fields. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2014), “less than 2 percent of the STEM workforce is Hispanic while almost 20 percent of the country’s youth population is Hispanic.” It is important to encourage underrepresented students to go into the STEM fields early on in their education career since many of them are not exposed to these types of opportunities in elementary schools or high schools, particularly in urban settings. The Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants award allows for the creation of programs to strengthen the pipeline of Latino students to careers in the sciences since often minority students think that the only alternative to go into the sciences is to become a doctor or nurse, without realizing that there are many more opportunities.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program and the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program are programs that have proven to make a difference for Hispanic students and those that help them in becoming successful at their respective HSI.

For more information about these programs you can visit:

Maria E. Luna-Duarte is a Ph.D. Student in Policy Studies in Urban Education & Interim Director at Northeastern Illinois University El Centro.

Charting a New Agenda: Being More Intentional about Examining the Experiences of Black Students at HBCUs


Robert T. Palmer

As a graduate of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) for my PhD in Higher Education Administration and an active researcher on HBCUs, I am happy to see that there is more empirical research on these institutions. Research on HBCUs focuses on a variety of areas, such as faculty governance, desegregation, college presidents, and their success in disproportionally producing minority STEM graduates. With that said, there is still a need for scholars to be more intentional about conducting research on Black students at HBCUs. Unfortunately, most of the research on students at HBCUs compares the experiences of Black students at these institutions with their counterparts at predominantly White institutions (PWIs). While this research helps to demonstrate the relevance of HBCUs by highlighting the supportive campus climate they foster, researchers must be more intentional about providing a contemporary examination of Black students—both male and female—enrolled in these institutions.

Additional research on Black students at HBCUs must go beyond what the literature has consistently found to be true about these students—they are immersed in a supportive climate that helps to facilitate their psychosocial development and maximize their academic success. I am not suggesting researchers stop discussing what many consider to be a unique feature of HBCUs—their supportive, nurturing, and family oriented climates. I think highlighting these aspects periodically is critical; however, if we do not challenge ourselves to focus on other aspects of student experiences at HBCUs, we are limiting our ability to provide HBCUs with best practices to help them increase student retention and persistence. For example, more attention needs to focus on how HBCUs can promote Black male engagement on campus. Moreover, more research should be devoted to studying the experiences of successful students at HBCUs to see what lessons, if any, could be extended to other students on campus to help increase their success. Furthermore, we have to be more intentional of studying the within group differences among Black students at HBCUs. Not all students experience HBCUs in the same way.

One question that certainly warrants greater exploration about students at HBCUs is the challenges they encounter while working toward degree completion. There is ample evidence that indicates HBCUs disproportionately admit students who are low-income, first-generation, and dependent on financial aid. Students who fall into one or more of these categories may face certain challenges, such as balancing the need to work part-time or full-time while attending classes to support their education or lacking access to cultural capital (e.g., knowledge and skills) to help facilitate their collegiate success. While having some understanding of the characteristics of HBCU students as well as some of the challenges these characteristics may engender is critical, it is equally important to be attentive to other challenges HBCU students may experience. Unfortunately, as with the case for research on students at HBCUs, research that delineates challenges to the success of HBCU students is lacking.

HBCUs can play an important role in helping researchers produce contemporary knowledge on Black students on their campuses. One of the ways they can do this is by allowing researchers, who have an IRB, onto their campuses to conduct interviews, focus groups or engage in other data collecting activities with their students. I understand that HBCUs are concerned with allowing “outsiders” on their campuses to collect data because institutional leaders think that they might use the data to paint a negative picture of these institutions. I think this is a valid concern. I am not suggesting that HBCUs open up their campuses to just anyone under the guise of conducting research on their students. I am suggesting, however, that HBCUs be more proactive in working with researchers. The outcome of this will provide HBCU leaders with better insight about some of the contemporary experiences and challenges of Black students and help HBCUs to implement best practices to improve student outcomes.

Dr. Robert T. Palmer is an associate professor of Student Affairs Administration at the State University of New York at Binghamton and an affiliate at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Embracing the LGBTQA Community at HBCUs


Larry Walker

Larry Walker

In the past HBCUs have been criticized for failing to support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Ally (LGBTQA) students, faculty and staff. A smaller number of HBCUs have LGBTQA organizations in comparison to Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Currently only 21% of HBCU’s have LGBTQA student organizations on campus (Campus Pride, 2013). The small percentage of organizations may reflect the ongoing struggle within the Black community to embrace people regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression or identity. Despite the struggles, several HBCUs have taken steps to ensure LGBTQA students and faculty members feel safe and welcomed.

In 2012, Bowie State University in Maryland became a trailblazer when they opened their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) center. The center was the first of its kind to be unveiled at an HBCU. HBCUs including North Carolina Central University and Fayetteville State University have also opened student centers designed to support students from the LGBTQA community.

Providing safe spaces for LGBTQA students is important considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide in comparison to students of the same age (2014). More specifically, Kirby (2011) found that before the age of eighteen, 36% of African-American lesbians in comparison to 21% of White lesbians attempted suicide.

HBCUs including Florida A & M University (FAMU) have continued to make progress towards creating an inclusive environment by adopting non-discriminatory language that protects students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Furthermore, HBCU’s have partnered with organizations including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) a national LGBTQ advocacy group, to provide professional development and leadership opportunities for students, faculty, school administrators and staff.

The HRC’s annual HBCU Leadership and Career Summit provides opportunities for students from HBCUs to come together to discuss a variety of issues. In addition, HBCUs including Morgan State University (MSU) have advisory boards, which sponsor various activities to raise campus awareness. MSU sponsors a symposium that welcomes students, faculty, school administers, researchers and activists throughout the United States. The symposium examines how issues relating to sexual orientation, gender expression and identity intersect with race and religion.

Although HBCUs have taken several steps toward creating inclusive environments, there are three significant areas they should strengthen:

  • Increase the number of LGBTQA Centers: HBCUs should reach out to school administrators at Bowie State, North Carolina Central University and Fayetteville State University to discuss the benefits of opening an LGBTQA center. Students need a safe place to meet and discuss issues within the LGBTQA community. Opening a center will raise the visibility of LGBTQA students on campus and allow invitations to open dialogue.
  • Adopt non-discriminatory language that protects students, faculty and staff regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression or identity: Every HBCU should have very clear policies within their student handbook that protect the rights of every member of the campus community. The policies should be consistent with other colleges and universities that support LGBTQA students.
  • Increase efforts to create a safe and welcoming environment: HBCU administrators should work with residential life, campus police, faculty and staff to ensure students do not have to endure physical or verbal assaults. LGBTQA students, faculty members and staff should feel valued regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression or identity. In addition, ensuring the entire campus community has undergone sensitivity training is critical to creating an inclusive environment.

Collectively, HBCUs can work with students, faculty and staff members to create an inclusive environment that supports individuals regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression or identity.

Larry Walker is currently a Research Fellow in the School of Graduate Studies and Doctoral Candidate at Morgan State University in the Urban Educational Leadership program.


Recognizing the Critical Importance of AANAPISIs


By Kiran Ahuja


Higher education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity for a talented few; rather, it is a prerequisite for the growing jobs of the new economy. In this decade, employment in jobs requiring higher education will grow more rapidly than employment in jobs that do not. Of the 30 fastest growing occupations, more than half require postsecondary education. Moreover, a person with a bachelor’s degree or higher makes $32,744 more annually than a person who does not complete high school. Higher education is now the clearest pathway into the middle class. Recognizing the profound differences a college degree can make, President Obama has set a goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

In order to accomplish the President’s goal, we must focus more attention on the low college attendance rate of underserved students in the U.S. Inaccurately perceived by many to be primarily doctors, engineers, and scientists, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are often absent from conversations about equity in education. However, in reality, many AAPIs face significant barriers within education, including limited English and low educational attainment. One in three AAPIs has limited English proficient and only 14.5 percent of Hmong, 13 percent of Laotian, and 18.1 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have a bachelor’s degree or higher. As AAPIs are now the fastest growing racial group in the U.S.—expected to more than double in number to 47 million by 2060, we must develop, replicate and scale best practices to better serve this student population.

Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) play a critical role in fulfilling the President’s 2020 goal. By providing culturally relevant student services, curricular and academic program development, and resource and research opportunities, AANAPISIs pilot best practices ripe for replication and scale. Additionally, AANAPISIs serve 40 percent of all AAPI students, including hundreds of high need, low income learners. That is why supporting and promoting AANAPISIs is essential and why the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are taking concrete steps to remove barriers and support these programs and institutions.

In July, the Department of Education and the White House Initiative took a major step in this direction by clarifying that AANAPISIs are indeed within the same class of institutions as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions, Tribal Colleges or Universities, and other minority serving institutions delineated under Part F of the Higher Education Act. Now, it is the Initiative’s hope that AANAPISIs will avail themselves of federal grants and other opportunities available to postsecondary institutions enrolling significant numbers of undergraduate minority students.

The Department’s website contains information on available grants and directions on how to apply for them. Also, the Initiative has collaborated with to offer free webinar training sessions, geared toward organizations with limited experience applying for government grants. For more information about online and regional training opportunities, please email us at

The Initiative recognizes AANAPISIs as one of the most promising means of supporting minority students, particularly AAPI students. We remain committed to helping AANAPISIs provide curricular development, research capacity and culturally relevant student services for all their students, many of whom are underserved.

Watch and share this animated video about AANAPISIs and post on your college website.


Kiran Ahuja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.