Welcome and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  I am pleased to welcome you to the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions’ new blog – Minority Serving Institutions UnPlugged.  Each month we will be hosting opinion pieces from major figures as well as new voices in the Minority Serving Institution world.  Many of these pieces will be co-branded with USA Today. Each posting will either highlight success, tackle challenges that MSIs face, or push each of us to think in different ways.

I thought I’d begin our blog by talking about accomplishing goals – given that we just celebrated a new year and setting goals for the forthcoming year is tradition.  Creating the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions has been my goal since arriving at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003.  I wrote the idea down in a writing book (I always carry one with me).  Writing ideas down is the first step to accomplishing them.  I then started to talk about the idea to a few close friends.  Talking about your goals and dreams with others holds you accountable.  Between 2003 and 2013, I worked hard to establish a solid research agenda dedicated to MSIs, publishing peer reviewed articles, books, and policy reports.  I also established relationships across the MSI spectrum with people at both the institutional level and the national level.  Establishing credibility and building meaningful relationships are essential to realizing an idea.

I created the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions for two main reasons.  First, I wanted to support MSIs and the work that they do for so many college students, but especially low-income students of color.  And second, I wanted to support scholars interested in doing research related to MSIs.  I know how difficult it can be to garner both respect and attention for work that some people consider ‘at the margins.’  Creating opportunities for up and coming scholars has long been a goal of mine ever since I co-authored an intellectual biography on sociologist and Fisk University President Charles S. Johnson.  Johnson’s main goal was to create scholars and leaders and I found it to be a noble goal and one I wanted to emulate in life.

My hope is that the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions will shed light on the great work taking place at MSIs, assist in tackling some of the challenges these institutions face, and provide resources to MSIs.  I also hope to support young scholars, especially scholars of color, through the Center’s fellows program and research grants.

With the Center, I also want to be open to your ideas so please feel free to share them with us at any time by posting below or emailing us at cmsi@gse.upenn.edu.  I want you to feel like the Center is yours and is here to support your ideas and goals.

Lastly, I hope you will write your goals down and actualize them.  Don’t be afraid and don’t go at it all alone.  Lean on others.  If it weren’t for my mentors – including people like Michael Nettles, Wayne Urban, Asa Hilliard, John Thelin, Susan Furhman, James Anderson – I wouldn’t have the skills or confidence to achieve my goals.  And if it weren’t for the support of my friends across so many communities, my dream of creating the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions would certainly not have come true.  None of us are self-made, none of us do it all by ourselves.  We need each other in order to accomplish our goals, solve big problems, and create opportunities that lead to equity for all.

Enjoy 2014 and live your life for something beyond yourself this year.  Why?  Because selfish isn’t pretty and true happiness comes when you contribute to others in beautiful ways.

Marybeth Gasman

Marybeth Gasman