Sunday, May 22, 2016

HBCU Presidents: Prince's New Power Generation

Yesterday I spent the day with a unique group of HBCU presidents. We are generally early 50s and younger, have children under 18, maintain an active social media presence, and have working spouses. Two years ago I noticed that there was a shift happening in the HBCU presidency. From 2004 to 2014, about 15 new HBCU presidencies were given to people under 50, approximately twice as many as there were from 1994 to 2004.

These younger presidents were also beginning in a social media era, with Facebook starting in 2004, Twitter in 2006, and Instagram in 2010. So it made sense for us to have an informal network of peers to discuss issues from family balance, to being seen sometimes as the kids in higher ed leadership, as well as the issues that all presidents face. Our initial meeting was a dinner during the HBCU Week conference in September of 2014 and the idea was to do a one day summer retreat, which we held in New Orleans last summer. We had a dinner as well this past September, and our retreat yesterday.

Currently, 22 of the 78 four year HBCUs are led by presidents who are in their early 50s or younger, so I think it is fair to say we have a movement. Just in the past 2 weeks two younger presidents were named at West Virginia State and Texas Southern Universities. So our group has great potential in helping to shift the narrative about HBCUs.

Yesterday we were hosted by Florida Memorial University led by President Roslyn Clark Artis. Seven presidents attended, as well as Dr. Lorenzo Esters from USA Funds which sponsored our summer meeting this year. A lot of the work that USA Funds is doing is important for HBCUs, and we actually have an opportunity to lead in efforts to improve student success.

I'm really excited about the networking and support that occurs during the year with this group. We generally have had about 12-15 people attend the fall dinner, and hope to have the summer meeting grow as well.

I want people to know that HBCU presidents are working together to leverage collective ideas and initiatives to strengthen our sector. Younger presidents have an opportunity to impact this sector for several decades, and we're committed to work collectively to change not only the narrative but the reality of HBCUs.

The Prez