As launched with yesterday’s post, we’ll be spending this week presenting my impressions of a symposium held on June 3-4, 2010, entitled, “Setting the Agenda for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Sponsored by North Carolina Central University, one of five HBCUs in the University of North Carolina system, this gathering of national education leaders culminated a year long celebration of the centennial of the 1910 founding of the institution by businessman, teacher, and pharmacist, Dr. James E. Shepard.
A native of Raleigh, Shepard earned a Ph.G. in pharmacy (the original pharmacy degree) in 1894 from the Leonard Medical School at Shaw University. After establishing the first pharmacy in Durham that served African-American clientele, Shepard was central to the founding of two institutions that established the Bull City as a beacon of Black business activity in the South: the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (1898) and Mechanics & Farmers Bank (1907).
HBCUs have tended to focus on their rich history of struggle and accomplishment but the symposium focused on moving forward as an institution in today’s highly-competitive higher education landscape and global economy. Scholars far more qualified than I have held forth on the continued relevance of the HBCU.
But as a white professor from the North at a HBCU, what I find most refreshing is learning from students about how the HBCU experience is relevant to them – today. I want to share one example with you in this post.
Brian Kennedy is a native of the Charlottesville, Virginia area and is a rising junior in political science at NCCU. He was recently elected vice-president of the NCCU Student Government Association. Brian qualifications could have easily gotten him into UVa, or any university for that matter, but he chose only to apply to Howard University and NCCU. (This reminds me of a Temple University commercial on Philadelphia television stations in the early 1980s featuring Bill Cosby speaking about specific students and their qualification with his tagline, “She could’ve gone anywhere. She chose Temple.”)
On day one of the HBCU Symposium, Brian gave the lunch address in a session entitled, Student Matters: Manifestations of the HBCU Experience. Brian was swamped with attention following the session but he took time later in the day to share with Terra Sigillata readers the highlights of his talk. Toward the end we also shared a few laughs as to whether students want blogging professors in their social media affairs.
Many thanks to Mr. Kennedy for talking with us about his talk and his own influences and motivations for choosing to attend a HBCU.