Black college students on laptops.

In this month’s roundup, Morris Brown College makes a comeback, the U.S. Air Force partners with Howard University, and aspiring filmmakers in Atlanta get an incredible opportunity. 

January 11- February 14, 2023

A Renaissance for Morris Brown College 

Morris Brown College has been enjoying a comeback after years on the brink of closure. 

This comeback is attributed to a recent $3 million grant from the federal government for academic programs and building upkeep. This matters a great deal to the HBCU following a loss of accreditation for its history of financial mismanagement. 

"No one thought that this was possible," said President Kevin James before announcing the grant. "The fact that we're here today, even just open, is a miracle in itself."

Fundraising efforts for Morris Brown were organized by alumni who demonstrated their loyalty to keep their alma mater open in the midst of financial struggles. 

Morris Brown plans to distinguish itself with its affordability and unique programs such as hospitality management, as part of a partnership with Hilton, and esports performance. 

President James’ vision for Morris Brown is to be “a haven for all, an institution for all.” 

A History-Making Partnership 

The U.S. Air Force has selected Howard University to lead a University Affiliated Research Center. Howard is the first HBCU to be selected to lead one of the Department of Defense’s 14 university affiliated research centers. 

The partnership is focused on tactical autonomy technology for military systems and Howard University will receive $12 million per year for five years of funding. 

"This is a momentous historical occasion for the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, and Howard University,” said Frank Kendall, secretary of the Air Force.

The partnership will include establishing and maintaining research for the Air Force and diversifying the pool of scientists and engineers.

"We are excited to learn from the great minds at Howard University and see what they'll bring to the Department of the Air Force. Their motto is 'Excellence in Truth and Service' and I know we will see that excellence in their scientific research and development work," said Dr. Victoria Coleman, chief scientist of the Air Force.

An Increase in Applications

HBCUs that utilize the Common Application are seeing an increase in applications. One of these institutions is North Carolina Central University, which has seen a 57% increase in applications compared to last year. 

“We feel really good about the direction we’re going and what the data and numbers are telling us right now,” said Michael Bailey, director of undergraduate admissions at North Carolina Central University. 

The Common App is designed to give prospective students the ability to apply to multiple institutions by filling out one form. “Our organization is committed to highlighting inequities and expanding access and equity in the college admissions process,” said Dr. Preston Magourik, senior manager of research and analytics at the Common App. 

Elizabeth City State University is another HBCU who has seen the benefits of joining the Common App with a 20% increase in applications in one year. “The Common App has given ECSU visibility in areas that have not been traditional recruiting areas for us, especially out-of-state. We are tapping into a group of students that had not previously applied to ECSU,” said Marcio Moreno, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management at Elizabeth City State University. 

Creating Inclusive Nursing Classrooms

Prairie View A&M University is home to one of the very few HBCU nursing programs and will become part of an initiative aimed at improving diversity, equity and inclusion in college classrooms.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing seeks to reconcile a discriminatory history of nursing through the Leading Across Multidimensional Perspectives (LAMP) Culture and Climate Survey. 

“There are many nursing colleges but very few HBCU nursing programs. This is an opportunity to step forward and say, ‘we’re here because what you’re doing, in diversity and equity, is important for everybody,’” says Dr. Alyssa L. Harris, dean of PVAMU’s College of Nursing. 

While there is less exclusion with nursing, there are significant barriers being faced by Black nursing students. Last year, only 7% of registered nurses were Black. “Nursing has an exclusionary past, and the climate survey will encourage administrators to look at their nursing program and examine what they’re doing to make students feel welcomed,” said Dr. Harris. 

Through the LAMP Survey, Dr. Harris is hopeful that the data will help to assess PVAMU’s College of Nursing in comparison to other institutions’ nursing programs. 

A New Opportunity for Filmmakers

Acclaimed director Spike Lee, an alum of the Atlanta University Center Consitorium, is creating a fellowship program to help future directors and filmmakers. 

Lee and The Gersh Agency will launch The Spike Fellows Program this spring in an effort to support graduating students at Spelman University, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College who aspire to become filmmakers like Lee. The five fellows will have the opportunity for mentorship, internships, debt relief and full-time employment following graduation. 

“From the jump, from the get-go, I knew when (not if) I opened a crack in the door, I was bringing as many Black and Brown folks with me in front and behind the camera. ​​I know firsthand the education one receives at a Historically Black College and University. I am who I am because of my grandmother (Zimmie Jackson) and my mother (Jacquelyn Shelton Lee) who both graduated from Spelman College. I am who I am because of my grandfather (Richard Jackson Shelton) and my father (William Lee) who both graduated from Morehouse. It’s on the campuses of Spelman and Morehouse where they met, fell in love, and got married. As my elders often told me, ‘Deeds not words,’” said Spike Lee when introducing the fellowship. 

The Spike Fellows Program began in January 2023 with five fellows chosen by a panel that included Lee, as well as representatives from the AUCC community and Gersh. This will be the first of many years of the fellowship with a multi-year commitment to the AUCC community. 

“The Spike Fellows Program will provide invaluable experience and mentorship for our students desiring impact in the entertainment industry, both in front and behind the camera…We are pleased and grateful to AUCC alum, Spike Lee and the Gersh Agency for providing these outstanding opportunities for aspiring entertainment leaders,” said Dr. Michael Hodge, executive director of AUCC. 

This news roundup focuses on the trends impacting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSI). Each month, we highlight the policy, process and programmatic changes happening nationally and among these institutions and how the colleges and universities are responding to them.


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