Black college student in library

In this month’s roundup, Black men are missing at HBCUs, leaders reveal the secret to their success, and HBCUs remain underrepresented at the NFL draft. 

April 12, 2023- May 9, 2023

Creating Opportunities for Computer Science Students

Bowie State University’s computer science department has created an internship placement program for students to be matched with tech employers seeking interns. The program, created by computer science chair Dr. Rose Shumba, acknowledges barriers and difficulties students face with the internship application process, which she describes as “brutal.” 

Partnering with different companies and government agencies, Bowie State’s computer science department created opportunities for students to have more personal interactions with employers acting as mentors as they participate in workshops and practice interviews. 

Through this program, students have been able to intern at Deloitte, NASA, Adobe and Eli Lilly among other companies with highly competitive internship programs with thousands of applicants. 

The Department of computer science at Bowie State has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, with a 75% increase in students between 2019 and 2022. Earlier this year, the institution received a $2.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. 

Challenges with Enrolling Male Students 

At HBCUs nationwide, there is a shortage of men. Only one in three students are men at both public and private institutions. Even as HBCUs see an increase in enrollment, men are still a minority among new applicants. 

Calvin Hall, chair of North Carolina Central University’s communications department, observes how Black men seem to be falling through the cracks and what the effects could be if it continues. “It adds a different voice, a different perspective, and it helps us value everybody,” he said. “If one group is not seen, it makes it easier for people to discount and to disregard and set aside.”

There are many reasons why this could be happening, including a “belief gap” between what Black male students can achieve and what their teachers believe they can achieve. This can lead to Black male students believing that college is not for them. When college feels unattainable due to cost, institutions are taking steps to make college more affordable. Xavier University awarded scholarships to 75 Black men and hired a Black male engagement coordinator. One of the recipients, Ashton Broden, says, “If other men see that I did it, it will make other males want to come to Xavier and help grow the number.” 

The Secret Sauce

With HBCUs reaping the benefits of increased enrollment, funding, and cultural awareness, a new report explores what has led to this success. The National Bureau of Economic Research published a new paper entitled “What Can Historically Black Colleges and Universities Teach About Improving Higher Education Outcomes for Black Students?” The report dives into what predominantly white institutions can learn about helping and teaching Black students. 

The report points to evidence based on Black students’ success while in college and after graduation. Black students are 33% more likely to graduate from HBCUs than Black students at non-HBCUs. Black students who attended HBCUs were also more likely to achieve higher wages and experience upward mobility in their lives. 

The paper identifies the reason for the success of HBCUs, or a key ingredient in the “secret sauce.” The unique mission shared by HBCUs to build individual and community prosperity, with an emphasis on social justice, is what sets HBCUs apart from other institutions teaching Black students. 

“Basically, they induce you to subscribe to a model of leadership development, of character development,” said Dr. Gregory Price, a professor at the University of New Orleans, a co-author of the working paper, and a Morehouse College alum. “When you see a lot of other Black [students], it becomes easier to subscribe. It’s easy to say, ‘Here’s a Black physicist, a Black archaeologist, a Black economist.’ Maybe there’s a payoff for buying into this model.”

The environment of an institution with a majority Black population plays a huge role in terms of students’ academic success. “HBCUs provide a bulwark against the racism that Black students experience in America today,” said Dr. Robert T. Palmer, chair of the educational leadership & policy studies department at Howard University. “Black students at HBCUs can really be themselves and tap into their potential to succeed academically.”

Howard University's New President

Ben Vinson III, provost of Case Western Reserve University and scholar of the African diaspora, will be the new president of Howard University beginning Sept. 1. Vinson will be succeeding Wayne A.I. Frederick who is stepping down after 10 years as president. 

While at Case Western Reserve, Vinson oversaw a significant expansion of recruiting Black and Latinx students, which increased by 8% in the last five years. Lance C. Morse, chair of Howard’s board of trustees, described Vinson as “a very collaborative and empowering leader, a bridge builder, a culture builder.”

Dana Williams, Dean of Howard’s graduate school and a part of the search committee, also echoed the support of Vinson as a leader, lauding “his tendency to listen deeply and carefully; his ability to enact and communicate his leadership skills; and his potential to quickly earn the respect and confidence of faculty, staff, students, and alumni, among others.”

In an interview with The Hilltop, Howard University’s newspaper, Vinson expressed his excitement and passion to work at and lead an HBCU for the first time in his career. “I believe in paying it forward,” he said. “That’s how I’ve lived my life, and I’m excited to get a chance now to apply all the things that I’ve learned to be on the other side – rather than creating consortiums and networks with HBCUs – to actually be at an HBCU.” 

A Lack of Draft Picks

Isiah Bolden from Jackson State University was selected by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of this year’s NFL draft. Bolden was the only player from an HBCU that was selected in this year’s draft. “I’m taking on the responsibility to show recruits and transfers that you can come to an HBCU and get to the league,” Bolden told ESPN. “Me being a part of that change is a big thing for me.”

While at Jackson State, he was part of the successful team coached by Deion Sanders in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Sanders took to Twitter to congratulate Bolden on being drafted, while also calling out the NFL teams who did not pick players from an HBCU. 

Players from HBCUs are rarely drafted, with only four HBCU draft picks in 2022 and none in 2021. Coach Willie Simmons from Florida A&M University described the lack of HBCU draft picks as “a head scratcher at this point.” 

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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