Hard Truths About Diversity Efforts in Education — Part 2: Three Ways HBCUs Can Reinvigorate Their Significance

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCU’s educate a great portion of our nation’s diverse talent spanning across many disciplines. As a reflective educator, I wonder about the role HBCUs may play in consistently producing great educators within their Colleges of Education along with professionals in various disciplines.

Are HBCUs Doing Enough When It Comes to Diversity Efforts?

HBCUs are a national treasure because of their long-standing historical significance. These colleges and universities opened their doors because it was the only option for Black students to earn an education. These universities have earned a matchless reputation; the illustrious bands, the campus vibrancy, and the world-class education. It is no secret that as of late HBCUs have been mired in various controversy. Lack of funding and gross inconsistency in key leadership positions have contributed to shortcomings at many of the HBCUs around the nation. Of course, there are success stories and the sagging numbers in fundraising and enrollment are not indicative of every university, but as a “brand” I think HBCUs can benefit from a rebirth, specifically within the Colleges of Education and here are three ways how:

1) Use Twitter and Instagram — Constantly

In order to compete, HBCUs must use these social media outlets to remain relevant. With an aging demographic at the helm of many of our HBCUs, social media is not being leveraged as it should. HBCUs can utilize interns or hire “new blood” to ensure a robust social media campaign. Social media is FREE and can reach millions of potential students and fundraising partners. The reason for the use of social media within HBCUs is simple. We need to know about the great work you are doing. I was able to do an impromptu search to determine that some of our top HBCU Colleges of Education do not have a Twitter or Facebook page. That’s an easy fix and a fix that can reverse current trends dramatically if it could be embraced.

2) Embrace Hybrid Collaboration — Let Go Of Some Control

At HBCUs tradition is imperative; it’s the lifeblood of the HBCU. However, traditions about the way things are done at HBCUs can be detrimental. Winston Churchill said, “Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” So while tradition has its place, innovation can only be achieved through the openness of ideas. In layman’s terms, the “Ms. Jones’s been doing it like that for years” narrative at HBCUs must cease. Ms. Jones may need a co-coordinator. Ms. Jones’s program may need new technology enhancements or key partnerships. A hybrid collaboration where the old guard and new guard collaborate on projects and programs. This type of collaboration is essential so these initiatives at HBCUs can begin to have an effect that outweighs the “way it’s always been done.”

A hybrid collaboration where the old guard and new guard collaborate on projects and programs. This type of collaboration is essential so these initiatives at HBCUs can begin to have an effect that outweighs the “way it’s always been done.”

3) Incorporate Models of Success and Work with Nonprofits to Improve Programs

A dynamic, new nonprofit organization called the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity is working with HBCUs and MSIs, or Minority Serving Institutions to improve programs to ensure success specifically within Colleges of Education educator preparation programs. Call ME Mister is a well-known entity because of their documented success in recruiting and retaining black males interested in teaching as a profession. Call ME Mister provides mentorship for these men as they matriculate through their study toward becoming educators. They learn how to become role models in their schools and community.

The Branch Alliance has data to support the need for the success of MSIs and they understand what HBCUs need to be productive in the educational landscape. There are programs such as these itching to promulgate within the HBCU spectrum if given the opportunity. HBCUs probably are not aware of these programs or do not have the bandwidth to sustain them. In this case, they can examine how other schools have been able to engage with programs such as these with similar budgets. It can be done. Programs such as Call ME Mister and nonprofits such as the Branch Alliance should be at the ready at virtually every HBCU. These entities are critical to the successes of HBCUs and can be touted to potential fundraisers due to their documented success.

This is a challenge to HBCUs to examine themselves to critically analyze how these three suggestions can be implemented to achieve additional success. Our HBCUs are a beacon of pride for many and their relevancy is absolutely essential especially within the field of education and STEM fields which are largely underrepresented.