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New NAFEO Leader Proposes Ambitious Agenda

New NAFEO Leader Proposes Ambitious Agenda

The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education put lawmakers and higher education leaders on notice earlier this month, when its new president announced that his priority will be seeing to it that more historically Black institutions are given the support and resources they need to become comprehensive research universities.
The pronouncement was made by Dr. Frederick S. Humphries, the incoming NAFEO president, at a Dec. 4 news conference held at the National Press Club to a capacity audience that included more supporters than reporters. FAMU alumni, higher education association leaders, HBCU presidents and Humphries’ friends and supporters were among those present. The event was the first official introduction of Humphries as NAFEO’s new leader. The Florida A&M alumnus, who holds a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and has been a higher education administrator for more than 20 years, is the outgoing president of FAMU. He will begin his new job on Jan. 1.
“Dr. Humphries, a proven change agent, is the right person to lead NAFEO,” says Dr. Joanne Boyd-Scotland, chair of the NAFEO board and president of Denmark Technical College.
“I am excited and pleased this job was offered to me and that I will have a chance to be of greater service to HBCUs,” Humphries says.
In later remarks, he noted that while most historically Black institutions were formed and have traditionally operated as undergraduate institutions, the 21st century presents the demand for more diversity among HBCUs.
“It is time for some to become comprehensive institutions,” Humphries says, adding that he would work aggressively to assist more HBCUs to develop graduate programs so that they can play a greater role in producing African American doctorates. He led FAMU in developing several new doctoral programs in his 16-year tenure as president. Six of the programs are in the field of engineering.
Even though HBCUs are a leading producer of undergraduates who go on to pursue terminal degrees, most of these students do not have the opportunity to pursue graduate education at an HBCU. Currently, the Carnegie Foundation classifies only one HBCU as a Research I institution (Howard University) and only a few other HBCUs offer doctoral programs. Not only does this make it difficult for HBCUs to compete for top Black students and faculty members, it also hurts their bottom line by hindering their ability to land federal and other research grants and contracts.
“America should not want to see these institutions (HBCUs) remain at a low level,” Humphries says.
Helping HBCUs and predominantly Black institutions that are located in urban areas to become more involved in addressing problems that hinder the future prospects for urban youth and, assisting HBCUs in becoming technology powerhouses are also on Humphries’ list of priorities. He added that in all these endeavors, he expects significant assistance and support from the government.
“We want the feds to give us the wherewithal to take our institutions to their full potential,” Humphries says.
U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Fla., who as FAMU’s representative in Congress has known and worked with Humphries for years, urged the crowd to get behind the new NAFEO president as he aims to be a strong advocate for HBCUs in Washington.
“You’ve got to push for what you want,” she says, adding that there is no shortage of resources in Washington.
One of the immediate challenges facing Humphries is building support for the organization from within its ranks. Several of the 118 college and universities that are affiliated with the organization are not dues-paying members. This lack of participation has posed financial as well as other problems for the organization in the past.
When asked what he plans to do to address the problem, Humphries said he intends to work with the board to broaden the scope of the institution. His plans include: creating new programs that he expects will attract greater support and involvement from HBCU leaders, reorganizing NAFEO’s corporate advisory board, restructuring the annual NAFEO Leadership Awards Banquet so that it is a more significant fund-raising opportunity for the organization, and seeing to it that all member institutions pay their dues.
Since its inception in 1969, NAFEO has been a national advocate for improving the quality of education offered to African Americans at HBCUs. The organization’s member institutions enroll some 370,000 students and have awarded more than 500,000 degrees since 1966.
“I’m going to work to give all I’ve got to make NAFEO one of the best-operated, visionary and philosophical agencies here in Washington,” Humphries says. 

— By Cheryl D. Fields

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