As competition for the best and brightest Black students continues to increase, some historically Black college and university (HBCU) business programs are positioning themselves to out-muscle even the most acclaimed institutions.
An elite few already claim to compete for students with schools such as Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance. Nevertheless, highly competitive business programs are a fairly recent development at HBCUs.
It is no accident that the number of institutions with dynamic undergraduate and graduate level business programs coincides with the expansion of the global marketplace, which continues to offer opportunities to African Americans. The most competitive institutions are attracting not only top students and faculty, but leading corporate recruiters as well.
In 1993, more than 4,400 African-American students graduated with master’s degrees in business. Though this number is roughly 5 percent of the 89,615 MBA students graduating in the United States overall, it represents a 70 percent increase over the number of Black students who graduated in 1985.
Today, roughly 30 percent of all African Americans earning degrees in business graduate from HBCUs. Among schools :graduating the highest numbers c>f African Americans with business degrees, nine of the top ten are HBCUs.
“You either make dust or bite it,” says Dr. Sybil Mobley, dean of the School of Business and Industry (SBI) at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Florida A&M or FAMU). “This is the first time that the real markets of the future were open to African Americans…. If we don’t stake a claim now, I don’t know when we will.”
Florida A&M offers a five-year bachelor’s/master’s program as well as four-year B.A. and a one-year MBA programs. The school graduated the sixth largest number (219) of African Americans receiving business degrees in 1993. Howard University conferred the most bachelor’s degrees in business, at 289.
Offering courses with titles such as Global Logistics, World Cultures, International Finance, and International Business, the program at Florida A&M is decidedly international in focus. It also is rigorous, with a demanding course load and high expectations.
Candidates for admission into SBI must have a minimum high school grade point average of 3.5, and a minimum SAT score of 1100. Graduate students seeking admission to the MBA program are expected to score 600 or better on the GMAT exam.
“When we started recruiting the cream of the cream, people said `You’ll never be able to compete with the majors,'” recalls Mobley, who notes that those same detractors were shocked when some of “the cream of the cream” started enrolling at SBI.
The school views its role as grooming the next generation of business leaders. In the spring of 1997, FAMU expects to graduate its largest ever class of five-year BA/MBA candidates, approximately 65 students.
“Just as the Kellogg School [at Northwestern] is known for marketing, Wharton for finance and Harvard for management! SBI is. known for leader ship,” Mobley says.
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University (NCA&T), which offers an undergraduate business program, is one of only seven HBCUs that are accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The others include Clark Atlanta, Howard, Jackson State, Morgan State, Norfolk State, and Tennessee State universities.
During the 1992-93 term, NCA&T’s Dean, Dr. Queister Craig, became the first African American to serve as president of the AACSB board. He remains actively involved with AACSB and believes that one of the responsibilities facing HBCUs is educating the Black community about the abundant career opportunities that exist for African Americans in the field of business.
“For the most part we work with students who have backgrounds that are not filled with awareness about the opportunities and challenges of this field,” says Craig. “HBCUs, especially, have a significant job to do in terms of enhancing that awareness and having quality programs and resources to ensure competitiveness.”
One reason so few HBCUs are accredited is that in the past, the accreditation process has favored larger institutions. Moreover, until recently, HBCUs paid little attention to their business programs because corporations weren’t serious about providing opportunities for Black business graduates.
“Historically, HBCUs concentrated on areas where students had a chance to be employed,” Craig explains. In 1991, the AACSB accreditation process was reengineered. Most of the HBCUs that now have accreditation received it after the process was revamped. In addition to the seven HBCUs that are accredited, another eleven have candidacy status and expect to achieve accreditation status within the next five years.
These include: Morehouse, Grambling, the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, North Carolina Central, Prairie View, A&M South Carolina State, Southern University at Baton Rouge, Southern University at New Orleans, Texas Southern, Virginia State and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. “One thing about the new accreditation standards its that they not only improved inclusiveness, but also the perception [of what makes a quality institution],” says Craig, explaining that the new standards are mission based. “The mission of an HBCU might be different from that of another type of institution. Yet, if you’re performing it in a quality way, with quality outcomes, you can earn accreditation. “
AACSB’s goal is to have at least ten accredited HBCUs by the year 2000. If all of the schools currently in the candidacy program achieve accreditation within the next three years, that goal will have been nearly doubled–an achievement Craig describes as impressive. “As each new HBCU achieves accreditation, it reduces doubts for the others,” he says. “We have to take pride in each other.”
This past April the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management at Morgan State University, with a $1 million boost from entrepreneur Graves, received its accreditation. According to Dean Otis A. Thomas, accreditation has already begun to open doors previously closed to the University.
“We are beginning to see the fruits of our labor,” Observes Dr. Thomas. “Today we announced an internship with the state treasurer’s office that will be paid for by Nation’s Bank. Bell Atlantic hats indicated its commitment to a $50,000 gift to enhance our equipment acquisition; and McCormick has given us a $50,000 gift for faculty development. And yesterday, one of our students told me that Bell Atlantic is hiring her at a salary of $46,000.
“Prior to accreditation,” he continues, “we were trying to compete for these types of funds. The companies we approached always asked, `why don’t you have accreditation?’ So we think it has made a definite difference.”
Thomas adds that undergraduate enrollment, which had begun to slip in previous years, also is up slightly this year.
The Search for Black Males
In 1993, Morehouse College graduated more Black males (174) with degrees in business than any other institution in the country, leading its closest pursuer, Howard University, by roughly a third. “This year, we’ve got about 600 business majors and twenty-four to fifty economics majors in the department,” says Dr. Willis Sheftall, chair of the college’s economics and business administration department.
The business unit is the largest program on Morehouse’s campus, as it has been for nearly three decades. To he admitted into the program, Morehouse expects a student to have a 3.0 GPA and an SAT score around 1000.
Like Florida A&M, Morehouse also focuses on business leadership. Many of the students who come to Morehouse have entrepreneurial aspirations. “We have many students who come from families that own businesses,” Sheftall explains. “Most of our programs are structured so that students get more of an emphasis on general business knowledge, or general business skills, rather than in-depth knowledge of a specific professional business area.”
Sheftall believes one reason some schools may have difficulty graduating higher numbers of Black male students in business, is the diminutive size of the talent pool. He estimates that the total number of Black male high school students who meet Morehouse’s entrance requirements is only around 5,000 in any given year. Morehouse gets about 3,000 applications annually and enrolls approximately 700-750 freshmen.
One of the keys to getting more Black males and females enrolled in business programs is providing better preparation at the K-12 level. L. Yet, even students who get off to a slow start can excel in business programs that provide the needed support. “The greatest joy I get is watching a kid from Li’l Bit, North Carolina, who has a humble SAT score, who never heard of Wall Street, and who comes from a family where no one ever went to college, get turned on and start believing in themselves,” Craig says. “They are like kids with a new toy.”
Tuskegee prides itself in preparing students, particularly Black males, to excel in the classroom and to assume positions of leadership in the business world. According to Dr. Benjamin Newhouse, dean of the business school, Tuskegee freshmen come into the program with GPAs of 3.8 or better. Tuskegee graduated thirty-five men and fifty-three women in 1995.
“When our freshmen arrive on campus, we indicate that we are preparing them for power, not a job or career,” explains Newhouse. “People don’t learn how to lead by reading books, they learn by leading.”
According to Newhouse, Tuskegee prepares graduates to compete in a business environment where competence and character aren’t the only keys to success, and where fairness doesn’t always exist — especially for African Americans. “We help them realize they can still win, if their strategy for success takes this [inequity] into account,” Newhouse said.
Grooming Black Ph.D.s
Black scholars are among the leading role models who can influence African-American students to pursue careers in business. Unfortunately, there are too few Black scholars whose area of expertise is business. According to AACSB, accredited business school faculties are approximately 82 percent white, nationally.
As far as Dr. Lucy Reuben knows, her institution, South Carolina State University, which specializes in agri-business, is the only HBCU that has specifically committed itself to the cultivation of doctoral scholars in business.
“We aim to be the premiere provider of undergraduates who go on to get doctorates in business,” says Reuben, who is dean of the School of Business and the Marshall B.
Williams Professor of Business
Administration. “This is important because we’ve got to have role models, and we also need those who are committed to HBCUs. We realize that not all of our students will go on to teach at HBCUs, hut we believe that if we can be a provider, in critical mass, of continuous strength in this area, that will benefit all of us.”
Reuben isn’t the only one concerned about grooming Black Ph.D.s in business. In an effort to attract established business professionals into the field of higher education, a group of U.S. corporations have committed $1.3 million to a new program called the Ph.D. Project — a long-range effort to persuade minority business executives to pursue doctoral degrees in business. “We’re very serious about trying to improve diversity in corporate America,” says Bernard J. Milano of KPMG Peat Marwick and Associates, the company whose foundation conceived the project. “This is part of a multi-faceted approach to transforming the corporate landscape.”
KPMG credits the thirty-month-old Ph.D. Project with having influenced seventy people of color to pursue doctoral degrees in business in 1995. That same year, the number of minority doctoral candidates entering business schools shot up 42 percent.
Joining KPMG as cosponsors of the PhD Project are: the Graduate Management Admission Council, Citibank, AACSB, the Chrysler Corporation Fund, Fannie Mae Foundation, Ford Motor Company, Texaco and participating universities.
Measurements of Competitiveness
Business schools are magnets not only for top students and faculty but for financial resources as well. Scholarships, grants, fellowships, endowed chairs, and other gifts abound for business programs at the higher education level. To win these benefits, however, institutions must maintain a high standard of excellence. “Corporations won’t invest unless they think you have a vision that is worth their investment,” explains Craig. “HBCU business schools can no longer just exist. They have to be competitive, continue to improve, and sustain a rigid determination for excellence.”
Besides accreditation, there are several other ways a school can measure its competitiveness. Chief among these is the success of its graduates. Institutions hoping to assess their competitiveness should ask questions like: Are our students landing jobs with major corporations? Are they attracting competitive salaries? And are they being promoted?
Another key to determining the success of graduates is checking the corporate recruiter roster for repeat visitors. It is expensive for corporations to come to campus. They won’t waste time if they feel it is not worthwhile.
In addition, schools may gauge their competitiveness by the number of philanthropic institutions that are willing to donate money to or underwrite scholarships and fellowships for business programs. Also, when HBCU business schools encourage faculty to become active in professional organizations and to publish in scholarly journals, that helps faculty members remain connected to cutting-edge developments in their fields.
If African Americans are ever to turn up in appreciable numbers in the upper echelons of corporate America, HBCUs must continue to nurture their business programs. “In Major League baseball, seldom do you see an African American on the bench,” Craig said. “They are starters. This is what we need in business. HBCUs have to prepare our students to be starters, not just designated hitters.”
Degrees Conferred in Business by HBCUs, 1993-94
Institution State Degree
Howard University DC 274
Florida A&M University FL 248
Jackson State University MS 243
Southern University & A&M
college, Baton Rouge LA 218
Grambling State University LA 216
Hampton University VA 213
North Carolina Agricultural
& Technical State University NC 204
Norfolk State University VA 193
Shaw University NC 174
Virginia State University VA 168
Bowie State University MD 165
Morehouse College GA 162
Clark Atlanta University GA 159
South Carolina State University SC 153
Univ. of the District of Columbia DC 153
Alabama A&M University AL 147
Texas Southern University TX 132
Fayetteville State University NC 127
Tennessee State University TN 127
Morgan State University MD 124
Central State University OH 118
North Carolina Central University NC 117
Southern University, New Orleans LA 111
Tuskegee University AL 111
Elizabeth City State University NC 97
Langston University OK 97
Lincoln University MO 95
Savannah State College GA 94
Prairie View A&M University TX 89
University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff AR 88
Bethune Cookman College FL 87
Alabama State University AL 86
Univ. of Maryland, Eastern Shore MD 85
Delaware State University DE 81
Philander Smith College AR 80
West Virginia State College WV 78
Alcorn State University MS 76
Wiley College TX 72
Xavier University of Louisiana LA 72
Winston-Salem State University NC 71
Stillman College AL 69
Albany State College GA 67
Morris Brown College GA 64
Florida Memorial College FL 58
St. Paul’s College VA 58
Virginia Union University VA 58
Wilberforce University OH 55
Dillard University LA 54
Kentucky State University KY 53
University of the Virgin Islands,
St. Thomas Campus VI 53
Lincoln University PA 52
Coppin State College MD 48
Benedict College SC 47
Johnson C Smith University NC 47
Le Moyne-Owen College TN 46
Bluefield State College WV 45
Cheyney Univ. of Pennsylvania PA 45
Fisk University TN 43
St. Augustine’s College NC 41
Fort Valley State College GA 39
Rust College MS 38
Oakwood College AL 35
Mississippi Valley State University MS 31
Paine College GA 30
Miles College AL 29
Paul Quinn College TX 27
Jarvis Christian College TX 26
Voorhees College SC 26
Morris College SC 25
Huston-Tillotson College TX 23
Barber-Scotia College NC 22
Livingstone College NC 21
Claflin College SC 20
Bennett College NC 19
Talladega College AL 19
Knoxville College TN 18
Arkansas Baptist College AR 14
Allen University SC 12
Texas College TX 12
Lane College TN 10
Selma University AL 9
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