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Diverse and Pearson Host Executive Leadership Conference for HBCUs

Educator, author and CEO Stedman Graham presents at the Diverse Executive Leadership Conference.Educator, author and CEO Stedman Graham presents at the Diverse Executive Leadership Conference.

A number of historically Black college and university presidents and administrators convened recently to address some of the most difficult challenges facing HBCUs, including funding, graduation rates and the STEM talent pool.

During a two-day executive leadership forum sponsored by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and Pearson, the HBCU leaders were encouraged to maximize their unique campus assets, create partnerships to benefit from grants and government-funded research, and strengthen online communities. The forum was the first collaborative effort between Diverse and Pearson.

Held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, Stedman Graham, educator, author and CEO of S. Graham and Associates, kicked off the event by addressing student success and retention. Graham discussed identity challenges that hamper learning and offered recommendations on how to address them. He also shared personal stories of struggling to overcome external labels placed on him coming from a family with two disabled siblings and few encouraging mentors.

“When you can’t define yourself, the world will define you,” said Graham, who reminded his audience that the message was as much for them as the students they serve. “Passion is your energy source.”

The event offered training and guidance through sessions such as HBCUs Connected: The Challenge, STEM, Pedagogy and Suggestions; Matriculation to Graduation; Coaching Students to Success; and The LSAMP Story: Revitalizing the Nation’s Talent Pool in STEM.

Leonard Haynes, senior director of Institutional Service in the Office for Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education, hosted a session that provided updates on the state of funding for HBCUs. President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges Dr. Walter Bumphus led a session called “Reclaiming the American Dream,” which offered a snapshot of the progress and challenges facing community colleges.

Dr. James A. Hicks, program director of the National Science Foundation, offered resources, data, and recommendations on how to take advantage of NSF funding for students in STEM, as well as research opportunities and assistance in developing stronger programs.

“It’s important that folks interested in science and engineering take advantage of and embellish getting more students in undergraduate research,” Hicks said. “That is very fundamental in getting the talent that we will need for the nation.”

Liz Wannamacher, director of marketing, Institutional Solutions and Online Learning at Pearson, commended the event’s outcome.

“It’s been a fantastic few days,” she said. “I think what’s great is that we come away with some actionable items that people can take back to their own institutions and implement.”

“This is a good exercise,” said Bill Cox, Diverse Issues in Higher Education president and CEO. “It’s the beginning of a lot more to come. We’ve been discussing the possibility of doing the same thing, but on a larger scale in 2013. Some of the HBCUs, not all of them, need this type of help and attention.”

Participants were also offered time to network.

“It’s just wonderful and interesting to see all of the commonalities between all of the schools represented,” said Beverly Grier, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at North Carolina A&T State University. “It was also great to see the link with some of the community colleges that are facing some similar challenges, who are also coming together in terms of how we are going to tackle those issues.”

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