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Ingredients for Success

Ingredients for SuccessOur “Rising Stars in the Academy” edition always features a stellar group of scholars; some have been recognized for being outstanding teachers, others for being outstanding researchers, some for both.

Being involved in the scholar selection process and reading the profiles for the past few years, I have found common themes running throughout these young academics’ individual stories. Family support, encouraging mentors, curiosity, a love for learning, self-confidence, initiative and self-determination are just a few of the ingredients that when thrown into the pot, produce something special.

And while you can get away with going light on some of the aforementioned ingredients, heavy doses of family support and encouraging mentors are essential. In other words, there are no substitutes.

Yet in this same edition where we feature some of the academy’s most promising scholars, columnist Julianne Malveaux and our “Last Word” author Dr. James T. Harris III, president of Widener University, both address the lost educational opportunities for students of color and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Not all of the scholars come from wealthy or highly educated families, but several of them point to parental support, or a teacher along the way who encouraged them to pursue a particular field of study as having a great impact on their lives. And though it appears their academic achievements and professional successes have come relatively easy, no one makes all the right decisions, and if they do, they don’t make them in isolation. The scholars sought and were offered advice from those they trusted. What they had was access to information, something Malveaux says many of our Black youth don’t have. Whether it’s information on financial aid or strategies on how to play the college admissions game, Malveaux says the lack of information is just one of the factors contributing to the decline in the number of Black students enrolling in some of the country’s premier public universities. If students don’t have a parent or teacher “in the know,” who will guide them and help them to make the right decisions?

President Harris of Widener University says that colleges and universities must put aside their desire to be considered “selective” in magazine rankings and start increasing access to higher education for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Unfortunately, it’s a difficult decision for some institutions that don’t see the benefit and, therefore, lack incentive.

The returns may not be immediate. But one day these students may decide to teach, thereby serving as role models for hundreds of students to come. This need is verified by the fact that students learn better, research takes on added dimensions and the very foundation of the campus becomes more vibrant when populated by a diverse set of teachers and scholars. Even a casual look at the topics engaged by this year’s crop of emerging scholars attests to the vibrancy of the new frontiers of research.

At a time when factors such as international and Black student enrollment are facing a freefall, the old adage to “grow your own” takes on an unprecedented sense of urgency. The demographics paint an unmistakable picture that if we don’t do a better job of producing the types we profile in this edition, we will all suffer the consequences, especially the professoriate.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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