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HBCU Power Brokers on Capitol Hill

With federal economic stimulus money and a new president committed to higher education, it should be a banner time for those who advocate for historically Black colleges in Washington, D.C.

But as the Obama administration makes new appointments and new leaders emerge on Capitol Hill, it’s still a time of transition in the nation’s capital. While HBCUs have a long history of advocacy in Washington, D.C., battles lie ahead to win enactment of long-term funding increases and college-friendly legislation.

In the second part of this series on key federal players for minority-serving institutions, Diverse takes a look at power players on HBCU issues. As noted in the fi rst part of this series (Diverse, Aug. 6, 2009) on power players for Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges, we try to identify key individuals who infl uence policy — whether they are publicly out front or working behind the scenes. Most have considerable experience in Washington, which is often a requirement for success.

“Part of the issue is longevity,” one lobbyist says. Without some time in the trenches, “you don’t develop relationships that allow you to get things done.”

Capitol Hill

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. As Majority Whip in the House of Representatives — the Democrats’ third-highest post — Clyburn plays a critical role on many major pieces of legislation. A South Carolina State University alumnus, Clyburn has steered federal dollars to HBCUs in his region. Last year, he secured $2 million for biobutanol production research at Clafl in University. This year, he helped earmark $9.9 million in a House bill to enhance science programs at the state’s HBCUs.

Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill. The Illinois congressman co-sponsored legislation to provide federal funding to predominantly Black colleges and universities, institutions that do not qualify for HBCU status but that enroll large numbers of African-Americans.

Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa. In higher education, Fattah has made his name chiefl y by coauthoring the GEAR UP program that helps low-income middleand high-school youth prepare for college.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va. The rural Republican won over HBCU allies by serving as chief Republican sponsor of the Minority Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Act, authorizing funds to HBCUs and other MSIs to address the digital divide on their campuses.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Filling in for the ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., on Higher Education Act negotiations last year, Mikulski helped steer through the Senate a number of HEA changes vital to HBCUs, including designation of new master’s, professional and doctoral programs. “She’s someone who gets things done,” one education lobbyist said.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. A member of the House Education and Labor Committee, Scott is a primary author of 2008 legislation to make improvements in teacher quality programs, including a new center of excellence providing grants to HBCUs to enhance their teacher preparation programs.

The HBCU Connection

Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus are graduates of HBCUs. The list includes Reps. Corinne Brown, D-Fla., Florida A&M University; John Lewis, D-Ga., Fisk University; Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., Prairie View A&M University; Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Howard University; Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., Florida A&M University; Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Tougaloo College and Jackson State University; and Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., North Carolina A&T State University.

Nonprofit Organizations

Dwayne Ashley As president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, based in New York, Ashley is responsible for an organization that provides capacity building, leadership development and education reform. In the Washington offi ce, Jennifer Wilder is vice president of development and Pierre Wright is director of government affairs.

Lezli Baskerville The fi rst female president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), Baskerville oversees an association representing more than 100 HBCUs and 75 predominantly Black institutions. She previously served as vice president for government relations at The College Board.

Michael Lomax Lomax is president and CEO of UNCF, joining the organization after serving as president of Dillard University in Louisiana. UNCF and its 24 fi eld offi ces reach a large section of the country. Edith Bartley is UNCF’s director of government relations.

Arnold Mitchem A longtime leader of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), Mitchem has developed a national voice — and national support — for federal TRIO programs. Grantees under the Talent Search, Upward Bound and Educational Opportunity Center programs look to COE to provide leadership before the Education Department and Congress.

Other Key Players

William “Bud” Blakey As a congressional aide, Blakey played a critical role in creating the Title III-B HBCU program. He has served as trusted counsel on Black college issues for various organizations, most recently the TMCF, whose focus is on supporting public HBCUs.

Willa Hall Smith A former White House aide, she is associate vice president at Tuskegee University and based in Washington, D.C.

Annie Whatley and Carl Person Advocates lauded these civil servants as key government offi cials supportive of Black colleges. Whatley is acting director of economic impact and diversity initiatives at the U.S. Department of Energy. Person oversees HBCU and minority college partnerships at NASA.

John Silvanus Wilson Jr. President Barack Obama last month appointed Wilson executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. Other key staff include Ron Blakely, deputy director; Karen Epps, senior program manager; and ReShone Moore, supervisory management and program analyst.

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