In an age where the news coming out of the world is more than often depressing ― and it seems particularly true for historically Black colleges and universities ― there are occasional glimmers of sunshine on the horizon. Critics of HBCUs say that the colleges and universities are ill-managed, made up of mediocre faculty, inefficient bureaucrats and sub-par academic students.
The reality is that there are HBCUs where academic innovation is a process that is ongoing. One such example of entrepreneurship is taking place at Virginia Union University.
This coming spring the university will launch the Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction program. This is a program designed for teachers, leaders and those who aspire to advance their careers. Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, associate professor and chair of the Department of Education at Virginia Union University, says participants in the program are those who have had a successful undergraduate experience and obtained some level of post-college work experience.
The degree program will have three tracks: elementary education, special education and urban education.
The program is designed to be completed within 18 to 24 months. Students who are selected will be required to complete an action research project related to their specific area of interest. According to Davis, the primary focus of the program is to provide its students opportunities to learn current educational theory, evidence-based best practices and conduct research in unique areas of challenge to today’s school environments. Their action research projects will provide a mechanism to develop new strategies to solve problems related to the varied and complex needs of students, school personnel and the communities they serve. The program has earned the support of several administrators at the institution including Dr. Matthew Lynch, dean of the School of Education, Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies.
Teacher education is not the only area of the school that is pushing the innovation envelope. Dr. Lisa T. Moon, associate professor of psychology, and founding executive director of the Center for the Study of The Urban Child will be hosting its third annual symposium in spring 2015, dealing with cross-disciplinary issues such as education, poverty, social support systems, and agencies that serve our communities and their impact on urban children. Given the rapid economic segregation happening in many schools across the nation coupled with the increasing unrest and disenfranchisement among Black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged youth in many urban areas of our nation, such a symposium is indeed timely.
In the near future, VUU’s School of Education, Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies plans to expand its current on campus offerings to include satellite programs, and online and hybrid courses. This is progressive education at its best. Hopefully, more HBCUs will adopt similar programs that integrate and transform acquired knowledge beyond the classroom into its surrounding communities.