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UNCF’s UNITE Summit Convenes HBCU Leaders in Atlanta

Over 1,000 HBCU college administrators, including 40 presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), assembled in Atlanta this week to kick off the United Negro College Fund’s 2nd annual UNITE Summit for Black Educators.

The three-day event is hosted by the UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building, whose mission is to partner with HBCUs and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) to help propel student success. UNCF organizers say that they want UNITE to assist educators from across the higher education sector and transform institutions to centralize and elevate a comprehensive strategy of institutional transformation and continuous improvement.

“When you have over 40 college presidents, administrators, and leaders all coming together as well as corporate leaders, you end up with sharing of ideas that causes everyone to leave wiser than they were when they came and better positioned to go out and make a difference in their organizations,” said Milton Jones, Chairman of the UNCF Board of Directors. Dr. Johnnetta Cole.Dr. Johnnetta Cole.

The summit will also showcase the fund’s HBCUv digital platform, scheduled to launch this fall, allowing students, educators, and staff to share best practices and learn from other HBCUs nationwide. 

Last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling to eliminate affirmative action in admission policies at colleges and universities was a topic of conversation at the gathering.

During remarks on Monday, Dr. Michael Lomax, President and CEO of UNCF said that HBCUs are experiencing a significant period of rebirth and growth.

“We’ve seen what happens when a court senses that they have free rein to do whatever they want to abridge women's rights,” Lomax said. “Potentially, this is an omen of future decisions to limit the opportunities of other institutions – historically Black institutions – which for over 150 years have provided an educational opportunity for our people.” 

Lomax also noted that the UNCF will be working with constitutional lawyers, and civil rights groups like the NAACP, National Urban League, and other minority-based scholarship nonprofits to assist in reviewing the ruling.

“We want to make sure that we understand what these court rulings mean for us, and we want to be absolutely certain that we understand the path that we must continue to do the work,” Lomax said. 

Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, President Emerita for Spelman and Bennett Colleges offered attendees some advice on what HBCUs and PBIs need to do when predominantly white institutions reduce the number of Black students at their institutions. 

 “Against this difficult backdrop, today’s HBCU and PBI leaders must do what we’ve always done: We got to make a way out of no way,” Cole said. “Drawing on lessons that I learned during my two presidencies as well for being in touch with so many of you, I respectfully suggest that today every leader of an HBCU or PBI must be even more focused on our students,”

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