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Four N.C. Historically Black Colleges Search For New Leaders


Bennett College, North Carolina A&T State University, Winston-Salem State University and Elizabeth City State University have lost or will soon lose their top officials. Although the schools will be searching at the same time, many see the coincidence as a positive trend.

“The reality is that quality candidates of color are highly desirable by almost any institution,” says Steve Leo, a managing consultant with the international search firm Edward W. Kelley & Partners, which he says is not affiliated with any of the searches in North Carolina.

“From a labor perspective, it’s a sellers’ marketplace. High-caliber, top-notch African-American applicants are in demand from historically Black colleges and by mainstream colleges.”

At Bennett College in Greensboro, president Johnnetta B. Cole has announced that the upcoming academic year will be her last. North Carolina A&T has already lost Dr. James C. Renick, who recently took a job as senior vice president for programs and research at the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C.

Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Harold Martin has been hired as senior vice president for academic affairs for the University of North Carolina system. Dr. Mickey L. Burnim, chancellor at Elizabeth City State University, will take the top spot at Bowie State University in Maryland in September.

Tenures of the outgoing leaders are between five and seven years.

“Once upon a time, people came to [historically Black schools] and stayed forever,” says Velma Speight-Buford, chairwoman of North Carolina A&T’s board of trustees and head of the school’s search committee.

“It was just like everything else within the minority community. You just didn’t change jobs a lot because if you changed jobs a lot, people would think something was wrong,” she says. “Now if you don’t change jobs a lot people think things are wrong.”

Officials working on finding replacements say they don’t believe their searches will produce matching lists of candidates because the campuses each have different missions.

The pool of minority candidates has been bolstered by fellowship programs designed to train students to become chancellors and presidents, and because women are now being considered, Speight-Buford says.

“The pool is probably better than it ever has been,” she says.

— Associated Press


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