As a public relations and marketing professional, it has been an honor to promote HBCUs. Although I am not a product of an HBCU, I have had the pleasure of being a part of a culture that is nothing short of purely genuine. As I recall a piece I wrote called “The value of an HBCU goes beyond statistics”, I am reminded that our institutions have mastered the art of educating students based on who they are, not what they are. As I wrote, “HBCUs possess the tools necessary to address black students’ specific needs, concerns, fears, and desires.”
The beauty is that HBCUs don’t limit our care for the human condition to black students.
In HBCUs, I see institutions that are for any student who wants to be understood. Regardless of his or her ethnicity or nationality, any student who has attended an HBCU can testify that we provide an academic environment in which professors richly mix pedagogy with a familial presence that can be difficult to find among the other 4,000-plus colleges and universities across America. As someone who takes my role at an HBCU seriously, I do my very best to fall in line. Students know that they can enter my office at any time to vent about their classes or their lives outside of the classroom. I know where they come from, so I try to give them the most valuable things I can give them–my ear and my mind.
Of all of the characters in HBCU culture, there is no group like the students.
One who immediately comes to mind is Miss Paul Quinn College 2012-2013, a smart, focused, and feisty young lady from my home state, Louisiana. I always take time to share nuggets of leadership wisdom with her (after she bursts into my office like the police).
One day a young man came to me, in desperation, wanting to learn to tie a bow tie. When the mission was accomplished, he left my office grinning from ear to ear. That was cool. The other day, I gleefully wrote a web site piece about Paul Quinn’s Center for Fundraising and Philanthropy based on the energetic student staff, namely an ebullient young lady doing a fundraiser for the Latino Student Association. I also look forward to exchanges with students who are interested in Greek life. The list, as you can tell, goes on and on.
My story is that I love watching what students, who value their experiences at HBCUs, become. I love seeing these students gain access to the intellectual capital needed for success. Every semester, I watch our students learn accountability from professors, responsibility from student organization advisors, and the passionate pursuit of achievement from alumni.
In the fall, I get to introduce a new cast of characters in my HBCU story.