North Carolina’s 10 historically black colleges and universities, dubbed NC10, embark on an unprecedented journey together, building on shared values and missions to create partnerships.
Last year, the 10 institutions gave a presentation during a listening tour to four nonprofit organizations – the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED), the Hunt Institute, myFutureNC and EdNC. When that effort culminated in a Listening to the NC10 meeting at North Carolina Central University in Durham a year ago, NC10 leaders decided to move on.
About 100 gathered at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh on Wednesday to celebrate the official start of this work. CREED hosted the first NC10 HBCU conference, themed Partners in Progress.
There is a unique opportunity, said James E. Ford, CREED executive director, to increase the state’s focus on the value of the NC10 — including the importance of its success and contribution to the state’s culture and the need for a diverse talent pipeline.
“People who made a commitment to work together that day,” Ford said of last year’s gathering. “They formed an advisory board working group, chose a mission and vision, identified goals and are now hosting their first conference to implement those ideas.”
The common goals of the NC10 are:
- Implementation of development strategies in support of HBCUs in North Carolina,
- provide the economic case for the impact of these HBCUs,
- Adopt practices for on-time completion and
- Development of recruitment and retention strategies for students and faculty.
Participants heard strategies that align with these goals—including support for student service, growing leadership, and influencing policy. They also heard from Mary McLeod Bethune.
Bethune was an educator, philanthropist, and civil rights activist. On Wednesday, during her keynote address at the NC10 HBCU conference, storyteller Crystal A. deGregory told attendees about Bethune’s unlikely journey from learning in a one-room schoolhouse to graduating from Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College in Concord) to receiving it the NAACP’s prestigious Spingarn Medal and induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
But deGregory didn’t summon Bethune just to celebrate the achievements of an extraordinary black woman. She paid tribute to Bethune’s partnership vision.
Bethune partnered with philanthropists and Booker T. Washington to secure a flight program at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, laying the foundation for the Tuskegee Airmen. She partnered with the Cookman Institute for Black Boys to consolidate their school for black girls and co-founded Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach. Bethune teamed up with Frederick Douglass Patterson and William J. Trent to co-found the United Negro College Fund.
The power of partnership, deGregory said, is the idea the NC10 aims to pursue.
“What would all our foremothers and forefathers do?” she asked as she finished her remarks. “I hope that when we look at ourselves, we see a little bit of the best in us. So when we partner, not only will we work together in progress, but we will work together in power.”
While the conference focused on providing actionable strategies and support for the NC10, it also provided an opportunity for networking and sharing of visions. St. Augustine President Christine Johnson McPhail asked that this community spirit continue to grow.
“I think whoever decided that we brought all these institutions together had a wonderful idea,” she said. “Let’s not disappoint them by limiting our progress and what we can do with our imaginations. Let’s rethink and dream big.”
Here is a summary of what participants learned:
UNCF showcased effective philanthropic efforts by institutions. Gia Soublet said these efforts are commonly referred to as institutional progress, but cautioned that not everyone knows what that means. Marc Barnes explained why they should do this.
“Everyone at an institution — from the president, to faculty, to staff, to students — you’re all fundraisers,” Barnes said.
center student success
Dhanfu Elston from Complete College America spoke about helping students reach the finish line. He encouraged institutions to help students understand their purpose for higher education and guide them through the process of obtaining a degree. It’s an economic problem, he said, because too few students graduate and many take more than four years to complete.
“That’s a lot of money that’s on the table,” he said.
Politics and the NC10
How can policy change to help HBCUs succeed? That was the question faced by attendees in a session moderated by NCCU Director of Foreign Affairs Michael Page, Stephanie Hall of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, and Verdant Julius, an NC A&T State graduate student .
Julius said that “thriving” also includes transforming the campus environment. He called for investments in buildings, common areas, labs and classrooms to create a positive learning environment for all HBCU students.
“HBCUs build a pipeline of leaders with the students they graduate each year,” Hall said. She went on to say that the future lawmakers, policymakers and philanthropists are on campus now.
Julius agreed, saying students must have the opportunity to access power and advocacy.
“The students want to raise their voices,” he said. “We want to work”
Attendees heard opportunities to partner with research, business, government, and not-for-profit and for-profit solution organizations. The NC Chamber Foundation spoke about an initiative to connect HBCU and business leaders, All of Us presented a diverse dataset collected and made available to advance health research for historically marginalized communities, Pearson spoke about innovative solutions benefiting HBCU could, and both the State Department of Transportation and the Hunt Institute summarized opportunities for HBCU students.
I love my HBCU, but…
A group of students shared their HBCU about what they love, what they would like to change, and how they feel they can start implementing change. They spoke of increased transparency between students, student organizations and administration on urgent matters – particularly those affecting the student experience and campus culture. Among the participants, mostly students, there was a consensus that they love the culture and family feel of each campus, the access to professors and the individuality of their institution – thereby breaking the myth that the NC10 is a monolith.
Funding initiatives and external orders
This session focused on ways HBCUs can activate corporate and philanthropic partnerships to serve their students. Monica Hawkins of the Professional Pipeline Development Group opened the conversation by emphasizing the importance of bringing Enterprise partners “moving from RTP” to the HBCUs in their areas. Corporate sponsors and corporations are located in Research Triangle Park, but the RTP Foundation only recently added an HBCU representative to its board of directors. Several companies were represented, including CISCO and WinPro. CISCO talked about his $150 million pledge for HBCUsincluding a focus on endowments to support student grants and investments directly to HBCUs to support their technical infrastructure.
Talent Acquisition and Retention
HBCUs are a bastion for future talent—and not just for future graduates. There are talents throughout the NC10 administration that represent the future leaders of the HBCUs. This session focused on recruiting and retaining top talent in the face of challenges such as funding and salary. Attendees spoke about promoting inclusion and HBCU culture, as well as investing in the future leaders of these institutions by investing in the talent pipeline.
EdNC’s Nation Hahn, Derick Lee, and Victoria Griffin contributed to this report.