HBCU Education Deans Hope Brainstorming Proves Fruitful

Drs. Fred A. Bonner II, far right, and Chance W. Lewis, fourth from right, with the participants of the 2014 HBCU Education Dean’s Think Tank sponsored by the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Chair in Education at Rutgers University.
Drs. Fred A. Bonner II, far right, and Chance W. Lewis, fourth from right, with the participants of the 2014 HBCU Education Dean’s Think Tank sponsored by the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Chair in Education at Rutgers University.

For the third year in a row, education deans from historically Black colleges and universities across the nation gathered at Rutgers University to strategize on how best to strengthen teacher education programs at their respective institutions.

Amid deep financial cutbacks and mounting challenges over graduation and retention rates within higher education in general, the deans spent two full days last week engaged in discussions over how to improve academic standards, generate outside funding to support new programs and initiatives, and find ways—when necessary—to collaborate with each other.

Dubbed the HBCU Education Dean’s Think Tank, the annual event is the brainchild of Dr. Fred A. Bonner II, who currently holds the endowed Samuel DeWitt Proctor Chair in Education at Rutgers.

Bonner said that, since its inception, the think tank has already proved successful in advancing the dialogue and “moving the needle” on the issue of how HBCUs can better prepare students to become career educators.

“We wanted to give the deans a safe space where they could come, talk and be themselves,” said Bonner, a prominent scholar and an expert on Black male students who arrived at Rutgers in 2012 from Texas A&M University—College Station. “Whenever we talk about Black colleges, it’s often from the perspective of others. We wanted to let the deans talk about their experience from an authentic space, from where they sit.”

Bonner, who uses funds attached to his endowed chair to support the initiative, said that he also hopes to build a pipeline to recruit HBCU education students into graduate programs housed at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.

Education deans from Alcorn State University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Clafin University, Prairie View A&M University, Harris-Stowe State University, Central State University, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, and Bowie State University were all in attendance.

“Our country is moving closer to becoming a minority-majority population,” said Dr. Patricia Green-Powell, the interim dean of FAMU. “The work completed by the great minds of this think tank will assist HBCUs to take full advantage of this population shift.”

The outcomes from the think tank will be circulated in a White Paper and disseminated to HBCU college presidents across the nation, said Dr. Chance W. Lewis, the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair of Urban Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the think tank facilitator for the past three years.

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Source: Diverse Education | Jamal Watson