10 reasons to attend a HBCU for graduate or professional school
**The Edvocate is pleased to publish this guest post on stealth assessment as a way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**
A guest post by Dr. Larry Walker
Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) offer comprehensive graduate and professional programs that prepare students to compete in the global economy. After graduation students are equipped with essential skills to challenge economic, political and social issues. For example, Thurgood Marshall the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice was a graduate of Howard University’s School of Law. Today, HBCUs continue to produce students with strong critical thinking and logical reasoning skills committed to important topics including social justice. Moreover, HBCUs offer a rigorous curriculum, student centered environment and communal approach that fosters learning.
HBCU administrators, faculty and staff support the efforts of first generation students seeking to defy societal stereotypes. Despite the odds, students from low and moderate-income families thrive at HBCUs because they don’t consistently encounter micro and macro aggressions. Eliminating environmental stressors allows students to focus on completing their academic requirements and develop secure relationships with peers. Several HBCUs offer graduate and professional programs including Howard University, Jackson State University and Morehouse College that consistently outperform institutions with similar student populations. However, their accomplishments are rarely acknowledged.
Recently, I co-edited a book titled “Graduate Education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): A Student Perspective” (Routledge, anticipated Summer 2016 release), which includes personal narratives from alumni. Authors shared personal and professional experiences that shaped their graduate education. Their stories highlight the important role HBCUs play in the lives of students from diverse backgrounds. While attending a HBCU is not for everyone. Students’ benefit from the following:
- Feeling connected- Students enrolled in S.T.E.M. programs and Medical School have the opportunity to work with students and professors from similar backgrounds.
- Communal approach- Graduate and professional programs are extremely competitive. However, HBCUs seek to bring students together to ensure every student succeeds.
- Alumni network- Students are introduced to alumni who mentor students. The relationships continue after graduation to assist with employment opportunities.
- Developing a global perspective- Traditionally HBCUs enroll students from countries throughout the world. The experience allows students to learn about different cultures and dispel stereotypes.
- Working with the local community- Frequently HBCUs emphasize the importance of working with schools, health clinics, community centers and social service programs. Students gain invaluable experiences while helping the community.
- Research focus- Students are encouraged to examine issues that impact communities of color. In addition, students can work with classmates and faculty members with similar interests.
- Discuss the contributions of diverse researchers- Students are introduced to preeminent scholars from different ethnic and racial backgrounds that made contributions to medicine, science and law.
- Attending an institution with a historic mission- HBCUs continue traditions that ensure Black students complete their graduate or professional degree.
- Social experience- Students develop relationships with classmates with shared experiences.
- Consistent support during turbulent times- Occasionally students encounter academic or personal challenges that hinder efforts to complete their degree requirements. Faculty members and staff play an instrumental role encouraging students to continue despite the obstacles.
HBCUs provide enriching academic and social experiences that cannot be duplicated. Professors challenge students to investigate issues that are important to communities of color. Funding HBCUs is linked to increasing the number of Black students with graduate and professional degrees. Without HBCUs first generation, minority and underserved students would not have the opportunity to improve their socio-economic status.
Dr. Larry J. Walker is an educational consultant focused on supporting historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). His research examines the impact environmental factors have on the academic performance and social emotional functioning of students from HBCUs.