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The HBCU Role in Building a Diverse Workforce

diverse workforce development

diverse workforce development

A 2014 report from the Association of Governing Boards summarized some of the routine challenges being confronted by these schools. “Today, in an era of rapid transformation, HBCUs face historic challenges as well as new obstacles. Questions about sustainability, cost, quality, and mission are among many of the perennial issues that will require greater attention and creative approaches and solutions now and into the future” (AGB.gov).

The report identified pressing concerns in areas of enrollment management, academic quality, infrastructure, federal and state policies, governance and leadership and financial viability, from sources of revenue to how these schools are spending money. In a recent Forbes Magazine editorial, the all too familiar commentary continued, when the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, restated his prediction on the “demise of several hundred American colleges and universities over the next decade…No group of schools is more vulnerable than historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)”.

Despite these challenges, HBCUs soldier on to ensure student success and improve learning outcomes. There is no debate among members of the vast community of HBCU supporters that there must be change for these schools to evolve and continue to grow. The question then becomes – Grow how? Many potential solutions bring new debates. Should these schools actively pursue other potential target populations? Should they narrow academic offerings to focus on marketable, emerging niche programs? Should they refocus only on teacher education?

We believe the answers for HBCUs, as well as for any other struggling college or university, and there are many, is to make better connections between industry needs and  workforce demands with their colleges and universities. That has been the driving force behind The HBCU Career Center for eight years.  We have focused solely on the career and professional development of students, alumni and staff within the broad diverse communities supported by these colleges and universities with a goal to do three specific things:

1. Proliferate a culture of understanding of the role that the Black community, primarily through HBCUs, has played in shaping and developing the professional US workforce. #ReSkillAmerica

2. Focus on the college to workplace pipeline by championing effective, relevant, timely and appropriate career programming on campuses to support diverse students and emerging new alumni. #CollegetoWorkPipeline

3. Support the professional growth of a diverse workforce through information sharing or advice on current workplace, career, HR and industry trends, practices and success habits.  One interest here is how HBCUs themselves can become model workplaces, if they are to then produce and develop a future workforce. #WorkHabitoftheDay.

These are not new concepts. However, I argue that they have been forgotten concepts in the sense that many HBCU career centers, like centers at many other colleges and universities, have been underfunded and overlooked.  (State of HBCU Career Centers 2012-2013). No surprise here, since career centers are often vulnerable to cuts during times of financial hardships. It is actually a very parallel practice to organizations that eliminate training and development for employees during economic downturns.  Some see it as paradoxical, that at the time when it is even more necessary to build learning organizations, the tendency is to eliminate learning.  However, I digress.

While the data shows that proportionally, HBCUs, despite their challenges have produced significant numbers of African American professionals, the raw numbers are still relatively small. The Journal of Black Studies reported in 2009 that approximately 65% of Black physicians are HBCU graduates (Abelman, Delessandro 2009). Dr. Marybeth Gasman, University of Pennsylvania Professor and HBCU researcher, also states, “On account of these figures and others like them, HBCUs have been deemed responsible for creating the black middle class.” (Drewry and Doermann 2001)

While this data is inspiring, let’s look closer. For example, although 65% of Black physicians might have attended a HBCU, Black doctors are still only 6% of the pool of doctors in the US despite Blacks being 13% of the population. I argue that there is definitely capacity among HBCUs to do more.

Let’s face it – the quest for sustainability of HBCUs has existed since the very founding of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in 1837, as the Institute for Colored Youth, when West Indian born, former slave owner, Richard Humphreys, bequeath a sum of ten thousand dollars under the care of the Society of Friends to start a school. The goal of the school was “the benevolent design of instructing descendants of the African race in school learning, in the various branches of mechanic arts and trades and in agriculture in order to prepare, fit and qualify them to be teachers.” (Annual Report, 1914).

In the 1914 report on the state of the school, then known as Cheyney Training School for Teachers, Principal Leslie Pinckney-Hill said the school had “very definite needs which must be met if the institution is going to be made a thoroughgoing professional training center for Negro teachers. The most fundamental need is at least $350 000 more for endowment. The present endowment is inadequate to current needs.” (Annual Report, 1914). In addition to expanding the endowment, Pinckney-Hill sought funding for a dormitory, dining room, kitchen and monies to purchase agriculture equipment and a building to teach young men to farm land.  He stated: “Cheyney desires to train a small group of young men each year to send into this wide and neglected field [of agriculture].”

Pinckney-Hill’s vision was that trained young men would disperse across America to teach the Black farmers how to improve productivity of their lands for their own viability and independent sustainability. “There is nowhere in the United States a really thoroughgoing training school for Negro teachers. Cheyney desires to seek this vast opportunity” (Annual Report, 1914).

Fast forward to 2015 and there is still a vast need for trained professionals, and HBCU’s, like Cheyney University, must figure out how to graduate more students who are career-ready or grad school-ready. Unlike periods in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, HBCUs, are not the only option to educate and develop the skills of future generations of Black professionals. However, we need to keep reminding ourselves of the role that these schools have played in building the diverse US workforce to date and that work must continue.

Career programming, more closely aligned to workforce needs, is one sure way that HBCU’s can assert their role in the future. These schools must revisit their missions and like Pinckney-Hill did in 1914, espouse a vision to take advantage of the opportunities of the times. This will require innovative, creative leadership, willing to take the risk to challenge the status quo. These schools must embrace the pioneering spirit of founders who charted their early course to educate the few, who could then in turn educate and represent the many to build our larger society, as a professional workforce is bound to do.

In conclusion, failing to implement broad, interdisciplinary, initiatives that disrupt the status quo on HBCU campuses will definitely ensure that many struggling schools will soon become closed schools.

As Dr. Marc Lamont-Hill said, “To be certain, the declining significance of the HBCU is a tragedy for the Black community. In addition to being a historical signpost of highbrow Black intellection, the HBCU must play a vital role in creating a self-sustaining Black community in the future. In order to do this, however, we must acknowledge these issues and work to change them.”


Abelman, R & Delassandro, A. (2009). The Institutional Vision of Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Journal of Black Studies, 40, 105-134

Arroyo, A. T., & Gasman, M. (September 18, 2014). An HBCU-Based Educational Approach for Black College Student Success: Toward a Framework with Implications for All Institutions. American Journal of Education, 4, 0.

Annual report of the Cheyney Training School for Teachers (Institute for Colored Youth) 1914/1915 (1913). Named changed in 1934 to: State Teachers College at Cheyney.

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Company Research in 3 Easy Steps

company research HR professionals say it all the time and I share it all the time: Do your company research before you go into the job interview. Some research says that if you spend just 15 minutes on the company’s website before a job interview, you will learn enough to do well in the job interview. Now with all the information available via social media, why do so many recruiters complain that job seekers are still walking into job interviews without doing any company research?

Most experienced recruiters can tell the difference between job seekers who have prepared by doing company research and those who have done no company research and plan to wing it.

All of us are guilty of not preparing sometimes. Remember walking into an exam without studying? Well going to the job interview without doing company research is the same thing. However, unlike back in college, where there might be make-up exam, there are no do overs for job interviews.

Here are three basic steps to help job seekers who are failing Company Research 101. Information uncovered while doing company research should guide your answers to questions in a job interview. If a job seeker is not doing this very basic level of company research, their answers in the job interview will reflect it. It will show a lack of attention to relevant details, no interest in the company and no passion for success with the company. Why should they hire you if that is the case?

Step 1 Company Research: Read the Job Announcement Carefully.

What is the job title?
What knowledge, skills and abilities are important to the company?
What type of training and education does the job require?
What are the duties and responsibilities?

Step 2 Company Research: Learn About the Company Basics.

What are the company’s products and services?
What is the company’s organizational structure and where does this position fit?
What is the company’s market share? Who are the competitors?
Who are the people in charge?

Step 3 Company Research: Learn more about company culture.

Social media can give you good insights here. They are researching you, so you should be researching them too.

How is the company a good fit for you?

Does the company values align with yours?
Could you support and be proud of the company’s mission?
Are there training opportunities and room for growth?
Would you feel good about working for that company?

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HBCU International Students Networking Tips

HBCU International StudentsThere are many international students enrolled at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Students come from all over the world to attend colleges in the US and many actually choose HBCU’s for competitive academic programs.

 Latest data on HBCU International students:

  • HBCU’s with certification to admit international students: 98 of 105
  • Number of international students enrolled at HBCU’s: 8,327 (2014)
  • Top 5 countries of origin for HBCU international students: Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, India, Bahamas and Jamaica

Read the 2014 Full Report on HBCU’s and International Students from the US Department of State, Homeland Security and the US Department of Education.

I know the job search and internship search angst of international students, first hand.   I have many family members who have been international students on HBCU campuses and have worked with many foreign students through four career centers.

That’s why I was so happy to find this article at XN Blog with tips to network throughout college. Please read the full article titled: Networking Tips for Every Stage of an International College Student’s Journey. The article offers tips to do the following:

Freshman Year: Diversify your network and don’t just hang out with the folks who came from your home country or region.

Sophomore Year: Intellectualize your network by choosing your major wisely and making connections with professors and mentors in your subject area.

Junior Year: Professionalize your network as you look for internships and co-ops. Get advice from seniors who might have been through that job search before. Also work with the career center and participate in on-campus interviews.

Senior Year: Legalize your network if you plan to stay in the US or to get connected for your OPT experience. Seek the best resources for advice as you make critical life impacting decisions.

Please read the full article at Northwestern University and share with other international students.

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HBCU on Social Media: 11 Rules for Students

Job search communication

HBCU on social media

I love communicating with students about their HBCU experiences, internships and college life on social media. The pride in these historical landmark institutions is very evident.

With all the talk about the value and relevance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, social media is breathing new life into many of these institutions. We all want our social media messages to be positive about these schools and the sustaining work taking place on many of the campuses. So many students in their anxiety to become a part of the legacy talk about their HBCU on social media at every chance they get.

For many of these students, they are the first in their families to go to college and for many others, they are the next in a long line of family members to attend HBCU’s. Whichever group you fall into, we are happy you have decided to add your story to the journey of these great institutions. We love that you want to lend your voice about your HBCU on social media to promote your campus, your school spirit and your excitement about becoming a part of a HBCU family.

As you do that, I want to encourage you to follow these guidelines as you talk about your HBCU on Social Media.

DO talk about your HBCU on Social Media this way

Do connect with people in your class. The Class of 2019 is already very connected to help and support each other through college. Although many who are hoping to be in the Class of 2019 won’t get there, this is just the reality of college wherever you go. However, many colleges are introducing new ways of helping students stay in college by staying connected with your HBCU cohort and helping to encourage each other to stay the course. Social media is a great way to do that.

Connect with offices, resources and staff on campus. Promote events and services such as Writing Centers, Career Centers and Student Government activities among your peers.

Use lists on Twitter to group organizations and resources that will help you finish college and transition into careers successfully. eg. List scholarship sources. Create your first list from my list of 25 Twitter Pages with Career Information for Diverse Students.

Give updates on live events on campus via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, You-Tube, Vines, Periscope or whatever you prefer. The more you share positive news about your HBCU on social media, the stronger your school’s brand will be and the more attractive to prospective students, scholarship donors and employers.

Brag about community involvement. America’s HBCU campuses have students that do more community service projects than other universities I know. Find causes you care about and introduce them to your campus community via social media.

DON’T talk about your HBCU on Social Media this way

If you are going to mention the name of your school in your social media bio – DO NOT add inappropriate photos or statements right next to the name of your university or in your timeline. So, you can’t be cussing and calling yourself a student at XYZ HBCU at the same time.

If you are enrolled at a school and yet you or others continue to speak badly about your school or your program, you are actually devaluing the power of your own college degree. Why would you undermine your own future? This is not a wise way to speak about your HBCU on social media.

Be careful what you confess on social media. Do not use your school name or logo in any way that will compromise or defame your institution.Remember that “HBCU” is an acronym that represents over 100 schools. It does not just represent your school. Therefore when you speak about HBCU’s or make blanket statements about #HBCUs you are speaking about over 100 schools that are all different. Just as we wouldn’t make negative statements about ALL Catholic universities, ALL Ivy League schools or ALL engineering schools, don’t make negative statements about ALL HBCUs.

The HBCU vs. PWI (Predominantly White Institution) is not a bandwagon you want to join. We should all be excited about the fact that an increasing number of diverse students are using their access to higher education to create options for themselves, their families and their communities. Many students do bachelors degree in a non-HBCU and graduate degrees at HBCU’s or vice-versa.

Know that your voice about your HBCU on social media is very, very powerful. What you say will be seen by other students exploring college, employers looking to hire college graduates and donors looking to donate scholarships. How you brand your school will have huge impact.

Your college years will be a time of great memories, hard work, personal challenges and you will be called on to make decisions all the time. Be wise about how you build up your own future by speaking positively about your HBCU on social media.

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Performance Evaluation of FAMU President Released

FAMU President MangumExecutives at Historically Black Colleges and Universities are coming under fire and scrutiny from all directions.  From students and parents lamenting the high costs of education, to state governments evaluating the funding of these schools or alumni concerned about the value of their degrees as they worry about the very existence of their beloved alma maters.

The scrutiny on these institutions is not letting up.  Neither is the pressure for them to keep pace with the changes in the education marketplace, compete with more well funded institutions and make long range plans to keep their institutions viable and sustainable.

As HBCU leadership push hard on established boundaries trying to keep their schools relevant and competitive, not everyone will agree on all the decisions being made.

One of the latest disagreements taking place in the open now involves President Elmira Mangum of Florida A & M University (FAMU).

President Magnum and Chairman of the FAMU Board of Trustees, Rufus Montgomery, are in disagreement about decisions made by Dr. Magnum.  Montgomery claims that Dr. Magnum is not communicating with the trustees and making independent decisions.  Her judgement on key hires is being questioned by some members of the board. On the other side, the state’s Board of Governors is investigating accusations that Montgomery has attempted to bully Dr. Magnum.

At the end of the first year, Dr. Mangum’s first performance evaluation has been released publicly showing her less than stellar grades.

Five HR questions come to mind:

1. Which HBCU president is going to assume a presidency now and get stellar marks after year one? There is no pleasing all constituents when tough decisions are to be made.

2. What are the trustees experiencing within a year that wasn’t visible through a comprehensive search process? How many voices were in the room when decisions were being made.

3. With the challenges facing our HBCUs who is going to take responsibility for tough decisions if Presidents can’t trust that trustees will support decisions and plans?  Are the decisions ad hoc or part of a longer term plan?

4. Who is demonstrating the leadership to other employees and students in how we resolve workplace disagreements like this?

5. Is publishing the annual performance evaluation a consistent practice? Most employees have a right to respond to evaluations.  Were those responses published as well?

We will continue to watch whether or not the interest of FAMU students and families are represented in this battle of wills.  I am reminded of the African proverb (don’t quote me on the exact words) that says – When elephants fight, it is the ground that gets trampled and destroyed.

Source of details – wfsu.org

Commentary is mine!

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How to Use Social Media in Your Job Search

social media in your job search For years career coaches and career centers have stressed networking as an important part of the job search strategy.  Social media has kicked up networking to a whole other level.

Per Capterra, in 2014 a whopping 94% of recruiters were either using  or planning to use social media for recruiting.

It makes sense, therefore, that you would be using social media in your job search as a networking tool.  With everyone now having the ability to use social networks to connect with everyone else, it might become a little overwhelming to use social media in your job search.

Do’s for Social Media in Your Job Search

Linked In, Twitter and Facebook are not just for photos of your latest meals or trip to the beach.  Use these services to:

  • Join groups
  • Follow people in industries of choice
  • Show your interests
  • Demonstrate your professional expertise
  • Research companies and industries
  • Get job alerts or notification about things of interest
  • Learn about new resources
  • Honor people whose work you admire
  • Bridge the gap between your professional life and personal interests (Cautiously)
  • Promote ideas you value

As you engage social media in your job search, remember that these social media networks all have their own advantages and disadvantages.  For example, on LinkedIn, you can actually get endorsements and references as part of your profile.  You can literally build an inventory of your professional life.  Twitter’s 140 characters, on the other hand, allows you snapshots of professional or personal life mixed in with in with your commentary on current events and breaking news.  You can use lists to sort people around your interests.

However you choose to use social media in your job search some of the general networking rules still apply.  Be open to meeting new people, be willing to share and connect others and remember that it is not who you give to that you will get from.

Find us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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