Panel encourages Black leadership in higher education

By Teresa Acosta

A panel of college faculty and staff leaders shared ideas to help facilitate equity and black representation in higher education. 

As part of Black Student Success Week, a weeklong series of webinars hosted by The Black Hour, this webinar focused on ways to help Black leadership in higher education. 

Through equity minded hiring, institutional introspection, mentoring, and pushing open doors for others, these black leaders are champions of breaking down barriers for Black students.

There is an obligation of those in leadership positions to be role models, facilitators and to be equity minded decision makers.  

For some of the panelists, increasing equality started with hiring faculty and staff that better reflected the demographics of the students attending their colleges. 

Leaders on campuses must start making changes at the very top, because this fosters diversity on campus. Soraya M. Coley, President of Cal Poly Pomona, created review systems for gathering and then breaking down data to know what works and what does not, which allowed for accountability. 

Maintaining intentionality with the practices of the institutions allows for a more inclusive space. 

Edward Bush, president of Cosumnes River College, used his leadership position to bring in more African American students by hiring outreach specialists to go and recruit students at predominantly black high schools. 

He said “My trajectory has been about this idea that certain things in our institutions have to be shaken so hard because the stain runs so deep.” 

Calling himself a CAO, which stands for Chief Agitator Officer, he uses this idea of agitating the system to help transform institutions.  

Students should find mentors on their path to higher learning. 

Linda Oubré, President of Whittier College, suggested finding a personal board of directors. 

“Get a group of people on campus, off campus, if you have family you can turn to, that you know you can talk to about certain things happening in your life,” she said. 

Oubre said there is a need for different kinds of people to be in a student’s mentor circle. 

This allows for a mentor discussion of a student’s journey, as it is unlikely a student will find one person to fit all the situations encountered along the path to success. 

By opening up one student’s path, than this allows for others to follow, or at least see what is possible. 

On the pathway to leadership, barriers cannot be allowed to hinder success. 

There is a responsibility to ask questions as a way to acquire knowledge, understanding and growth. 

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