The HBCU Presidential Spotlight Series is sponsored by the Office of the President and CEO, Founder Demetrius Johnson, Jr., at HBCU Campaign Fund (HCF) introduces chancellors or presidents who currently serves a Historically Black College or University. This initiative recognizes those individuals who serves our nation higher ed institution daily, changing and educating lives while producing the next generation of leaders.

Dr. Kevin James serves as the Interim President of Morris Brown College, a historically black college located in Atlanta, Georgia founded in 1881. In this role he leads as CEO and is responsible for leadership and management of all aspect of college operations and responsibile for the development and execution of the vision and strategic direction for the college in concert with the Board of Trustees. In his nearly 21-year career as higher education administrator, faculty member, executive business leader, and motivational speaker, Dr. James is committed to improving his community through education and empowerment. He has served in various executive-level roles in higher education and the non-profit sector. Prior to his current post as Interim President, Dr. James served as Interim CEO of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc., Internationally headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The mission of 100 Black Men of America is to improve the quality of life and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans. A native of Columbia, S.C., Kevin attended South Carolina State University and earned his bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders and Social Sciences from Winthrop University; a master’s degree in Business Management Leadership, and Organizational Effectiveness from Troy State University; and a Doctor of Education degree in Higher Education Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. He is also a graduate of the Higher Education Institute at Harvard University.

Why did you want to become a College/University president, and why at an HBCU?

I particularly wanted to work at an HBCU because no other organizations affects the black middle class like these institutions. HBCUs educate the minds of a large percentage of minorities who are going to move this country forward!

At the end – and the beginning – of the day, our work is all about the students. The important work of academic leaders is to assure educational quality and improve institutional effectiveness. My vision is to fully restore Morris Brown and serve as the premier model for shaping and ensuring the quality of higher education throughout the college and community. Ensuring quality through the accreditation process and improving the quality through the accreditation process and improving the quality of the educational product that our academic departments yield, and to safeguard and improve student learning outcomes will be my focus as President, while also ensuring fiscal stability.

How does it feel to serve as a College/University President?

I am honored to have been selected by the Morris Brown Board to serve at the helm of Georgia’s only HBCU started and funded by black people; being named president will allow me to strategize future growth and directions from a longstanding viewpoint. I look forward to continuing this great work in collaboration with the board of trustees, students, staff, alumni, and other shareholders to resurrect this historic college back to prominence. We will continue working to obtain accreditation, ensure financial stability, build a strong relationship with alumni, and grow enrollment through the “Hard Reset.”

What is your definition of leadership? What have been your leadership priorities as president?

“Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less.” John Maxwell

My priorities as the leader of Morris Brown College have been accreditation, financial stability, and governance.

What does HBCU mean to you? Are the HBCU institutions relevant to the higher education space?

The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.

HBCUs are synonymous with culture, quality, special attention to black students, diversity, success, the arts, and pride just to name a few. Unlike the other HBCUs operating in Georgia, which benefited from the financial backing of their white founders, Morris Brown College was founded in 1881, when the African Methodist Episcopal Church decided to open a school for black students after the Civil War. It was the first (and only) institution of higher education to be owned and operated by and for African Americans in Georgia, and over the course of the next century, it became a vehicle for advancement within the African American community.

What are three goals you are planning to accomplish for the 2020/2021 academic year?

Three goals that we are planning to accomplish for the 2020/2021 academic year include the following:

  1. Candidacy for accreditation with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
  2. Financial Stability/Increased fundraising
  3. Improved Governance

How important is it to you for students to receive their education while attending an HBCU?

I am an executive leader who is student-centered first and foremost. For this reason, for many years I have wanted to become a President at an HBCU. Under my direction, students, faculty, and staff will be led through transparency and integrity. My style of leadership requires me to be quantifiable, visible in the community, and have an open-door policy. I am approachable and value diversity and multicultural competency. I am bridge builder who has the savvy to bring people together, thereby eliminating silos. Students at Morris Brown will not just be educated, but will be able to compete in this global society against graduates from any institution.

What is the most interesting challenges of working as an College/University President and in the space of higher education?

The most interesting challenge of working as a college president is the number of hats one must wear to be effective. The college presidency is 50 jobs rolled into one. According to an article posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “The Toughest Job in the Nation/The College Presidency,” the author argued several points of why the job is challenging. From experience, I agree with many of his perspectives. In the article it was noted that through survey, presidents were asked specifically, what frustrated them. The top frustration among both pubic and private college leaders was the lack of financial resources. This has been Morris Brown’s number one issue. Additionally, college presidents answer to a very large number of outspoken constituencies including students, staff, faculty, trustees, alumni, and in many cases, political leaders – none of which can be ignored. My most interesting challenges of being Morris Brown College President has been resolving problems with no resources. It has been challenging; however, we have been successful thus far. I believe, if there is will, then there is a way.

What has been the proudest moments of your presidency so far?

The proudest moments of my presidency so far has been the wins that have pushed us closer to fully restoring the institution. We are excited about the future of Morris Brown College. Morris Brown has made wonderful progress within the last thirteen months. The state’s approval (Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission {GNPEC}, which authorizes and regulates the operations of in-state nonpublic and out-of-state postsecondary colleges and schools operating or offering instruction in Georgia) is a clear sign that Morris Brown College is headed in the right direction and gaining momentum for its future. Moreover, we have led negotiations with the AME church to remove a 4.2 million-dollar debt which clears a pathway towards accreditation. Moreover, MBC has received over 1 million dollars in grant funding toward the restoration of iconic Fountain Hall. Additionally, the institution has made tremendous progress with accreditation, governance, rebranding of the institution, partnerships, and fiscal stability. We have provided bold leadership to address problems.

What are the two or three initiative that most excite you as you look forward to your future as president?

I am excited about Morris Brown Colleges’ future. We will continue working to obtain accreditation, ensure financial stability, build a strong relationship with alumni, and grow enrollment through “The Hard Reset.”

To accomplish our goals, we have identified six strategic priorities:

  1. Institutional Sustainability: through gaining accreditation and developing sustainable resources that enable the achievement of the College’s mission.
  2. Strategic Enrollment Management: by practicing effective enrollment management to optimize student access, retention, program completion and success through relevant programming, high-quality instruction, and comprehensive educational support services;
  3. Organizational Excellence: through promoting an organizational culture that encourages excellence and success by developing and supporting individuals, teams, and processes that contribute to the effective and responsible management of teaching and learning, student success, human resources, facilities, services, technology, and finances;
  4. A Market Response Institution with Innovative Academic Programs by strengthening existing market-relevant programs and developing workforce development, continuing education, and professional education programs to prepare its students with 21st century skills;
  5. Technology and Integrated Learning Space: by strengthening our technology infrastructure to provide educational and workforce opportunities, improve student access and utilization, and advance the College’s operational effectiveness; and
  6. Maximizing Strategic Partnership Opportunities: by expanding our brand, which is mission critical to ensure the success and sustainability of our institution, as strategic partnership opportunities are pivotal to increasing our visibility in the community and scaling reach and impact.

Why should students choose to attend your HBCU institution?

Morris Brown College is truly at a crossroad in its history. The institution is diligently working to reemerge to its prominence, utilizing strategic planning, which will lead to accreditation and sustainability. Morris Brown’s goal is to become a candidate for accreditation by October 2020. if selected as a candidate school, the institution will be eligible to apply for Title IV Funding (Federal Aid) for students. The College is proud of its tradition of serving the educational needs of the best and brightest young minds, while simultaneously providing educational support to students who might not otherwise receive the opportunity to compete on the college level. New students will be a part of a rich legacy and literally be part of history as Morris Brown College is fully restored!

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About Morris Brown College

Morris Brown College provides educational opportunities in a positive and nurturing environment that will enable its students to become fully functional persons in the global society. The College prepares graduates to live meaningful and rewarding lives, thereby enabling them to make socially constructive and culturally relevant contributions to society. For more information, visit www.morrisbrown.edu.

About the HBCU Campaign Fund

HBCU Campaign Fund (HCF) is a nonprofit advocacy educational organization that is mission to support the significance and raises funds for scholarships, initiative programming, and for public and private HBCUs and MSIs. HCF remains today as a strong advocacy for students and higher education. For more information, visit www.hbcucampaignfund.org.

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