The HBCU Presidential Spotlight Series is sponored by the Office of the President and CEO, Founder, Demetrius Johnson, Jr. at the HBCU Campaign Fund (HCF) introduces chancellors and presidents who currently serves a historically black college or university (HBCU). This initiative recongizes those individuals who serves our nation higher ed institutions daily. Chaning and educating lives while producing the next generational leaders.

M. Christopher Brown II, Ph.D.
Eighteenth President
Kentucky State University

M. Christopher Brown II is the 18th president of Kentucky State University and founder of the Atwood Institute on Race, Education, and the Democratic Ideal.

A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Brown earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from South Carolina State University, a Master of Science in education policy and evaluation from the University of Kentucky, and a Doctor of Philosophy in higher education from the Pennsylvania State University.

After earning his Ph.D., Dr. Brown joined the faculties of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and The Pennsylvania State University where he earned tenure.  During a professional leave of absence, Dr. Brown served as executive director of the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute of the United Negro College Fund (FDPRI/UNCF), director at the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and vice president at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).

Dr. Brown was named professor and dean of the College of Education at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas before being appointed a university professor, executive vice president and provost at the historic Fisk University.  He also served as the 18th president of the nation’s first historically black land-grant institution – Alcorn State University – in Lorman, Mississippi, and as the inaugural executive vice president and provost of the Southern University and A & M College System in Louisiana.

Dr. Brown’s Alcorn presidency reinvigorated one of most important public college campuses in America.  Under his leadership, the university experienced record enrollment growing to over 4000 students for the first time in its 140 plus year history.  Dr. Brown also dedicated a $47 million, state-of-the-art student housing complex, spearheaded the renaming of Highway 552 in honor of the university’s longest-tenured president – Dr. Walter Washington, and dedicated the world’s largest statue to Alcorn alumnus and civil rights figure, Medgar Evers.  In addition to establishing the Office of Educational Equity and Inclusion, Dr. Brown hired the first non-black head football coach in both institutional and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) history.

Dr. Brown worked to develop and maintain a campus atmosphere dedicated to “excellence without excuse”.  Without question, he increased awareness of the Alcorn institutional brand and enhanced its recognition.  In 2012 Alcorn State University received the highly coveted HBCU of the Year Award, and in 2013 Dr. Brown was named Male HBCU President of the Year – both from the National Center for HBCU Media Advocacy.

Dr. Brown served as senior fellow at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).  As a member of the Division of Academic Leadership and Change, he was responsible for assisting with the periodic review and improvement of administrative leadership training and development programs sponsored by the association, developing rubrics and monographs incident to presidential leadership and university governance, as well as other institutional support projects.  During his fellowship, he completed a book with Dr. Christopher Knaus, “Whiteness Is The New South Africa:  Qualitative Research On Post-Apartheid Racism In Schools And Society”.

Dr. Brown is the author/editor of 16 other books and monographs.  He is the author or co-author of more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and publications related to education and society.  Regarded as an international scholar, he has lectured and/or presented research in various countries on six of seven continents – Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.  He is especially well known for his studies of historically black colleges, educational equity, and professorial responsibilities.  His research and scholarly writing includes publications on education policy, governance/administration, and institutional contexts.

Dr. Brown is the recipient of the 2001 Association for the Study of Higher Education’s Promising Scholar/Early Career Award, the 2002 AERA Committee on Scholars of Color Early Career Contribution Award, the 2007 Philip C. Chinn Book Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education, the 2008 Association of Teacher Educators Distinguished Educator Award, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Commission on Access, Diversity, and Excellence 2013 Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Brown received the Isaac Murphy Image Award for Education at the 2012 Kentucky Derby.  He was also recognized with a 2013 Trofeu Raca Negra (Black Race Trophy) from the Honors Council of the Society of Afro-Brazilian Socio-Cultural, the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award from South Carolina State University, and a 2017 Trumpet Award for Spiritual Enlightenment.

A former member of the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees, Dr. Brown is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, the 100 Black Men of America, Rotary International, a 33rd degree Free and Accepted Mason Prince Hall Affiliation, and an ordained Baptist minister.

He is married to the former Adrienne Joyce Allen of Canton, Mississippi.  Mrs. Brown is a middle school teacher.

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

I spent my faculty career researching and publishing scholarship on the role and importance of historically black colleges and universities.  This was joined to research on the effective governance and organizational behavior of colleges and universities.  Over the years, I would consult in both areas.  While serving as dean at UNLV, I was invited to consult at Fisk University on their upcoming accreditation. The consultancy turned into my full-time commitment to serve as provost to insure that the campus was viable and strong in the face of peer review.  My time at Fisk created a professional passion – I could use my knowledge and skills gained from research universities to stabilize and grow campuses that serve populations that reflect my own lived experience. After a successful SACSCOC reaffirmation, I was blessed to be named president at Alcorn State University.  All of my colleagues, friends, and family said that I was finally living my calling.  They are absolutely right.  I love my job and I invest my heart, mind, and resources into the campus.  There is not a day that I do not wake up and thank God for the privilege of being able to protect our national treasures and propel new generations of prepared HBCU graduates into the world.

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

It is a weighty and humbling assignment.  People see the robes and pageantry, but are not privy to the countless hours or reading, planning, praying, and making decisions (some small and some large) that impact thousands of families in our communities.  My goal is to make sure that the campuses I lead have systems, traditions, and structures that last long after my season of stewardship.  Presidents who served generations before me made hard and wise decisions to make certain that the institutions that were founded to educate the descendants of the formerly enslaved Africans in America still have access to education and opportunity decades and centuries after their deaths.  It is my job to make sure that my campus is viable and celebrated decades and even a century after my transition.

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

Leadership is the ability to motivate and convince others to work toward an identified task with full effort and commitment.  A supervisor or manager can direct someone to complete a task.   However, a leader inspires people to choose to use their talents, resources, and abilities to advance a common ambition.  As president of Kentucky State University and at Alcorn, Fisk, and Southern, I have been committed to creating, reinforcing, and promoting institutional brand identity.  It is my contention that with rare exception the content of most academic degree offering are invariable across institutions (i.e., most English majors or Psychology majors study the same content no matter which college they attend).  I believe that the greatest value in a college degree is in the institutional brand.  This is why some colleges have higher application rates, rejection numbers, and tuition prices.  The president (who I deem the “living logo” of the campus) should make certain that her/his campus has brand definition in the market and their products – students, research, community engagement – are respected and ideally celebrated in the larger landscapes of higher education, employment sectors, and government.  Whether one values rankings or not, the most highly ranked colleges and universities in our nation have strong brand identity.  The public often has clear perceptions about the campus even if they have never visited. I am committed to brand identity and the esprit de corps of a campus.  You should feel proud to claim and represent your institution.  The announcement of your campus need should create a set of positive physical responses at the mere mention of the name.

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

This is a tricky question for an academic researcher, because the nomenclature has a succinct legal definition – any institution founded before 1964 for the express purpose of providing postsecondary educational access to the descendent of the formerly enslaved Africans in America in a state or district where such access was excluded by law and practice.  However, conjoined to this legal definition is a cultural history of academic excellence, managerial efficiency, and social impact that is unparalleled by any other cohort of institutions. With less than six degrees of separation, HBCUs have been the birthplace of nearly every civic and social advancement on the timeline of black history in America (and some of Africa).  Black colleges serve as cultural repositories of the black experience, incubators for black excellence, and the physical manifestation of our black existence.  The black family, the black church, and the black college are the trinity of our anthropological history in this nation.  The three are inextricably linked and must be elevated at all costs.  The black college possesses unique agency of self-definition and reproduction.  If we did not have them, the social dynamics of our nation would cry out for their creation.

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

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has upended the normalcy that we call higher education.  While the strategic plan and my own professional priorities previously prescribed particular activities the upcoming year presents a necessary deviation.  For the 2020-21 academic term, I have three new priorities.  First, my intention will be to take every practicable step to insure that that the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and stakeholders of Kentucky State University are not subjected to any avoidable health hazards by introducing new non-pharmaceutical intervention protocols, providing access to personal protection safety products, and delimiting high risk contexts on the campus landmass.  Next, I want to stand up virtual and in-person engagements that continue the traditions and ethos of the traditional HBCU context while provide educational delivery to our student populace.  Finally, it is my unabating commitment to make certain that our campus maintains fiscal viability and institutional autonomy for the indefinite future.

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

On the wall above the door of my high school are inscribed the words, “Education is a possession of which no man can be robbed.”  I saw these words every school day for four years.  It serves as both mantra and affirmation.  I bear the weight of an ancestral charge and a divine unction to make certain that the students who are entrusted to my institution for collegiate instruction are enlightened academically, developed personally, and prepared professionally.  A CHARGE TO KEEP I HAVE.  Parents and guardians who bring their loved ones to us expect that we will do our best work and enable them to go forth into the world with emancipatory and transformative power to live, to be, and to thrive.  I take this responsibility personally.  As a former elementary school teacher, in loco parentis does not end for me with high school.  It is our just duty to support and advance a communal collective through our students – when one of us is successful then all of us can be successful.

What are the most interesting challenges of working as an University president and in the space of higher education?

The administrative tasks are common across campuses.  The nuances of HBCU leadership and even more public HBCU leadership are significant.  Private HBCUs at least have the luxury of being a non-state actor as they promote the historic dynamic of our campus context.  To this end, most private HBCUs are church affiliated and have 90% or greater black student enrollments.  Public HBCUs are state agencies, most with greater than 20-30% non-black student enrollments.  The complicated interplay of historic mission, public governance, and enrollment mix can make the leadership of a public HBCU a metaphorical minefield.  Additionally, the work is never done.  You can clear your desk today, but a new pile of challenges will await you tomorrow.

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

The proudest moments for me as a senior HBCU leader are graduations and commissioning ceremonies.  Don’t judge me, but I am known to shed a tear on these days.  As I sit and watch the sea of young, educated faces, I realized that on that day – that moment and the actions of conferring a degree or commissioning an officer – will forever transform the life of that student and their families.  It is an awe-inspiring reflection to realize that something you did or helped to leadwill alter the trajectory of an entire family for generations to come.  I often leave graduation events on foot – walking through the campus back to my office – to take in the beauty of the campus and the joy of the day.  Inevitably, I end up humming to myself (probably because I cannot sing) – “Lord, I done done.  Lord, I done done.  Lord, I done done.  I done done what you told me to too.”

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

My presidential and provost roles center on permanence – organizational structures, academic precision, campus traditions, and physical structures.  There is a wonderful book by Kathleen Manning – Rituals, Ceremonies, and Cultural Meaning in Higher Education – that metamorphosized my understanding of the power of the postsecondary space to create and define.  Interestingly enough, Kentucky State University is finishing a few construction projects and launching a new housing development.  We are aligning the academic structure to increase efficiency and improve outcomes. And we are being extremely intentional about the quality of students we produce and taking deliberate steps to support their on campus and lifelong success.

Why should students choose to attend your HBCU institution?

Kentucky State University is one of the nation’s fastest growing HBCUs – as evidenced by enrollment increases, graduation rates, media market shares, and upward movement in public rankings.  The campus is culturally congenial and possesses a family atmosphere.  We are a public university with private college student-teacher ratios.  We are poised to be the first and only HBCU admitted into COPLAC – the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. We are the home of the Thorobreds.  A thorobred/thoroughbred horse is the fastest and strongest horse bred from the purest bloodline.  It is celebrated for speed, agility, and spirit.  Why Kentucky State University you ask?  Students choose us because “WE ARE THORO”.

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About Kentucky State University (KSU)

Kentucky State University is a public, comprehensive, historically black land-grant university committed to advancing the Commonwealth of Kentucky, enhancing society, and impacting individuals by providing quality teaching with a foundation in liberal studies, scholarly research, and public service to enable productive lives within the diverse global economy. For more information, visit www.kysu.edu.

About the HBCU Campaign Fund (HCF)

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

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 and 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.

Tony Allen, Ph.D., President of Delaware State University.

Committed to a vision of making Delaware State University the most diverse, contemporary HBCU in America, Tony Allen became the University’s 12th President on January 1, 2020. He succeeded Dr. Wilma Mishoe, the first female chief executive in the institution’s history.

“I consider Delaware State University to be one of the most important institutions in the country,” Tony said on his first day in office. “I don’t choose those words lightly. Few institutions specialize in providing access to a four-year, comprehensive education to students who lack every advantage except sheer determination to do better for themselves and their families.”

Delaware Governor John Carney added, “Tony understands that the University’s role today is helping to build our workforce, while having both a social and economic impact on Delaware.”

Tony had previously served as Delaware State University’s Executive Vice President and Provost since July 2017. As Chief Academic Officer of the nation’s #4 public HBCU (as ranked by US News & World Report), he led a faculty of more than 220 professors in 18 academic departments, serving over 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

In two-and-one-half years as Chief Academic Officer, Tony implemented a reorganization of the University’s academic colleges and the professional advising unit. Under his leadership, the University has developed new impact-oriented organizations including the Center for Neighborhood Revitalization and Research and the Center for Global Africa, while materially expanding the institution’s global partnerships in China, Poland, Jamaica, and across Africa.

During that period, the University’s funded research portfolio increased from $19 million to $23 million (7th among HBCUs) and the institution’s chartered Early College High School graduated its first two classes, sending 52% of those students to Delaware State University with an average of 40+ college credits already earned.

He has labored tirelessly to raise public awareness and build or expand new partnerships for Delaware State University. Public and nonprofit endeavors have included the City of Wilmington, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Executive Leadership Council. Simultaneously, the University has been expanding corporate partnerships with JPMorgan Chase, Corteva, Exelon, Apple, the FMC Corporation, and many others.

This work has not gone unnoticed. In 2018, Tony received the Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic Civic Leadership in Higher Education Award, and in 2019 the Delaware Barristers Association honored him with its Excellence in Education Award for his “leadership and outstanding contributions to the field of education,” which has “demonstrated a true social commitment to social justice and equality for all.”

Of Tony’s tenure as Provost, Board Chairperson Dr. Devona Williams said, “Tony has materially strengthened our academic and research enterprise. He has a complete understanding of the challenges and opportunities in higher education, and particularly what it takes for students at a Historically Black College or University to succeed in academics, in establishing a career, and in life.”

Previously, Tony led the corporate reputation group at Bank of America and was responsible for developing programming to influential media elites, national social justice advocates, academics and elected officials and their staff at federal and local levels. He was also responsible for ongoing reputation analysis and related research; led communications for the bank’s Consumer, Commercial Banking, and Wealth Management businesses; and co-chaired the Global Marketing & Corporate Affairs Diversity & Inclusion Council. He started his financial services career as an Executive Vice President at MBNA America.

Tony’s career has been primarily characterized, however, by his lifelong commitment to public service, including service as the Founding President of both the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and Public Allies Delaware. In the former position, he received the National Urban League’s highest honor, the Whitney M. Young Award for Advancing Racial Equality. From the foundation he provided to Public Allies Delaware, the organization has graduated more than 1,000 young adults as “Allies,” who have provided more than 1 million hours of public service to Delaware communities.

Within the field of public education in Delaware, Tony chaired the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and its predecessor organization, while also serving on the Board of Directors for the Rodel Foundation. His work there was instrumental in providing the starting point for the newly appointed Redding Consortium for Educational Equity. He currently co-chairs the Greater Kent County Workforce Education and Skills Development Group.

Tony has served twice as the Chairperson for the United Way of Delaware’s $20 million annual charitable campaign, and is Chair Emeritus of the National Urban Fellows. He held a position on the transition teams of both Governors Jack Markell and John Carney, and was a speechwriter for then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden.

He holds a 1993 Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of Delaware and a 1998 Master’s Degree in Public Administration in Nonprofit Management and Community Development from the Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College (CUNY). He completed his academic journey at the University of Delaware’s Joseph R. Biden Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration by earning a 2001 Ph.D. His dissertation was on “Devolution and Intergovernmental Decision-Making: The Delaware Welfare Reform Experience.”

Over the past 15 years, Tony has been an active scholar and lecturer in the field of public policy and educational reform. In 2002, he began that career with the study Handgun Violence in Delaware for the Urban League and collaborated with Dr. Leland Ware on The Geography of Discrimination: Hyper-segregation, Isolation, and Fragmentation within the Black Community. In the ensuing years, he has contributed multiple articles on similar subjects, including “Much is Required” in the Urban League’s 2017 Report on the State of Black America.

Tony has maintained an active speaking schedule on behalf of Delaware State University and the overarching vision of educational access for all. He recently appeared at the Apple “Educause” Conference in Cupertino, California; keynoted the Ellucian Conference for Historically Black Colleges and Universities; appeared at the National Orientation Director’s Association (NODA) HBCU Summit; and addressed the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), among others. Among his many international appearances, Tony has given the Commencement address at Ningbo University of Technology in China, as well as keynoted the Convocation for Adunkele Ajasin University in Nigeria.

As Tony said in the video released on New Year’s Day 2020, “I am a first-generation college student. My father never completed 11th grade; my mom raised me as a single mother. They believed so strongly in education that it never occurred to me I had any other choice except to go forward as far as talent and opportunity would take me. Providing low-cost, high-quality education not only to the best and the brightest, but especially for those who are locked out or underserved, is not just Delaware State University’s history, it is WHO WE ARE. Our doors always have and will be open to everyone, regardless of skin color, national origin, the god they worship, who they choose to love, or how much money their family makes.”

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

I consider Delaware State University to be one of the most important institutions in the country. I don’t choose those words lightly. Few institutions specialize in providing access to a four-year, comprehensive education to students who lack every advantage except sheer determination to do better for themselves and their families.

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

It is a unique and high honor and one I take with great humility.

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

I believe in the power of “WE.” To be successful in any complex enterprise, you have to surround yourself with talented people; given them clear, overarching directives and as many resources as possible; and then set them to work. Initiative and innovation are rewarded, and accountability is essential. Without an environment of mutual personal and professional respect, you can achieve little. I am blessed with an exceptional team at this University at all levels, and sometimes my biggest challenge is to make sure they make time to take care of themselves and their families.

When I was first appointed, I gave everyone my “It all Matters” philosophy. Click here: https://delawarebusinesstimes.com/news/people/90-in-90-tony-allen/.

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

To state my position unambiguously: Delaware State University’s future centers on always embracing our HBCU heritage, and having our actions testify every day that we are among the most important institutions in the world, literally building “a more perfect Union” and educating better global citizens.

Our core mission has not changed in 129 years: find young people who are as bright, energetic and driven as any in the world, and pay special attention to those who don’t realize their power and promise. Provide them an exceptional education and never let them forget where they come from, or the ones who made the sacrifices to give this opportunity. Whether they are Dreamers from Georgia or first-generation students from Georgetown, we are the place to call home.

Last fall, I wrote to the Delaware State community to say that I was profoundly grateful to God for affording me the enormous, life-changing opportunity to serve this University, and to be entrusted with a leadership role in finding our collective place of continued usefulness and honor in the world. For each of us at Delaware State University, doing so requires that we be better tomorrow than we are today, work harder – and smarter – than we have before, and strive without fear… TOGETHER.

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

  1. Growth through innovation – ensuring that we continue to attract talented students from a wide-array of backgrounds on campus, virtually around the world.
  2. Building a culture of unwavering customer service.
  3. Putting the students at the center of everything we do.

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

Today, there is a clear juxtaposition between the enormous possibilities of Black economic and political power and the continued bifurcation of mass incarceration of young Black men, the destabilization of densely populated urban centers and the deeply divisive opportunity gaps and lower wages for African American people writ large. Those tensions are rooted in the prospects of a well-education American citizenry and a belief, or lack thereof, that our country is better positioned for the future if every segment of society sees success as a link to that of their fellow citizens. As such, HBCUs in general, and Delaware State University in particular, play a profoundly substantive role.

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

Taking advantage of the University’s unique assets and identity, pursuing a long-term strategy that offers a big vision for the future, attracting a variety of financial and programmatic stakeholders and balancing a longstanding commitment to underserved and non-traditional students with initiatives that enhance its contributions to scholarship, service, social justice and economic empowerment.

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

Graduating our first class of DREAMERS. 

As you may know, Delaware State University is the #1 national school of choice for DREAMERS (children of undocumented immigrants under DACA), and we currently enroll about 175 of them. During the Fall of 2017, there was a strong move by the administration to eliminate the protections that DACA has provided these students, most of whom were brought to the United States at an age younger than six, and who have known no other country. Delaware’s senior United States Senator Tom Carper had been—and continues to be—a fierce champion for these students. He came to campus to meet with the Dreamers and update them on the progress of the fight. It was an announced meeting, but not originally intended as a large public gathering. Our students, faculty, and staff decided otherwise, and left classes and offices in the middle of the day in numbers exceeding 1,000 to come out and stand with our Dreamers, to communicate a very simple message: “You are part of our community, our family; we love you and will support you come what may.” I hope to be here for many years, but that expression of love and solidarity may be unmatched in my tenure.

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

One cannot overstate the power of a community of talented scholars and professionals – students, faculty and staff alike – who make significant and continuing contributions to the world around them and who carry forward the identity and priorities of the university they represent. Delaware State University is such an institution.

Why should students choose to attend your HBCU institution?

Our mission is to produce capable and productive leaders who contribute to the sustainability and economic development of the global community. Done right, this kind of education represents the hope of a great country, because it testifies that people, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or who they love, can be made equitably competitive in a smaller, more connected world.

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About Delaware State University

DSU enjoys a long history as one of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Founded in 1891 as the State College for Colored Students, DSU is proud of its heritage as one of the country’s first land-grant educational institutions. Today, the institution is a welcome center of learning for student from many backgrounds. DSU’s current population includes a 63% African-American enrollment and an increasing number of Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian and other international students. For more information, visit www.desu.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.

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.