A Report Card on the University of Virginia’s Efforts to Become More Socioeconomically Diverse

In the latest JBHE analysis of Pell Grant recipients at the nation’s 30 highest-ranked universities, the University of Virginia ranked 28th in percentage of low-income students. Only 7.3 percent of undergraduate students at the University of Virginia in 2007 qualified for federal Pell Grant awards. In contrast, 35 percent of all undergraduate students at the University of California at Los Angeles received Pell Grants. These federal scholarship grants are generally awarded to students who come from families with incomes below $40,000 a year.

Five years ago, in an effort to attract more low-income students, the University of Virginia launched its AccessUVA financial aid program. Under the program, loans were eliminated for all low-income students and were replaced with scholarship grants. Under the plan, low-income students were all those who came from families that earned below twice the federal family poverty level. (For a four-person family, the most recent poverty threshold is slightly over $21,000.)

Since AccessUVA was instituted, the university has increased its financial aid budget from $14.1 million to $31.3 million. During the period, the percentage of undergraduate students qualifying for financial aid has increased from 15.3 percent to nearly 27 percent. And over the past three years, the number of students who have qualified for Pell Grant awards has risen by nearly 23 percent.

The university also established the Rainey Academic Program, a summer bridge program for at-risk students who receive AccessUVA grants. As a result, the university has been able to maintain its high black student graduation rate, which for many years has been the best among all state-operated universities in the nation.



Bowie State University Debuts Online Game to Recruit Students

Bowie State University, the historically black educational institution in Maryland, has debuted an online, interactive game geared to attract prospective students. The game, “R U Ready?” targets middle school and early high school students and encourages them to start making the right choices to prepare themselves for college.

Players are presented with a series of life scenarios in which they must make the right decisions in order to move on. Along the way they learn about Bowie State and all the university has to offer.

As an incentive to get students to play the game, players can download ringtones for their cell phones and wallpapers for their desktops. In addition, players have a chance to win $25 iTunes gift cards.

Readers who would like to see this online marketing effort can click here.


Poll Finds Waning Support for Affirmative Action Programs Among College Graduates

A new poll conducted by researchers at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, finds that a clear majority of Americans believe affirmative action in hiring, promotions, and college admissions should be abolished. Only 27 percent of whites supported the continuation of affirmative action programs whereas 78 percent of blacks want such programs to continue. Hispanics were about evenly split on whether affirmative action programs should be continued.

Slightly more than half of all respondents with a college degree call for an end to affirmative action programs whereas those with a lower level of education voiced even less support for continuing preferences.

When the question was made more specific, asking if respondents support affirmative action programs that give preferences to blacks in hirings, promotions, and college admissions, support for affirmative action dropped even further. More than 60 percent of all respondents said they did not support affirmative action programs for blacks. By a margin of 57-37 percent, respondents with a college degree opposed affirmative action programs for African Americans.


Increasing Opportunities for Blacks in Business School

Over the past decade the number of students taking the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) has doubled. The number of black GMAT test takers is up 26 percent over the past four years alone.

But in an effort to further improve the opportunities for black students to enroll in business school, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the organization that oversees the GMAT test, has entered into an agreement with the deans of 38 business schools at historically black colleges and universities.

Under the agreement, GMAC will furnish test preparation materials for use by undergraduate students at historically black colleges and universities. In addition, the GMAC will provide test fee waivers to the universities, which they can use at their discretion so that none of their students will be denied the opportunity to take the GMAT because of financial need. The current fee to take the GMAT exam is $250.

In addition, the GMAT Mobile Testing Center will travel the country visiting the campuses of black colleges and universities that are more than 40 miles away from the nearest testing center. As a result, students at these remote campuses will be able to take the GMAT without having to travel.


This Fall a Record Number of Black Students Are Expected at Rice University

Rice University in Houston reports that in 2009 it received a record number of applicants and expects a record number of incoming freshmen this fall.

The original charter of Rice University prohibited admission of black students. This restriction was not rescinded until 1965. In recent years there have been large numbers of black students at Rice.

The number of blacks applying to Rice this year was up nearly 13 percent from a year ago. Preliminary figures show that there will be 66 blacks in this fall’s entering class. This would be an all-time record number of incoming black students.


83.1%  Percentage of white parents of children in grades K-12 who attended a school or class event in 2007.

68.7%  Percentage of black parents of children in grades K-12 who attended a school or class event in 2007.

source: U.S. Census Bureau


Howard University Bonds Take a Hit

Standard & Poor’s downgraded its ratings on bonds issued by the District of Columbia for historically black Howard University from stable to negative. The ratings agency cited operating losses at the university and Howard University Hospital, and a declining university endowment. Standard & Poor’s did report that losses in 2009 are expected to be lower and the university has taken steps to reduce costs and enhance revenues.

In Memoriam

Johnnie Hines Watts Prothro (1922-2009)

A long-time professor of nutrition at Tuskegee and other universities, Johnnie Hines Watts Prothro died of cancer earlier this month at her home in Decatur, Georgia. She was 87 years old.

Dr. Prothro was a native of Atlanta. At the age of 15, she graduated from her racially segregated high school and enrolled at Spelman College. She went on to earn a master’s degree in chemistry from Columbia University in 1946. In 1952 Dr. Prothro was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Her dissertation was entitled, “The Relation of the Rates of Inactivation of Peroxidase, Catecholase, and Ascorbase to the Oxidation of Ascorbic Acid in Vegetables.”

After completing her doctoral work she joined the faculty at Tuskegee Institute. During her long academic career, she also taught at Southern University, the University of Connecticut, Emory University, and Georgia State University. She retired from teaching in 1989.

President Carter appointed Dr. Prothro to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development. She was the first woman and first black to serve on this panel.




• Delaware State University, the historically black educational institution in Dover, received a $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for several projects involving cancer research.

• Everett Community College in Washington State received a three-year, $152,306 grant from College Spark Washington, a nonprofit organization formerly known as the Education Assistance Foundation. The grant will fund a program aimed at increasing the number of minority students who become teachers.

• Wayne State University in Detroit received a two-year, $600,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation of Troy, Michigan, for a program to improve the quality of mathematics instruction for students in the Detroit public school system.



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University of Chicago Researcher Preserves the Archives of the Chicago Defender

Robert A. Sengstacke has donated the archival records of the Chicago Defender to the Chicago Public Library. The Chicago Defender is one of the oldest black newspapers in the country. It is also among the most prestigious.

The photographs and documents had been stored in 100 large boxes in a humid attic in Chicago’s West Loop. Jacqueline Goldsby, an associate professor of English at the University of Chicago, along with several graduate students, sorted through the material. The archiving took 18 months.

As part of the agreement, the University of Chicago Library will create and maintain a digital archive of the collection, including an online repository of 4,000 original photographs.

Professor Goldsby holds a Ph.D. from Yale University. She is the author of the 2006 award-winning book, A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature.


“The last time I checked, summa cum laude had nothing to do with affirmative action.”

Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, commenting on criticisms that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was chosen not on merit but because she is Latina


The Gender Gap in Professional Degree Awards to African Americans

The year 1989 was the first year that black women earned more professional degree awards than black men. These degrees are in fields such as law, medicine, dentistry, divinity, veterinary medicine, podiatry, and others. Today, the gender gap in professional degree awards for African Americans is large but not as wide as in the case of bachelor’s or master’s degree attainments. In 2007 black women earned 63 percent of all professional degrees awarded to African Americans. This is down from 64 percent in 2005.


Student Leader at York University Fined for Protesting Racism on Campus

The student body leader at York University in Toronto, Canada, was fined for mounting a protest about the university’s inaction regarding several racial incidents on campus. The leader of the York Federation of Students said, “I decided to stand up against racism and I think it is absurd that I was fined by the university for saying ‘racists off campus.’”

Odion Osegyefo, the leader of the Black Students Alliance at York, called on students to make donations to help pay the fine. He said, “When members of our community stand up against racism, we stand behind them.”


One African American Among the 30 New Fellows of the American Philosophical Society

Founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin, the American Philosophical Society is the nation’s oldest learned society. Members are not confined to the field of philosophy. They come from a wide variety of academic disciplines including mathematics, science, the humanities, social sciences, the arts, and public service. Past members have included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Charles Darwin, and Thomas Edison. Today there are about 900 members of the society, 200 of whom have won a Nobel Prize.

In common with other prestigious learned organizations, the American Philosophical Society does not reveal the racial makeup of its membership. The society’s African-American membership does include black scholars such as Cornel West, K. Anthony Appiah, Toni Morrison, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. A year ago three new black scholars were elected to membership. They were Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot, Lawrence J. Bobo, and Claude Steele.

This year there is one black scholar among the 30 newly elected American members of the society. The new African-American member is Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, who is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. Professor Higginbotham, whose research concentrates on the history of African-American women, also chairs the African and African-American studies department at Harvard.

Professor Higginbotham is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She holds a master’s degree from Howard University and a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Rochester.



New Interdisciplinary Journal Founded at Historically Black South Carolina State University

The College of Education, Humanities, and Social Sciences at historically black South Carolina State University has announced the launch of Plenum, a new interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal.

The new journal will publish research on interdisciplinary classroom instruction, poetry, nonfiction prose, reviews of other works in interdisciplinary fields, and black and white photography.

The co-editors of the new journal are Shafiqur Rahman and Angela Shaw-Thornburg, professors in the university’s department of English and modern languages.


Jamaica Kincaid Leaves Harvard for Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College, the highly selective liberal arts college in California, has scored a hiring coup by appointing Jamaica Kincaid as a professor of literature. She will teach two courses in the upcoming fall semester: autobiography and literary imagination as well as fiction writing. Kincaid had held a joint appointment in English and African and African-American studies at Harvard University.

Kincaid is a native of Antigua. She moved to New York at the age of 16 to work as an au pair. After attending Franconia College in New Hampshire for a short period, Kincaid became a fact checker at Forbes magazine and later a staff writer for The New Yorker.

She published her first novel in 1983. Her 1996 book, The Autobiography of My Mother, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award in Fiction. She was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997 for her novel, My Brother. Her most recent book is Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya. She is currently at work on a new novel entitled See Now Then.

Professor Kincaid has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Kenneth W. Austin was appointed executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The fund represents 47 historically black colleges and universities.

Austin was president of the Association of Black Foundation Executives. He is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School.

• Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, was named a Global Fellow by the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

• Ayo Ositelu was elected to the board of trustees of Vanderbilt University. Ositelu, a native of Indianapolis, graduated from the university this spring with a double major in engineering and mathematics.

• LaTanya D. Afolayan was appointed vice chancellor for institutional advancement at North Carolina Central University. She was vice chancellor for development at Elizabeth City State University.

Afolayan is a graduate of Indiana State University. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Missouri and is pursuing an educational doctorate at East Carolina University.

• Tony Brown, former television host for the Public Broadcasting System, has announced he is retiring as dean of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University. Brown, who has served as dean for five years, is 76 years old.

• Thomasina Yuille was named chaplain of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. She was the staff chaplain at the U.S. Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut.

Yuille has a master’s degree from the Yale Divinity School and is completing her doctorate at the Hartford Seminary.

• Eurmon Hervey was named provost of Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida. Earlier this year he was named chief executive officer of the newly formed community college at the University of the District of Columbia.

Dr. Hervey is a graduate of Edward Waters College. He holds master’s degrees from Clark Atlanta University and Harvard University and an educational doctorate from Vanderbilt University.


Honors and Awards

• Evelynn M. Hammonds, dean of Harvard College, received the Catalyst Award from the Science Club for Girls for her efforts to enhance gender and racial diversity in science.

Dr. Hammonds is a graduate of Spelman College. She holds a master’s degree in physics from MIT and a Ph.D. in the history of science from Harvard University.

• Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Fulbright Association. The author of nine books, Professor Dove is former poet laureate of the United States.

• George M. Langford, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, received the 2009 Professional Achievement Award from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Dr. Langford received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in cell biology from IIT.

• Donald W. Murphy, CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, was presented with the Outstanding Alumnus award from the alumni association of the University of California at San Diego.

• Annette Gordon-Reed, a law professor at New York University who also teaches on the Newark campus of Rutgers University, won the George Washington Book Prize for her book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. The award comes with a $50,000 cash prize. Professor Gordon-Reed had previously won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for the same work.

Professor Gordon-Reed is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.

Copyright © 2009. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.