Six African-American Scientists Win Presidential Mentoring Awards

Often the best strategy for increasing the numbers of black students in the scientific, engineering, and mathematics disciplines are strong mentoring programs. Mentors can help black students navigate the complexities of the science curriculum, offering guidance on course choices, research opportunities, summer internship programs, and their choice of departmental advisers. These types of programs are invaluable in making African-American college students more comfortable as they undertake a challenging course of study in the sciences.

Barack Obama has announced the 2009 winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The awards are given to scholars of any race who have played a major role in the academic and personal development of minority students in the hard sciences. Winners of these awards are honored at a White House ceremony and receive a cash stipend of $10,000.

Here are this year’s African-American winners of the presidential mentoring awards:

• Goldie S. Byrd is chair of the department of biology at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. She won a multimillion-dollar grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities to establish genetics research on racial differences in Alzheimer’s disease.

• Lesia Crumpton-Young is a professor of industrial engineering and management systems at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. She has served as a mentor to nearly 300 undergraduate and graduate students and 35 junior faculty members. She also participates in engineering outreach programs for students in the K-12 years. She works in the mentoring programs of the Society for Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers.

Patricia A. DeLeon is a professor of biology and faculty representative on the board of trustees at the University of Delaware. Her research involves genetic causes of male infertility. Professor DeLeon has mentored more than 100 trainees, including undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scientists from around the world. A large majority of the people she has mentored are women and about one third are minorities.

Ashanti Johnson is an assistant professor of chemical oceanography at the College of Marine Science of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. She is the founder of the mentoring organization Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science.

Cato T. Laurencin is the Lillian T. Pratt Distinguished Professor and chair of the department of orthopaedic surgery at the medical school of the University of Virginia. Working at several university teaching hospitals, he has mentored hundreds of future physicians and surgeons.

Kennedy Reed is a theoretical physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The lab is affiliated with the University of California. He has been a leader in programs to increase the number of blacks and other minorities in physics. He founded Livermore’s research collaboration program with black colleges. Dr. Reed was also instrumental in the founding of the National Physical Science Consortium.



New Interim President Named at Historically Black Florida Memorial University

In a brief statement issued by the chair of the board of trustees of Florida Memorial University, it was announced that Karl S. Wright “is no longer serving as president of the university.” The statement did not disclose if Wright resigned or was dismissed.

Dr. Wright had been an administrator at the historically black university in Miami Gardens for 12 years before being named president. A native of Jamaica, Wright is an economist. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from Mississippi State University.

When he became president two years ago, Wright said his goals were to strengthen the school’s traditional liberal arts curriculum and to make a new concerted effort to beef up offerings in science, mathematics, and engineering.

Many students at Florida Memorial University are from Caribbean nations. So Wright also stated he wanted to refocus education on global issues. He planned to open satellite campuses in the Caribbean and in Africa and have Florida Memorial students spend time on one of these campuses.

Earlier this summer, Florida Memorial University was placed on accreditation warning status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is not known whether this was a factor in the resignation or dismissal of President Wright.

Sandra T. Thompson was named interim president of the university. Dr. Thompson has been an administrator at Florida Memorial University for 30 years, most recently serving as provost. She is a graduate of Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. Dr. Thompson earned a master’s degree from Fisk University and a doctoral degree from the University of Florida.


The Financial Challenges of Historically Black Benedict College

The economic recession has hit many small, private black colleges and universities very hard. Morris Brown College in Atlanta had the water shut off because it could not pay its bill. LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis was saved only by a cash infusion from local governments. Paul Quinn College in Texas lost its accreditation due in part to the college’s financial situation.

Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, also is in a precarious financial position. The Department of Education notified the school that it failed to meet the standards of financial responsibility. As a result, the college must make financial aid distributions under federal student grant programs and then request that the government reimburse the school. The college is also required to notify the Department of Education of any developments that negatively affect the school’s finances.

Benedict College reports that it has $117 million in assets but more than $94 million in debts. The college hopes to enroll 2,950 students this fall. This would be an increase of 400 students since 2005. Maintaining a high enrollment level is crucial to the college’s financial situation.

Looming on the horizon is an accreditation review in 2010. A college’s financial situation is a critical element of the accreditation process.


To the Detriment of African Americans, States Are Increasingly Turning to Merit-Based Financial Aid for College Students

As was always the case, money continues to be a major barrier to black student enrollments in higher education. The inability of low- and moderate-income black students to afford higher education is offset only to a limited degree by the availability of financial aid.

The bad news is that, increasingly, financial aid for college students is being allocated on the basis of merit rather than need. Blacks, who are three times as likely to be poor as whites, disproportionately benefit when need-based aid is directed toward youngsters in low-income families. But blacks, who on average have significantly lower grade point averages and scores on standardized tests than whites, receive almost insignificant portions of merit-based aid.

According to a report from the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs, nationwide, 62.2 percent of all financial aid for undergraduate college students awarded by state governments is need based. A decade ago, 81 percent of all financial aid for college students at the state level was need based.

In 2008, 14 states offered more merit-based aid than need-based aid to undergraduate students. Many of these states are in the South ,where there are large numbers of low-income black students who need financial assistance in order to bear the costs of a college education.

Overall, more than $2.1 billion in financial aid based solely on merit was awarded by state governments in 2008. This is nearly quadruple the amount from a decade ago.



Honors and Awards

• James L. Moore III, an associate professor of physical activity and educational services at the College of Education and Human Ecology of Ohio State University, received the Outstanding Contribution to School-Based Family Counseling Award from the Institute for School-Based Family Counseling.

Dr. Moore is a graduate of Delaware State University and holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in counselor education from Virginia Tech.

• Dejere Agonafer, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, was presented with the 2009 InterPACK Achievement Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Dr. Agonafer is a graduate of the University of Colorado. He holds a Ph.D. in engineering from Howard University.


9.4%  African-American percentage of all students in the United States in 2003 who were homeschooled.

4.0%  African-American percentage of all students in the United States in 2007 who were homeschooled.

source: U.S. Census Bureau


Grants and Gifts

• Jackson State University, the historically black educational institution in Mississippi, received a $150,000 donation of equipment to create a lending library for K-12 science teachers in Mississippi. The gift was made by Lillie V. Tucker-Aiken, a science education consultant who is a senior adviser to the university’s Mississippi Academy for Math and Science Teaching.

• Fort Valley State University, the historically black educational institution in Georgia, received a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will be used for a program to spur small business growth in rural communities.


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Black Student Persistence Rates at Two-Year Community Colleges

Nationwide about 45 percent of African-American students who enter four-year colleges graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years. This poor performance says nothing whatsoever about the success rate of black students who enroll in two-year community colleges. And this is a very large segment of all blacks who are enrolled in higher education. Blacks who are enrolled in two-year colleges account for 40 percent of all African-American enrollments in undergraduate higher education. And this percentage is undoubtedly on the rise due to the nation’s severe economic recession.

New statistics from the U.S. Department of Education tracked the status of students who enrolled for the first time in two-year community colleges in the 2003-04 period. The data shows that 25.2 percent of all blacks who enrolled at these schools had dropped out within the first year and had not returned to college by 2006. More than 41 percent who enrolled at these two-year colleges in 2003-04 were still enrolled at the same institution three years later. For those still enrolled, nearly 35 percent had taken a semester or more off from college during the three years since they had first enrolled.

The new Department of Education report shows that, on average, black students have a difficult time completing the two-year course of study at community colleges.

But there is some good news. In 2007 more than 90,000 African Americans were awarded two-year degrees at the nation’s community colleges. This is up more than 50 percent from the year 2000.


“If there’s one last frontier that we have to conquer on the road to equal opportunity in America, it’s access to knowledge, access to quality public education, and access to higher education for all.”

Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, speaking at the Howard University College of Law


Graduates of Howard University Earn Higher Starting Salaries Than Graduates of Any Other Black College or University

The company PayScale Inc., which is headquartered in Seattle, maintains the world’s largest database of employer compensation and employee salary profiles.

The company’s data shows that graduates of Loma Linda University in Los Angeles earn the highest starting salaries of any undergraduate college or university in the nation. Graduates of the university have an average starting salary of $71,400. MIT ranks second with graduates earning an average starting salary of $71,100. Other colleges and universities in the top 10 are Harvey Mudd College, CalTech, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Rose-Hulman Institute.

Among the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, Howard University graduates have the highest average starting salary. Howard University graduates have an average starting salary of $50,300. Howard ranked 100th on the list of colleges and universities with the highest starting salaries. It ranked just ahead of Penn State, Northwestern, and the University of Texas.

Among the black colleges, the lowest average starting salary was for graduates of North Carolina Central University in Durham. Graduates of NCCU had an average starting salary of $35,600.


Blacks Do Slightly Better in Transfer Admissions at Berkeley Than They Do in Securing Places in the Freshman Class

Since 1998 state law has required that all admissions decisions for places at the undergraduate campuses of the University of California be made without the consideration of race. As a result, black enrollments at UCLA and Berkeley, the two most prestigious undergraduate campuses, have plummeted.

For the freshman class that will enter this fall, Berkeley reports that 3.1 percent are African Americans. The number of entering black freshmen at Berkeley is just over half the number in 1997, the year before the ban on race-sensitive admissions was put into effect.

But freshman enrollments at Berkeley tell only part of the story. Each year more than 13,000 students, mostly from the California State University system or from California community colleges, apply as transfer students. Each year more than 2,500 transfer students enroll at Berkeley. The question is, Do black students fare any better under the transfer admission process than they do in the admission process of first-year students?

The short answer is, Yes. More than 26 percent of all black students who apply for transfer to Berkeley are accepted for admission. This is only slightly lower than the admission rate for all transfer students. In contrast, less than 17 percent of black freshman applicants are accepted for admission at Berkeley. This is significantly below the overall acceptance rate of 27 percent.

This year 96 black transfer students will enroll at Berkeley. They make up 3.7 percent of all transfer students who will enroll. As stated, 3.1 percent of the first-year class is black.


The 10 Colleges Where The Princeton Review Says There Is the Least Interaction Between the Races

Last week we reported the 10 schools rated by The Princeton Review as having the most interaction between students of different races. The University of Miami was rated the school with the most racial interaction among students.

The Princeton Review also lists the schools where there is “little interaction between the races” on campus. Three of the 10 schools with the least racial interaction are in Connecticut and five of the top 10 are in New England.

The 10 schools where there is the least interaction between the races, according to The Princeton Review, are: Fairfield University, Trinity College, the University of New Hampshire, Miami University, Providence College, Quinnipiac University, Wake Forest University, Syracuse University, Texas Christian University, and Rollins College.



William H. Harris to Serve a Second Time as President of Alabama State University

The board of trustees has named William H. Harris president of Alabama State University. He has been serving as interim president of the university and previously served a six-year term as president from 1994 to 2000. Dr. Harris also has been president of Paine College and Texas Southern University.

Dr. Harris holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history from Indiana University. He began his academic career as an assistant professor of history at Indiana University and was later promoted to full professor and associate dean of the graduate school. He is the author of Keeping the Faith: A. Philip Randolph, Milton P. Webster, and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (University of Illinois Press, 1977) as well as The Harder We Run: Black Workers Since the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 1982).


In Memoriam

Horace Clarence Boyer (1935-2009)

Horace Clarence Boyer, professor emeritus of music at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has died at the age of 73.

Professor Boyer was a native of Winter Park, Florida. Both of his parents were ministers in the Church of God in Christ. He sang in the church choir at an early age and developed a love of gospel music. He toured the nation with his brother James, performing gospel music in 40 states.

Professor Boyer was a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University, the historically black educational institution in Daytona Beach, Florida. He earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Dr. Boyer joined the UMass faculty in 1973 and taught music there for more than a quarter-century until his retirement in 1999. Previously he taught at Albany State University, Brevard Community College, and Florida Technological University. From 1985-87, Dr. Boyer served as curator of musical instruments at the National Museum of Musical History in the Smithsonian. He was the author of the 1995 book How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel Music.


Appointments, Promotions & Resignations

• Jerald Jones-Woolfolk was appointed vice president for student affairs at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York. She was interim vice president for student affairs at Mississippi Valley State University.

Dr. Jones-Woolfolk is a graduate of Jackson State University. She holds a master’s degree in counselor education from Iowa State University and a doctorate in urban higher education from Jackson State University.

• Dawn A. Lott, associate professor of applied mathematics and biological sciences, was named director of the Honors Program at Delaware State University. She has been on the faculty at Delaware State since 2003.

Dr. Lott is a graduate of Bucknell University. She holds a master’s degree from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

• Rhonda Lewis-Moss was promoted to full professor of psychology at Wichita State University. She was an associate professor. Dr. Lewis-Moss is only the second African-American woman to hold the rank of full professor at the university.

A graduate of Wichita State University, she holds two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas.

• Robert Mock was promoted to the position of associate vice provost for student affairs at the University of Arkansas. He was an assistant vice chancellor at the university.

Dr. Mock is a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He holds a master’s degree in interpersonal and organizational communication and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

• Rushton Johnson Jr. was appointed executive director for student life at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. He was dean of student life and assistant to the vice president for student affairs at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Dr. Johnson is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College. He holds a master’s degree in counseling from Jacksonville State University and an educational doctorate from the University of Alabama.

• Raphael X. Moffett was named director of campus and community involvement at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He was director of student life at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Dr. Moffett is a native of Olympia, Washington, and graduated from Washington State University. He holds a master’s degree and an educational doctorate from Clark Atlanta University.

• Rob Knox is the new sports information director at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He was assistant athletics director for sports information at historically black Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. He is president of the Black College Sports Information Directors Association.

• Charlene D. Slaughter was promoted to director of public relations at Claflin University. Slaughter, a graduate of Winthrop University, has served as assistant director of public relations at Claflin since 2007.

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