Today on the blog we welcome MCF member Kayla Yang-Best of Bush Foundation, who will share what she learned from a recent event about Tribal Colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Thank you, Kayla!
I had the great pleasure of attending a presentation and panel discussion on Historically Black Universities and Colleges this past week. The presentation was part a larger convening hosted by the Center for School Change on “Learning and Teaching with Fire: Lessons from HBCUs and Tribal Colleges.” What an invigorating discussion – one well participated by community leaders and people from a wide range of organizations and sectors, including K12 and policymakers.
We heard many examples of students of color who are succeeding in postsecondary education. I’d like to focus on a couple examples from HBCUs that left an impression on me:
- HBCUs retain and graduate low-income, academically under-prepared students at higher rates than non-HBCUs.
- 40 percent of Black students with degrees in STEM graduated from an HBCU.
What accounts for this success? Dr. Brian Bridges of the United Negro College Fund, one of the speakers, attributed it to “a culture of experimentation” – where HBCUs are doing things differently and intentionally. He highlighted several practices, including:
- High level of student/faculty engagement
- Proactive advising
- Promoting culture and a high level of self-identity and
- Setting high expectations.
He concluded his talk by saying “these strategies can be adapted to all education levels and settings.”
At the core of these practices is connecting to culture, that in turn creates a high level of self-identity, belonging and relationship that the kids desperately need. A good illustration of that came from the audience, a young black man, who stood up and said that he has often been told his history starts with slavery. And that is a very negative foundation to identify with. In his words, “what about before slavery? There is more to me and who I am.”
I was really moved and energized coming out of that convening. Besides learning about the great results of the practices of HBCUs and Tribal Colleges, the convening presented a positive and asset-based narrative about kids of color and achievement, which we don’t hear enough about.
Thank you to the Center for School Change for the convening.