Angelo John Lewis 27 Buttonwood Street Lambertville, NJ 08530 (609) 397-9777 EXCHANGE PROGRAMS BETWEEN HBCUs AND PWIs: An Emphasis on Partnership, but Some Problems Remain by Angelo John Lewis During the 1960s, according to Tougaloo College lore, President John F. Kennedy called for the nation’s predominately white colleges to cooperate in bolstering the status of historically black colleges and universities. The president’s words prompted a faculty and student exchange program between Brown University and Tougaloo which continues to this day.
That relationship, says Tougaloo Vice President for Academic Affairs Bettye Parker Smith, is the oldest of its kind in the country. Since that time, the existence of exchange programs or “partnerships” between predominately white and predominately black colleges and universities has become the rule, rather than the exception. At the same time, the relationships themselves have changed, evolving from top-down paternalistic ones to an emphasis on collaborative “partnerships” and a clearer recognition that these affiliations benefit both types of institutions. When you take away all the fluff and the rhetoric, partnerships are really about extending opportunities for a given institution. What’s implied in the term ‘partnership’ is that each institution is bettering its own situation,” says Spelman President Johnnetta B. Cole. Like most HBCUs, Spelman is engaged in several types of partnerships. Its longest lasting is a faculty exchange program with the University of Wisconsin, which primarily involves exchanges of science teachers.
An additional side-effect of the relationship has come in the form of technical assistance; University of Wisconsin faculty and administrators recently provided Spelman with technical assistance in Spelman’s effort to construct a $5 million science facility. The Atlanta-based woman’s college also is one of ten HBCUs that participate in the New York University-based Faculty Resource Network, which sponsors programs that range from faculty seminars and scholars-in-residences to projects that encourage students to attend graduate school.
Among Spelman’s other exchange programs is an across-the-board relationship with Princeton University, which has involved back-and-forth visits of faculty in the sciences and Afro-American studies. That partnership has been facilitated by the presence of Vice Provost Ruth Simmons at Princeton. Prior to returning to Princeton, where she served as associate dean of the faculty, Simmons was Spelman’s provost. According to Cole, Simmons is the “prime connector who knows the needs of both institutions intimately. ” Tougaloo’s relationship with Brown is an especially intimate one. Each has an exchange program coordinator program on its campus.
Presidents and deans of both institutions have regularly visited each other’s campus. “The program,” says Tougaloo’s Smith, “has worked very well at getting our students into graduate school and giving them a more varied experience. ” Last year, she adds, some eleven Brown students visited Tougaloo while about five Brown students visited Tougaloo’s Tougaloo, Mississippi campus. Tougaloo also has an early identification program with Brown, whereby one or two students each year spend the end of their junior year at Brown and have automatic admission into Brown’s medical school.
Ongoing faculty exchange programs are also part of the relationship. Like Spelman, Tougaloo is also a member of the Faculty Resource Network. “What participation in the network has meant to me as a Vice President is an opportunity to provide my faculty opportunities for professional development that we cannot afford to give them ourselves. They also come back stronger professors, which means that students learn better,” Smith says. Tougaloo also has honorific student exchange programs with New York University and matriculation programs with the medical schools of Florida A&M University and Boston University.
HBCUs and predominately white institutions go into these relationships for different reasons. According to the United Negro College President Bill Gray, HBCU students get the same kind of benefits from these programs as students in general get from studying overseas. “For the same reasons as Harvard has exchange programs with the Sorbonne, these programs widen student horizons. They sometimes even have the effect of attracting students into a more global field, rather than a narrow specialty. “
For their part, HBCU faculty use the exchanges to gain new insights into learn teaching methodologies. They also sometimes gain new impetus for engaging in research projects they might have put on the back-burner because of their exclusive preoccupation with teaching at their home institution. According to Leslie Cohen Berlowitz, Director of the Faculty Resource Network, many HBCUs got involved in the program initially because it provided an incentive for some “ABD” — anything but doctorate — HBCU faculty to complete their Ph. D. s or to participate in collaborative research.
Predominately white institutions, on the other hand, look to HBCUs as sources of strategies to diversity curriculum and as a means of encouraging minority students — still, despite recent gains, underrepresented in graduate schools — to seek careers in higher education. According to N. Y. U Chancellor L. Jay Oliva, “Today, when the retention of minority students is a crucial issue in higher education, historically black colleges have demonstrated their ability to retain and graduate large numbers of their students. These colleges, with their strong tradition of undergraduate teaching, can give us all greater insight into he issues bearing on the education of minority students. ” In addition, partnerships that bring African-American faculty to predominately white institutions provide those institutions a form of “instant diversity” that many of them lack, says Spelman’s Cole. “What that does is spin off all kinds of things. It can also be helpful to have a University of Wisconsin professor see how a professor from a small liberal arts predominately black institution teaches ‘Introduction to Chemistry. ‘ Two years down the road he might from that experience learn new ways to connect with black students. African American administrators at predominately white institutions say that partnerships are as important for their institutions as they are for HBCUs. Princeton’s Ruth Simmons, who was instrumental in cementing Spelman’s relationship with Princeton, says its important for wealthy research institutions like Princeton to encourage African-American students to pursue graduate studies. “Certain institutions in this country will continue to attract a disproportionate number of minority students,” says Simmons, referring to HBCUs. Research institutions like Princeton can either play around the edges of that and decry our inability to have a significant impact on those students or we can try to position ourselves to find a way to get to those minority populations. We can affect the choices that students make to go into research or academic-related careers. Short of having these students attend Princeton in the first place, which they are not in significant numbers electing to do, we can find ways to influence their post-baccalaureate choices by influencing the faculty that teach them. Princeton does this by welcoming selected Spelman faculty to its campus for a term of teaching and research. Charles D. Moody, Vice Provost for Minority Affairs of the University of Michigan, says that predominately white research institutions like his are coming around to the view that they have as much to gain from these partnerships as their HBCU peers. “What I try to stress to my colleagues is the notion that not all knowledge resides at the University of Michigan.
We need to learn how excellent and outstanding teachers with limited resources have been able to succeed. Our relationships with our colleagues at HBCUs are not ‘big brother, little brother’ situations, but rather partnerships based on equal footing in which the faculty of the University of Michigan learn as much as they teach. These relationships help our faculty change their expectations of students of color so that they do not discount and devalue their achievements or those of other ethnic groups. “
The University of Michigan is involved with several exchange programs with predominately black institutions, including Morehouse College, Virginia Union University, and Prairie View A University. Moody says each arrangement is made individually, according to the needs of the institutions involved. Perhaps one indication of the reciprocal nature of these collaborations is the apparently increasing number of African American students from predominately white institutions who are using these exchange programs as a means of spending time on a predominately black campus.
N. Y. U. ‘s Berlowitz says some African-American students use The Faculty Resource Network’s student exchange program with four HBCU colleges as a means of “getting in touch with their roots. ” Tougaloo College’s Smith says student exchanges between institutions like NYU and Tougaloo are broadening experiences for all participating students. “Just as some of our (Tougaloo) students have never been to a majority college, most of those (black PWI) students have never been to the south.
It is a good exchange of cultures, providing broadening experiences for both types of students,” Smith said. As valuable as HBCU/PWI partnerships are as a contributor towards putting more African-Americans into the final stages of the educational pipeline, they are not without their pitfalls, administrators say. “We’re very careful of the kinds of relationships we engage in,” says Antoine Garibaldi, Vice President of Academic Affairs of Xavier University of Louisiana. “We’re not interested in being a little brother, but an equal partner.
There has to be something in it for each institution and a clear understanding needs to be spelled out.. ” “The most important thing is the selection of those students and faculty that carry the exchanges out, ” Cole says. “Not all are prepared to move into a different environment and make it work. Some faculty think they are going to spend their semester away finishing a major book, starting a second one and completing a state of the art monograph. They don’t understand that time away is not going to add up to double regular time. Another potential danger is the possibility that the majority institution is primarily motivated by a desire to raid the HBCUs of its students or faculty, a circumstance which is not as common as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, but which nonetheless occurs. Tougaloo’s Brown recalls an instance in which she sent a faculty member to a majority institution who was immediately unsuccessfully recruited by a department chairman. “The dean called me and apologized, but we immediately pulled out of that relationship,” she said.
To prevent students from getting the “grass is greener” syndrome, Tougaloo and participating institutions have instituted a requirement that students wishing to transfer to an exchange institution must first sit out a semester; only one student in the history of the exchange program with Brown has gone that route. Cole says that the careful screening of potential participants can eliminate these problems. “Most often (on the faculty side), you are going to be sending faculty who feel a certain amount of gratitude to Spelman for sending them.
On the other hand, rip-offs can work both ways, not just from the HBCU to the majority institution. You shouldn’t assume that Spelman isn’t capable of attracting faculty members from majority institutions. ” Princeton’s Simmons believes that partnerships work best if the institutions involved have “cooperative institutional missions and interests. ” In the case of Spelman and Princeton, she says, the fit worked because both institutions stress undergraduate research and admit a similar type of student. “In trying to put institutions together, its important to look for similarities that will sustain the relationship in the long hall. Despite potential pitfalls, Spelman’s Cole believes that partnerships help address the pernicious pipeline problem that results in relatively few African-Americans pursing graduate studies and/or teaching in the academy. “It is in our interests to go into partnership to promote the social reproduction of ourselves as black scholars. We have to get more of us into the pipeline. We have to get more of our students into the graduate school pipeline and turn more of our graduate students into professors. That’s a task, a job, and it takes partners to pull it off. ” # ———————– 7