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American Association of Blacks in Higher Ed Conference in Raleigh | Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity
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American Association of Blacks in Higher Ed Conference in Raleigh

Despite strong considerations last fall about whether to bypass North Carolina due to HB2 legislation, the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE) selected Raleigh as the host city for this year’s annual conference. The Association cited a need to “engage in the struggle opposing HB2 and similar civil rights issues, in solidarity with leadership in North Carolina.”

The mission of AABHE is to bring issues pertinent to the African American community to the attention of the academic community, to grow the pipeline of black faculty and staff in higher education and to recognize African American achievements in higher education.

Held in Raleigh on March 23-25, 2017, the conference brought together faculty, professional staff and senior administrators in higher education as well as state legislators, allowing for robust conversation around addressing regional challenges.

Education, Equity and Social Justice

Organizers chose the theme “Pathways to Success in Higher Education: Transforming Lives Through Education, Equity and Social Justice.” Conference sessions and activities addressed many facets of the theme.

Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Linda McCabe Smith gave the opening remarks. As NC State’s chief diversity officer, Smith leads diversity, equity and inclusion activities at the university.

Chancellor Randy Woodson took part in the Presidents’ Panel, which also featured Shaw University President Tashni Dubroy, Alamance Community College President Algie Gatewood and South Carolina State University President Clark Ward. Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas moderated the panel.

The discussion touched on topics such as the importance of raising graduation rates across all institutions, strengthening partnerships among the institutions through programs such as early college, which connect community colleges with four-year colleges, and the need to increase scholarship funds at all institutions.

Conference Sessions

NC State’s Assistant Vice Provost for Student Diversity Tracey Ray presented a session for faculty with graduate student John Miller IV about embedding service learning into courses to combine service, learning and teaching within a model that engages students on issues of high relevance.

Ray also presented a session with Assistant Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity Marcia Gumpertz about how to diversify the doctoral pipeline. The session focused on NC State’s Building Future Faculty and Doctoral Mentoring Fellows programs.

Other notable sessions focused on faculty who assessed a summer bridge program at an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) by looking at outcomes, including measures of motivation and “grit,” and a session on emotional intelligence.

Another conference session featured James Anderson, chancellor at Fayetteville State, who was also the first African American to serve as a dean at NC State. Anderson challenged the next generation of university leaders to continue to increase student opportunities and to ensure that universities create inclusive settings across different social identities.

Fred Bonner II, professor and endowed chair in educational leadership and counseling at Prairie View A&M University, gave the closing address. Bonner is the author of Building on Resilience: Models and Frameworks of Black Male Success Around the P-20 Pipeline.

Reflections on the Event

As an attendee, Ray was impressed by the representation from NC State, the combined excellence of both participants and honorees and the benefits offered by AABHE programs such as the Leadership and Mentoring Institute, which provides in-depth mentoring and education and assists faculty to become full professors, develop their career paths and join the ranks of program alumni that include numerous current university leaders.

Seeing her former student Tempestt Adams receive a doctoral student award at the conference was particularly gratifying for Ray, who remarked, “My hope is that we stay connected with this conference beyond its presence in Raleigh.”