By Caleph B. Wilson
In this environment of limited educational funds, stable leadership is the key to ensuring the health of any university. However, unsteady leadership acutely impacts historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). With the recent departure of Alcorn State University’s former president, M. Christopher Brown, another HBCU has seen a change in leadership. Unfortunately, some of these leadership changes have been marred in scandal.
As an Alcorn alumnus, I am very concerned with Brown’s unexpected departure. The Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), Mississippi’s public college and university governing body, is investigating Brown’s purchasing practices. In addition, the IHL is planning a search for Alcorn’s next president. During the search process, my No. 1 question is: How can alumni work with IHL to assist in finding the best candidates?
Traditionally, HBCU presidential candidates have moved from leadership positions at other HBCUs. Also, they have traditionally been alumni of HBCUs or minority serving institutions (MSI). In the past, that was a good formula for the HBCU seeking a new president. However, it leaves one HBCU without leadership while another one gains from their loss. This situation presents an opportunity to expand the leadership search outside the ranks of the traditional HBCU community.
Within the last few years there are some HBCU presidents that have switched institutions and left their previous schools in better shape than they left them. Presidents like Walter Kimbrough at Dillard and Ronald Mason Jr. of the Southern University System improved Philander Smith and Jackson State University, respectively. They represent the type of leadership that Alcorn should be looking for.
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