Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are not heavily promoted in the metro Detroit area. However, Alcorn State University (ASU) is aiming to change that.
As part of a national tour with stops in several major cities including Atlanta and Memphis, ASU President Dr. M. Christopher Brown will speak to alumni and other community leaders and stakeholders to encourage their support of the university on Sept. 6.
Based in Claibourne County, MS, ASU offers academic programs leading to associate, bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees. Founded in 1871, ASU started with eight faculty members and 179 enrolled students. To date, the school has more than 800 faculty and staff members and an enrollment of more than 3,000 students.
HBCUs, traditionally based in the South, have played a significant role in the education of Blacks. Many of the schools were established in the 1800s when Blacks were not encouraged or allowed to be educated. Michigan was home to one HBCU – Lewis College of Business – which closed in 2006 after losing its accreditation. Now, there are nearly 100 HBCUs in the nation, out of nearly 4,500 colleges and universities, according to the US Department of Education.
Local ASU graduates see Brown’s visit as an opportunity to raise awareness of their alma mater.
“Dr. Brown is doing a national tour of local alumni chapters around the country to share his vision of Alcorn and to talk about how the enrollment has increased, the new programs that are being developed, changes in the athletic department and the new non-resident tuition reduction program for incoming students starting next fall,” said Anthony Neal, president of the Detroit Alumni Chapter of Alcorn State University.
Brown, the school’s 18th president, is the first to be younger than 40. Under Brown’s leadership since 2010, ASU has broadened its academic offerings and launched a capital fundraising campaign. One of the changes that have caused more of an uproar is the hiring of Jay Hopson, as the football coach. In the school’s 141-year history, Hopson is the first white man to lead the football team – a position that has been traditionally held by Blacks. Additionally, ASU was the first school to receive the Luther Vandross and Mary Ida Vandross scholarship, which awards students for attending any HBCU across the country.
Additionally, the HBCU Center for Media Advocacy named ASU “HBCU of the Year” for its accomplishments in comprehensive research, establishing community outreach initiatives and for student engagement and retention.
Neal, a 1991 ASU graduate, said the chapter aims for Brown’s visit to encourage more metro Detroit families to consider ASU as a school of choice.
“We are looking to have a people take a double look at Alcorn State as a choice of higher education,” Neal said. “For a president to go outside in the community and talk to people says that he is in touch with the people and that he cares about the needs and trying to reach the community.”
Sean Rouse, president and founder of the Detroit-based Historically Black College and University Network, said there is a need to engage the community in the education and experience offered at HBCUs.
“For the student who needs a more close-knit, family environment, going to an HBCU may help them,” Rouse said. “People often overlook what is offered. We want students to consider them and to keep them as an option when considering colleges.
“We want to boost enrollment at HBCUs and come together as alum of the schools so we can connect and raise more awareness in the Detroit area. You don’t often hear too much about them here and we are looking to change that.”