Dr. Rosalyn Clark Artis, President of Florida Memorial University, and Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan, President of Tougaloo College, recently joined me on the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC). We are humbled and privileged to provide voice on HSAAC for the richly diverse Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and Predominantly Black Institution (PBI) communities and their stakeholders. I joined HSAAC under Secretary Janet Napolitano, the first female head of Homeland Security, the former Governor of Arizona, and first female head of the National Governor’s Association. I am delighted to be continuing my service on HSAAC under Secretary Jeh Johnson, a “Morehouse Man” and Columbia Law graduate, whose grandfather Charles Spurgeon Johnson served with distinction as Fisk University’s first black president and led in conceiving the modern science of sociology. Fisk University is an HBCU and member of the NAFEO Nation over which I preside, representing the nation’s 105 diverse HBCUs and roughly 50 PBIs.
At this time when there is a great deal of attention being given to the Supreme Court, and some are touting Secretary Jeh Johnson as the best choice for the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States, it is worth noting that Justice Thurgood Marshall–a Howard University School of Law graduate and Lincoln University graduate and the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States–was among the early participants in the celebrated Race Relations Institute at Fisk University started by Secretary Johnson’s Grandfather. The Race Relations Institute focused on teaching the interconnectivity and interdependence of Humankind; mutual understanding, mutual respect, ecumenism and the value and worth of all without regard to race or other incidents of birth which in America and elsewhere still divide us.
Presidents Clark and Artis and I provide voice on HSAAC for the expansion of educational opportunities for all, especially low-income students and families, first generation students, racial and ethnic minorities, veterans, and others who have been and who remain under-represented and under-served in higher education. HBCUs are at the forefront of moving the nation toward closing the racial, ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, and excellence divides in higher education. HBCUs are increasingly building seamless transitions from 2-year colleges into and through 4-year colleges and universities, and expanding learning communities and modalities to meet the needs of the students of today and tomorrow.
HBCUs are central to the educational and economic security of this nation.
A headline in The Chronicle of Higher Education (February 25, 2016) recognizes, “HBCUs…[for their] Unheralded Role in STEM Majors and [as] a Model for Other Colleges.” Reporting about a Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce recent study affirming that African-American students remain underrepresented in majors that generally lead to higher-paying jobs, the study finds that, “the numbers would be even more lopsided were it not for the vital work done by historically black colleges and universities in educating African-Americans in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the STEM fields, and other majors that can propel students to higher-paying careers.”
Although comprising just 3% of all American colleges and universities, HBCUs are graduating nearly 40% of blacks in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and more than half of African Americans in health professions and teaching professions in public schools. They are containing costs and expanding the pipeline of excellent, diverse professionals who are prepared and desirous of serving in the Department of Homeland Security.
Secretary Napolitano took and Secretary Johnson continues to take measured affirmative steps toward moving DHS to being a gold standard bearer of not only excellence but also diversity. Perhaps they understand, as do I, that you cannot have a truly excellent department, agency, university, or workforce if they are homogeneous. Our communities and our country will not be truly secure without a richly diverse workforce and service corps. Through diversity and inclusion in our educational institutions, our labor force, and service corps, especially in agencies like Homeland Security that have law enforcement and justice responsibilities, our nation benefits from the intellectual, cultural, civic, faith, and personal experiences of others reflecting the richness of this heterogeneous, pluralistic country. By tearing down walls and building bridges, as is being done at Homeland Security and on the HSAAC, we can teach love, coexistence, and the ecumenical spirit of shared values and common destinies that make America strong.
As we close Black History Month 2016, on behalf of the nation’s HBCUs and PBIs, I thank and salute Honorable Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, for all that he is doing to bridge gulfs in our Homeland and in the Department of Homeland Security, and for affording me the privilege of playing a small part in the process.
Lezli Baskerville, Esquire
President & CEO
209 3rd Street, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003