Cheyney University Blog

President's Blog - March 2014 - Let Us Continue to Build Heroines

March 05, 2014

Usually during Woman's History Month, I write a Blog about past extraordinary heroines like Fanny Jackson Coppin, Laura Waring Wheeler, or the many equally courageous but unsung heroine mothers and grandmothers who nourished and supported us throughout our lives.  These women, and many hundreds of thousands of others rightfully should be appreciated and remembered for their contributions to the backbone of our country--creating resilient families.

However, this Blog is motivated by an extraordinary, probably viewed by many as a consummate, professional woman who has quietly demonstrated an exemplary amount of courage daily, as she fights a daunting health issue.  Now, I am sure that many of us have heard of remarkable recoveries and unexplained cures of women and men who against all odds stay positive and experience seemingly miraculous cures.   It is a gift to watch this sort of courage unfold before your eyes.  To witness such courage strengthens us all!

Thus, this March, my Blog wish is for us to appreciate and really see the courage, resiliency, and compassion illustrated by women daily.  Also, it is my wish that we work as a community to continue to support the development of values such as courage, integrity, honesty, diligence, and exemplify these values for the young women we encounter daily.

At Cheyney University, we are working to help young women (and men) discover their unique values and life purposes, so that we will help them examine popular dictums of beauty, sexuality, and popularity to find their own unique beauty and life purposes.     This a legacy that gives for generations!

 

Tags: blog , heroines , Michelle Howard-Vital , President's Blog , strength , women

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President's Blog - January 2014 - New Year's Hope

January 08, 2014

As I come to the realization that it is indeed 2014 and another year has buzzed pass us, there are some things I hope will happen in 2014.
 
My first hope is for everyone to really see poor, decent Americans make better lives for themselves and their families through education.  These Americans are not the "beautiful people" that are stylishly portrayed in the media, but they are the citizens who possess "true grit."  They are the unnoticed and unheralded Americans who go through their daily lives unrecognized and unappreciated for the stability they provide America because of their steady belief in the American dream.
 
Moreover, even though I am not recommending any redistribution of wealth, I hope to see more affluent Americans invest in the future of America and strengthen our national well-being. I hope Americans with affluence invest in one or two fewer "toys" and contribute to much needed merit and need-based scholarships for young people with steel in their spines and hope in their eyes.  Further, I hope we see the value in investing generously in our youth -- our collective futures.
 
I also hope that in 2014 we will move closer to closing the achievement gap by realizing that students learn in many different ways, And we will  use the  many options at our disposal  to help students increase both their cognitive abilities and emotional intelligence.  Really, it is hard to believe that with all the technology that students can master that we cannot learn from them how students do actually learn and how they want to learn. Perhaps if students saw their lives at the center of their learning and they could be engaged in solving problems, we, the educators, could possibly change our somewhat parochial instructional design.
 
Oops, I digress. What I really hope happens in 2014 is that we celebrate our successes and learn from our past experiences.
 
As we welcome students back to another semester at Cheyney University, it is my hope that we keep our focus on examining evidence on our professional practices and pledge to continuously improve.

 

Tags: 2014 , blog , Cheyney University , Dr. Michelle Howard-Vital , education , President's Blog

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President's Blog - November 2013 - Let Us Give Thanks to Our Parents and Our Grandparents

November 26, 2013

Jackson Family members Henrietta Stukes '48; Aaron C. Quarterman '84; Germaine J. Branch '61 and Mary Quarterman '53, accept the 2013 Legacy Family Award on October 20 on behalf of their family. Nine Jackson family members are CU graduates.

Jackson Family members Henrietta Stukes '48; Aaron C. Quarterman '84; Germaine J. Branch '61 and Mary Quarterman '53, accept the 2013 Legacy Family Award on October 20 on behalf of their family. Nine Jackson family members are CU graduates.

A couple of weeks ago, after attending one too many funerals of parents of my friends, it became clearer than ever that we owe so much to the generation born in the 1920s and 1930s. They were those in our families who weathered wars, economic depressions, and the unrelenting Industrial Age.  It is interesting to note that this generation is often called the “Silent Generation," or the “Traditional Generation,” yet, their legacies speak for themselves.

Our parents and their parents worked long, hard hours, often without complaining, paid cash before credit cards became the norm, sacrificed dreams and luxuries for their children, and believed that the future would be better -- if they just did their parts in small ways.  

Although they were born before it was possible to take "selfies" with  cell phones,  the unrelenting hopes and legacies of love that our parents and grandparents left us can be recounted in detail by some of us.  There were parents who worked two jobs to help make possible college educations for their "Baby Boomer" children.  There were parents and grandparents who were wounded in wars while fighting courageously for our rights to pursue our American Dreams.  There  were uncles and aunts who passed from our lives unheralded, but who also labored for us, and guided us, in quiet, but dignified ways.

This Thanksgiving, as we carve turkeys and pass around the sides, I hope we take a moment to give thanks to those who left us these foundational legacies of hope and love.  As we pay our respects to their legacies, we cannot help but thank them for believing in the possibilities of  our country, for returning to their farms to feed a nation, for bearing the indignities that only humans can inflict upon each other because of racial and class differences.  Most of all, I hope we thank them for stubbornly clinging to the belief that their sacrifices would lead to a better America for their children.

As we know,  the Silent Generation had their personal  and cultural struggles, and they gave birth to the more vocal and dramatic Baby Boomers who helped America evolve into a more diverse and future-oriented nation.  As a member of the Baby Boomers generation,  I hope that Generation X and the Millennials will advance positive social action, embrace the sacrifices they will face to advance and sustain the ideals of our nation, and pay it forward to the next generations of leaders.

It is also my hope that what we share with the talented, but not advantaged, students like many of those at Cheyney University, will yield long-lasting ripple effects for their families and will undergird our societal well-being-- moving us closer to our more sublime ideals.

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to those hundreds of thousands of "silent Americans" who made it possible for us to celebrate peaceful and comfortable Thanksgivings with family and friends in 2013.

 

Tags: blog , Michelle Howard-Vital , President Vital , Thanksgiving , the Silent Generation

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President's Blog - September 2013 - Let Us Hear It For The Southern Ladies

September 13, 2013

Let us hear it for the Southern Ladies—Steel Magnolias have left their Mark

Let us hear it for the Southern Ladies—Steel Magnolias have left their Mark

When I was growing up in Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s, sometimes a friend or a teacher would indicate that I had a southern accent.   Now the intonation that usually accompanied this marvelous observation conveyed to me quickly that I needed to work post haste to disguise my southern accent and to learn to talk “right,” so as not to give-away the fact that my mother was from New Orleans and my dad from Gonzalez, LA.  However, I must state that my Southern mother was a registered nurse, seamstress, devoted family person, great mom, and avid church-goer. She supported her three children through college, and in her later life, helped her grown children purchase their dream homes.  So, just what was I supposed to be ashamed of?

Over the years, there have been a comment or two about my accent, and I realized that living in North Carolina for over 15 years probably refreshed this accent a bit.  However, for the record, southern ladies have taught this nation a thing or two. 

One of the first southern ladies that I admired on stage was the incomparable and legendary Pearl Bailey.  Ms. Bailey could take any play, or part in the play,  to another level, like the Tony she won for playing Dolly in Hello Dolly.   I remember how proud I felt when I was able to purchase expensive orchestra tickets to see Pearl Bailey perform for everyone in my family.  I earned the money working two jobs.  Sitting there, so close, watching Ms. Pearl Bailey performing on stage was one of those special moments in a young woman’s life; it was so easy to be entertained by her style of humor and engaging warmth.  Later I learned that Ms. Pearl earned a degree in theology from Georgetown University at age 67, and she wrote several books. Ms. Bailey also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan, and she is buried not too far from Cheyney University in West Chester, PA. 

Because I loved to read when I was growing up, I was exposed to some southern women through their writings.  Some of these women include Flannery O’Conner, who grew up in Georgia and shared the same religion as I.  Her short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” comes to mind sometimes when watching the “if it bleeds, it leads” news.  Southern writer Carson McCullers,  in Member of the Wedding,  provoked a great deal of thought about coming to grips with one’s identity and relationships.   Additionally, it was through reading that I learned about the lives of other extraordinary women of the south such as Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Dr. Maya Angelou—a Keystone Honors speaker.  Each of these southern women helped to awaken the conscience of a nation through defining moments.  The works of Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez helped guide the next generations—all these women have spoken at Cheyney University.    Recently, I completed Isabel Wilkerson’s research-based, epic book, The Warmth of Other Suns, which followed and connected families of the Great Migration to our current reality.  Ms. Wilkerson has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.

Since coming to Cheyney University, I have become inspired by, humbled by, and guided spiritually by an unsung heroine and southern woman, Fannie Jackson Coppin.   Ms. Fannie Jackson Coppin was born into slavery in Washington, DC, in 1837, the same year that the Institute for Colored Youth (later Cheyney University) was founded by Richard Humphreys and supported, for 176 years, by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).   My husband found a copy of Ms. Coppin’s autobiographical book, Reminiscences of School Life, which was published after her death in 1913, and gave the book to me for a Christmas gift—how I treasure that book.   Fannie Jackson Coppin graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and became the first African American principal in America at the Institute for Colored Youth known for its extraordinary success in teaching classical education, teacher training, and industrial education to persons of African descent.  After serving the Institute for 36 years, Fannie Jackson Coppin accompanied her AME Bishop husband, at age 65, to Africa on missionary work.  Coppin State University is named after this southern-born servant leader. Cheyney University has her legacy to uphold.

This discussion of southern came up again recently when it was noted that I just hired a North Carolinian woman as Provost- Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins.   Oh well, I guess there is no use trying to explain that it was not the part of the country, but it was the education, background, and belief in the mission of Cheyney University—access, opportunity, and excellence.  The Cheyney University community also looks forward to engaging in dialogue with another southern who will be on campus in the spring—Angela Davis.

Hmm, now that I think about it, I am glad to be southern!

Michelle.

 

 

Tags: Alice Walker , blog , Maya Angelou , Michelle Howrd-Vital , Pearl Bailey , Rosa PArks , Southern ladies

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PRESIDENT'S BLOG - August 2013 The Importance of Senior Leadership Teams

August 20, 2013

As we begin the 2013-2014 academic year, with fewer staff and the continuing challenges of supporting deserving, but not financially-advantaged, first generation  families,  I am reminded of the 2008 work of Wageman, et al on the importance of the development of senior leadership teams.  In the text, Senior Leadership Teams: What it takes to make them great, published by Harvard Business School Press, the authors present research that distill the assumption and myth that successful organizations are related solely to the efforts of a heroic CEO.   Rather, the authors affirm that the demands on the top leaders of contemporary organizations outpace the talents of any one single leader—no matter how talented.   Organizational research, the authors affirm, instead illustrates that modern organizational success and flexibility depends on the talent and cohesiveness of senior leadership teams working to achieve team goals.

Thus, it is important for the CEO to put in place, and to nurture, the development of senior leadership teams who focus on specific goals and who work together across silos to support each other and to accomplish overarching goals.

Therefore, as we approach the upcoming new year and continue our preparation for the Middle States reaffirmation of accreditation self- study and site visit in April 2014,  we will focus on developing appropriate leadership teams who will work across divisional boundaries and other silos to follow the University's strategic plan and to identify evidence that the University is indeed in compliance with the 14 MSCHE standards noted in the document Characteristics of Excellence.

It is indeed absolutely essential that the leadership teams focus on supporting the teaching and learning environment for our students and faculty. 

As students move back on campus, it is easy to perceive that the Class of 2017 is anxious to start their new journey, and it is important that the senior leadership teams lead Team Cheyney,  so that as a University we present a welcoming and positive attitude to our incoming class and returning students.   The Cheyney University culture is created by each interaction with individual students—whether on the telephone, email, or other social media.  

This year, it is especially important for our enrollment team to help students and families navigate the registration and financial aid processes within the changed organizational structure in Student Affairs.   The offices of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid are now co-located in the Wade Wilson Administration Building, along with the Bursar and Registrar offices.  This structure supports the development of an enrollment management team who will move towards one-stop-shopping customer service for students and their families and enrollment specialists who will eventually take individual students through each step in the process.  The over-arching objective of these co-located offices is to assure that students can complete their registration and financial aid  processes quickly and efficiently with the help of knowledgeable and committed team members.

After several years of preservation work and remodeling,  the senior leadership team reports that Humphreys Hall will be occupied this fall with Humphreys Scholars and, from time-to-time, visiting scholars.   In order to help enrich the  students' academic experience, the student engagement leadership teams will offer a wealth of opportunities for student engagement, including the Arts and Lectures series, the Entrepreneurial Learning Center lecture series, dozens of student organizations, and 12 intercollegiate sports teams.

The Self-Study team reports that we are following the established timeline created by our Middle States Steering Committee, and they look forward to welcoming the Chair of our Evaluation team, Dr. Juliette Bell, this October for a preliminary campus visit.

The senior leadership team at Cheyney University understands that bringing in a balanced budget in FY 2013-2014 by cutting $5 million from the budget continues to put strain on the functioning of all of our teams this year.  However, these adjustments will put CU on the path of financial security for the future.  The new academic year is in our hands.  By the daily action of teams and individuals,  we will shape the future direction, future growth and viability of Cheyney University.  

Together, we can make this the best year ever at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania!

Sincerely,

Michelle Howard-Vital, Ph. D.
President

Tags: blog , leadership , Michelle Howard-Vital , Middle States

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President's Blog - June 2013 - The Value of Cheyney University is Affirmed for Us

June 11, 2013

CU Collegiate 100 Members attend an International Conference in New Orleans

CU Collegiate 100 Members attend an International Conference in New Orleans

Each time we spend several intensive days with students, the value of Cheyney University is reaffirmed for us. Recently members of the Collegiate 100 Black Men Chapter demonstrated what they valued about Cheyney University.  These talented, bright, well-mannered, and appealing students conversed with us about their classes, their relationships with specific professors and staff, and they told us their personal triumphs and how Cheyney University is helping them to pursue their American dreams. Moreover, I observed with some amusement how pleased these students were to travel with my husband, to participate in an International Conference hosted and flawlessly executed by members of the 100 Black Men, Inc.  For the CU students, this conference offered many opportunities to network, to become exposed to many other successful African Americans, and to reassess personal goals and strategies. There were approximately 1,000 adults, Collegiate members, and younger students in attendance.

As we continue our plans to adjust the University’s organizational structure, it is essential that we realize that students come to Cheyney University for specific reasons—to acquire academic knowledge in specific areas and to learn from us as role models, guides, mentors, and citizens how to become confident, resilient, and contributing global citizens.  My observations also suggest that many Cheyney University students choose Cheyney University because they want the small, quality learning environment that we offer with intensive faculty/staff interactions. 
 
As we prepare for the April 2014 Middle States reaffirmation of accreditation visit in April 2014, it is important to remember that the Middle States Association on Higher Education will be reviewing our self-study in which we:
1. Affirm our mission and measurable goals
2. Establish through a strategic plan the conditions (resources, staffing, and organizational structure)  in which our mission and goals will be realized
3. Assess the institution’s effectiveness in meeting our mission and measurable goals, and
4. Demonstrate that we are engaging in continuous improvement to continue to accomplish our mission and goals.
 
Although it is often not as obvious, it is also important to communicate clearly and convincingly, the value that Cheyney University has been furnishing to thousands of families in the Commonwealth.   
 
This is ultimately our Raison D’Etre.  
 
Michelle Howard-Vital, Ph.D.
President

Tags: 100 Black Men , 100 Black Men Conference , blog , Cheyney University , Michelle R. Howard-Vital , president

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President's Blog - April 2013 - CU Transforming to Produce A Quality Education for the 21st Century

May 03, 2013

CU Transforming to Produce A Quality Education for the 21st Century

CU Transforming to Produce A Quality Education for the 21st Century

In the last few years, funding has receded rather drastically at both the federal and state levels for public higher education.  While these reductions in funding are disturbing, they foretell transformations and opportunities that are evolving in higher education for the foreseeable future.  Like many other industries, higher education must transition towards meeting the unprecedented 21st century workforce and lifestyle needs of a broader spectrum of Americans.

Without a doubt, Cheyney University must continue to produce responsible and contributing citizens who add to the intellectual capital of the Commonwealth and nation by pursuing graduate school, adding to the diversity in the law and other professions, demonstrating creativity in entrepreneurial ventures, pursuing public service agendas, furnishing quality business services, and adding to intellectual capital in ways not yet imagined.  
 
Unfortunately, some of our talented  students have been forced to drop out to earn a living to support themselves and their families.  Our families are still struggling through one of the deepest recessions in our nation—sometimes compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s.  At Cheyney University, we are affected adversely by the financial stresses of our families through reduction in enrollments and students dropping out to help their families earn a living.  
 
Without a doubt, alumni have been extraordinarily supportive in raising scholarship funds for students.  Faculty members have also aggressively sought grants to support the teaching and learning environments.  However, even with this support and the growing support of private donors, enrollment trends have not corresponded with increasing expenditures.  In fact, enrollment trends in Pennsylvania for high school graduates further predict reductions in college enrollments.
 
Thus, in order to strengthen Cheyney University for its future, the University is reviewing carefully many of its processes and services including enrollment management, financial aid, and other student services—looking for ways to interact more strategically with potential students.   We are also reviewing our academic programs and customer service to students, so that we will improve our competitive place in the Commonwealth and national marketplace. 
 
Furthermore, in order to bring our revenue in line with our expenditures, we will be seeking recommendations on cost-savings from all areas of the University community and engage in our annual budget hearings. 
 
In April 2014, Cheyney University undergoes its ten-year reaffirmation of accreditation by Middle States Association to ensure that the University is capable of carrying out its mission and that it is responding appropriately to an agenda of continuous improvement.
 
It is essential to note that the path forward must embrace the aforementioned realities of the higher education community in the Commonwealth, region, and nation.  
 
Please feel free to provide comments or recommendations for cost savings or innovations to Chief of Staff Sheilah Vance (svance@cheyney.edu) or me (mvital@cheyney.edu).
 
Sincerely,
 
Michelle Howard-Vital, Ph.D.
President
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
 

Tags: 21st century , blog , cost of higher education , President , President Michelle R. Howard-Vital , Vital

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