May 15, 2014
April 21, 2014
As she walked onto the stage, an audience of nearly 500 people sprung to their feet to give Angela Davis a standing ovation. This was the second standing ovation Ms. Davis received that day. As someone told me after the presentation--" it was for what she did for us." The first standing ovation was from faculty, students, and other supporters of the Keystone Honors program who sponsored the Angela Davis lecture and conversed with Ms. Davis during the dinner prior to the presentation.
Standing tall, wearing an easy fitting black leather blazer, employing only an engaging voice punctuated with helpful hand gestures, for nearly an hour Angela Davis captivated a full-house of receptive students, alumni, and other guests at Cheyney University's Marian Anderson Music Hall with intractably woven historical and current perspectives on the struggle for freedom, moments in the Civil Rights movement, the role of the penal system in American and other countries, and the need for a broad base of bottom-up, positive social action that will demand and effect change. This was all accomplished from a overall, but not overbearing, feminist perspective.
The Angela Davis of 2014, just entering her 70th decade of life, is still fiery, deeply intellectual, committed to the understanding of freedom, and very attractive with a full head of curly brown hair. She is a wonder to behold, an intellectual bridge from the not too distant past to the yet to be realized future.
The hosting of the Angela Davis lecture by the Keystone Honors Program presentation punctuated the need to explore different world views and the essential responsibility of Cheyney University to expose students to such perspectives.
Listening to her recount the people and the incidents of the Civil Rights Movement linking them to the current American societal and educational challenges illustrated how this American icon continues to urge us on towards a broader base of freedom that is won by the people and shared by the people.
After the presentation, Angela Davis stayed for at least an hour more to sign copies of books from those in the audience. It took me nearly an hour to leave the auditorium. Many faculty, alumni, staff, and guests stopped to talk about Ms. Davis' positive message, her eloquent delivery, and her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Many commented on her youthful appearance and her keen insights into the power of broad-based positive social action.
After getting a copy of my book signed for my daughter, my husband and I finally left the auditorium content that we had brought this legacy to a Cheyney University.
Michelle Howard-Vital, Ph.D.
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
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!
February 04, 2014
Lately, I have been wondering what it means to really "love one another." How do we prepare youth to do such, and how do we support this "loving" in our broader communities? I admit, I am worried and wondering if we have a commitment to love one another. Of course, it's February, and we are inundated with images of romantic love -- especially the more idealized versions of romantic love-- the falling in love part. Promoting romantic love seems to be really big in American culture. We spend a great deal of time following strategies to capture it, maintain it, and survive it.
However, as many mature adults know, the daily practice and expressions of love are difficult human interactions that not only demand commitment but also endurance since loving others can stretch us in ways we never felt were possible.
There are novels, movies, poems, music videos, artistic expressions and other genres that have sought to capture and encapsulate this romantic love-- so we know what it should look like-- I guess. However, in some religions and philosophical circles, there is also discussion about what it means to share love with neighbors, the broader citizenry, and global citizens of the planet. I wonder about this type of love on most Sundays. Just how do we operationalize this broad-based grand love that influences the well-being of others?
Possibly, there is an example that deserves more review and replication. For two years, for reasons I do not know, I was invited to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). This Initiative was designed by President William Jefferson Clinton in 2007. It encourages college students to look for creative solutions to problems in the global community. To get the CGI going, some college students were furnished seed money to design and implement innovative projects that seek to ameliorate pressing global challenges such as alleviating poverty, improving public health, supporting peace and human rights, advocating for environment and climate change, and delivering education. About 1,200 students participated in both conferences I attended. The students were demonstrating their concern and care for local communities and farther away neighbors by constructing solutions to help--to make life better for others. President Clinton with his army of youth organizers seemed to be exemplifying, on a larger scale, at least one way to operationalize loving near and far neighbors. Besides enjoying hearing about the innovative solutions to improve the well-being of others, it was also intriguing to watch the students from so many different countries and cultures interact. Could this be fledgling diplomacy?
Recently, I have been reviewing the mission statements of a few colleges and universities to determine how higher education perceives that it fits into the theme of "loving one another" and promoting positive social action. In mission statements randomly selected and reviewed, colleges/universities state that they "encourage service to humanity... dedication to innovation and social justice." One college states that its core values include, "a global vision that understands and appreciates the common goals and purposes of all people," and "an appreciation of diversity that nourishes mutual respect and solidarity." Another college states that it seeks to "sustain a community diverse in nature and democratic in practice, for we believe that only through considering many perspectives do we gain a deeper understanding of each other and the world." So, it seems that the rhetoric is there, at least in the mission statements of some colleges.
At Cheyney University, as we begin our strategic thinking for our next strategic plan 2015-2020, I hope that we find ways to operationalize positive social action and the encouragement of well-being locally and globally.
It would be nice, too, if we helped students develop their capacity for life-long learning and "nourishing mutual respect and solidarity."
Happy Valentine's Month!
Michelle Howard-Vital, Ph.D.
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
January 08, 2014
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.
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.
October 21, 2013
Homecoming 2013 demonstrated, once again, the commitment and dedication Cheyney University alumni have for the transformative educational and personal development that CU offers for students and their families.
Homecoming 2013 demonstrated, once again, the commitment and dedication Cheyney University alumni have for the transformative educational and personal development that CU offers for students and their families.
As I read the various tweets and Facebook comments leading up to Homecoming, it became clear that alumni wanted to return to campus to rekindle, once again, the relationships and memories that had transformed their lives. As I walked with my husband through the thousand of alumni gathered in the stadium, on the Quad, and tailgating on “The Hill,” numerous alumni would relate how Cheyney University had “steered them in the right direction,” “saved them,” or “made them into what they are today.”
Each year at Homecoming, I learn more about the evolution of Cheyney over the last 100 years. One year, I was allowed the privilege of putting on a blue and white beanie to wear that all freshman had to wear when entering the college. This year, I learned that one fraternity had rented horses to ride around the edge of campus during the weekends to entertain themselves and others.
Each year, I am more and more impressed with the alumni’s investment in the future success of the students of Cheyney University. To me, these alumni have demonstrated their belief in the words of the Cheyney Alma Mater,
“Hear the pledge thy children offer
Strong of hand and clear of brain,
When thou callest, Alma Mater,
Never shalt thou call in vain…”
At Homecoming 2013, we received numerous checks for scholarships for Cheyney University students including $50,000 from the CU National Alumni Association from President Junious Stanton which represented the proceeds from the 175 Gala. An additional $25,000 from the Gala has already been distributed to students for “last dollar” scholarships. The campus community thanks the alumni for this generous gift. Just recently, the CU National Alumni Association also surpassed their $1,000,000 pledge. Realizing the need is even greater, the CU National Alumni Association is now working on a $2,000,000 pledge for scholarships. Without a doubt, these funds will change lives.
Additionally, during Homecoming 2013, there were numerous individual checks put in my all-accepting hands such as the $5,000 check from Alumnus and NBC Washington News Anchor Jim Vance for a scholarship in honor of Alumna Vivien Vance Cherry—the oldest living CU Alumnus. Ms. Vivien Vance Cherry graduated from high school in 1929, enrolled in West Chester State Teacher’s College, and returned to college in 1956, at the age of 42, to complete her degree at Cheyney University. Ms. Vivien Vance Cherry is also the aunt of Chief of Staff Sheilah Vance who is also contributing to the scholarship in her honor.
The University community also thanks the Cheyney University Foundation for helping to support athletics, the band, and the cheerleaders with contributions of more than a quarter of a million dollars. We thank David Alston for his leadership and stewardship.
It is the University’s plan to use these precious scholarship dollars to attract the most talented students to Cheyney University who will persist and graduate.
It is important to note that where there is sacrifice and generosity, there is also responsibility. Faculty, staff, and students, we must demonstrate our commitment also to the mission, strategic goals, and future success of the students and families associated with Cheyney University. Each day we can add to the forward movement of Cheyney University by raising the bar on our personal performance and professional practice. We must work together as an effective, efficient, and evidence-based team (remember “team work makes the dream work”) to provide the best quality education, the best support for the teaching and learning environment, and the best customer service to the next generation of leaders.
September 13, 2013
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!
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!
Michelle Howard-Vital, Ph. D.
July 08, 2013
Recently I have been reading the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Isabel Wilkerson, in her book, The Warmth of Other Suns. In this rich and beautifully written prose, Wilkerson artfully weaves numerous stories of persons of African descent who demonstrated significant acts of courage to escape plantations, overseers, Jim Crow Laws, and other indignities to move to the North for freedom, for opportunities to support their families, and for better futures for their children.
Tags: Cheyney University , Dr. Hazel Spears , integration , Lindback Foundation , Michelle Howard-Vital , Middle States Commission on Higher Education , president , teacher certification , The Great Migration , Title III
P R E V I O U S P O S T S
- President's Blog - May 2014 - The Road Less Traveled
- PRESIDENT'S BLOG - April 2014 - Angela Davis - An Intellectual Bridge to the Future
- President's Blog - March 2014 - Let Us Continue to Build Heroines
- President's Blog - February 2014 - Loving One Another
- President's Blog - January 2014 - New Year's Hope
- President's Blog - November 2013 - Let Us Give Thanks to Our Parents and Our Grandparents
- President's Blog - October 2013 - When Thou Callest ....
- President's Blog - September 2013 - Let Us Hear It For The Southern Ladies
- PRESIDENT'S BLOG - August 2013 The Importance of Senior Leadership Teams
- President's Blog - July 2013 - The Great Migration-- A Journey Only Half Completed
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