Cheyney University Blog

Cheyney University—A Needed Resource in the Commonwealth

April 11, 2011

As we enter our 175th year since our founding in 1837, the 21st Century graduates of Cheyney University are just beginning to distinguish themselves. Nonetheless, the legacy of Cheyney University is being carried forth by by recent alumni like Walter Lewis, a 2010 graduate, who is pursuing an advanced degree in computational biology at Carnegie Mellon; by Martina Randall, a 2009 graduate, who is working on her medical degree in podiatric medicine at Temple University; by Dominique Curry, also a 2009 graduate, who plays with the St. Louis Rams (in the National Football League); and by Ezekiel Crenshaw who is pursuing his doctorate at Drexel University. We expect no less from the 2011 graduates—some of whom have already been admitted to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Villanova University School of Law, and who are pursuing advanced degrees in the STEM areas.

Cheyney University has managed to add value to the lives of thousands of citizens and to enhance the intellectual capital of the Philadelphia region and Commonwealth. The University community acknowledges its needed role in the Commonwealth to bridge the gap between first-generation college families and a higher standard of living. This is noble work, and we are proud to do it.

It has been acknowledged that the Philadelphia public schools have seen growth in the overall graduation rate over the past three years. However, graduation rates are still too low for the 21st Century knowledge-driven economy in which these students will work. There is much work that needs to be done to increase student achievement and college completion in the Philadelphia area.

Moreover, researchers Socolar and Gunn, in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, revealed that students of color (African American and Hispanic) are graduating from high school at lower rates than their white counterparts, taking fewer Advanced Placement courses, and many are not envisioning a future that includes college. Cheyney University is one attractive option for some of these students, and other students, who would like to pursue an education as a member of a University community rather than as a nameless face or a marginal minority.

Cheyney University Offers a Unique Value

While Cheyney University has been a small liberal arts institution since it joined the Commonwealth’s State System of Higher Education in 1983, it offers a unique value to many students of color and others who have not been advantaged by post-secondary institutions and/or familial advantages. For the last five years, for example, Cheyney University has accepted an entering class of about 400 students who, though talented and deserving, would be lost in many other institutions of higher education. These students, who are survivors of their secondary schools, tended to feel either neglected or invisible in these same secondary institutions. They came to Cheyney University with hopes that they can remedy the educational misfortunes of the past, and with hopes that they can leave the University as competitive graduate students or wage-earners in a global economy.

Thus, Cheyney University offers a unique value by accepting students through a holistic examination of their backgrounds and potential. This means that the admissions staff examines the students’ grade point averages, letters of recommendations, background information, and they admit students who have the determination and potential to succeed—these students might not have scored as highly on their SAT or ACT tests as students entering some other institutions of higher education—yet they are deserving of a chance.

Once these students are accepted, they are monitored by the newly formed University College and the Academic Success Center. The professionals in these areas are experienced counselors, role models, and adults who care about the success of each student. They get to know the students’ stories, their talents, and their hardships. As the students pursue their majors, a University staff person monitors and solicits requests for internship experiences. Cheyney University is committed to obtaining internship experiences for each student who wants to participate in such an experience. These internship experiences allow students to develop the social and work skills needed to be successful in the work world after graduation. As students near graduation, they work with staff in the Career Services area to develop the appropriate resume, demeanor, and techniques for securing positions in which they can succeed. Because of the small size of the University, these services and interactions with students are more personal and more forceful in directing their life choices.

Further, it is the University’s goal, through Student Affairs, to have each student engaged in some type of activity to connect to the University community. These activities include Greek organizations, academic societies, residential learning communities, the choir, athletics, the band, and/or other such groups.

The Cheyney University is currently constructing its first new residence hall in over 30 years. This 400-bed residence hall will feature residential learning communities in which students will be encouraged to participate to enhance their development into responsible, academically proficient, and mature adults. The residence halls will also be used as other venues to help expose students to cultural and social activities.

Academically, the University community has expressed a strong interest in the development of centers of excellence in areas that include media and fine arts, natural and applied sciences, and urban education. The establishment of centers of excellence is a means for highlighting and improving academic programs; focusing grant activity and fundraising; garnering external support for the development of quality academic programs; and directing public service activities. Particularly, each center of excellence will be comprised of an advisory council that correlates the academic program to industry needs and identifies and acquires resources for the center of excellence. The University is currently focusing on the development of its first center of excellence—communications media, fine arts, and entertainment arts. With the construction of its new science building, the University will also develop its center of excellence in natural and applied sciences. Cheyney University is proud of the scholarship, academic backgrounds, and the research of its scientists. The University comes in second in the State System of Higher Education in its production of grants for research. In regards to urban education, The Call Me MISTER Program has begun the reestablishment of teacher education and the development of teacher-leaders at Cheyney University.

Thus, Cheyney University, through its work with talented, but disadvantaged students and families, and the development of centers of excellence, will mirror state and regional plans and will prepare diverse persons to take needed leadership roles in the 21st century in communication media, fine arts, and entertainment arts; natural and applied sciences; and urban education.

Without a doubt, one of the successes of Cheyney University has been its Keystone Honors Program. After about a decade of operation, the Keystone Honors Academy demonstrates how successful the students at Cheyney University can be with appropriate monetary and human resources. Furthermore, the Honors Academy is an example of a center of excellence with economic development benefits to the Commonwealth that will continue to be realized for future generations. In the 2007-2008 academic year, there were 250 students enrolled in the Honors Academy. Approximately seventy of those students graduated in the 2008 Spring Commencement. Keystone Honors Academy Students are high-achieving students who were attracted to pursue higher education at Cheyney University with academic scholarships. The retention rate of Keystone Honors Students is approximately 86 percent.

Without the competitive scholarships offered to these high achieving students, the Commonwealth might have permanently lost some of these high-achieving students to other states. In order to attract these students to Cheyney University, the institution created a desirable living and learning environment which included a refurbished living and learning residence hall, private bathrooms, computer resources, attractive furnishings, a Dean for the Honors College, and a more robust honors environment of seminars and mentors. As expected, many Keystone Honors Academy students continue to pursue graduate study in the Commonwealth through the Bond Hill graduate program and contribute to the intellectual capital of the region and nation. The continuation and expansion of the Keystone Honors Program is crucial to the success of the Commonwealth and the remediation of the low college-going rate for target groups of students.

It is our belief that Cheyney University continues to fulfill its historic mission to provide access and opportunities to African Americans and other developing leaders. Furthermore, it offers a 21st Century solution for preparing a diverse cadre of leaders for America. Alumni of Cheyney University continue to contribute to the progress and well-being of America in many cities, disciplines, and venues throughout the world. The success of the Keystone Honors Academy demonstrates what is needed to produce more intellectually competitive citizens for the Commonwealth.


Tags: 21st Century graduates , Bond Hill , centers of excellence , intellectual capital , Keystone Honors Program , legacy , scholarships

Add comment


Nice article
Ardelia Lacy 4:02AM 05/16/11
I attended the april 15th Phillies game, and had the opportunity to listen to your choir perform the national anthem. Kudos to your musicial director and choir for a most excellent, humble, thrilling and most importantly, RESPECTFUL rendition of our American song. I can think of many "artists" out there who could learn a thing or two from your fine group of students. I wish them continued successes and many more venues to display their talent. patricia obrien,
patricia obrien 1:37PM 04/17/11



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