As an alumnus of Florida A&M University, I have always been, and will continue to be, a huge advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Given my affinity for HBCUs, I would be remiss if I did not challenge HBCUs to see themselves more than just a diversity pipeline for Fortune 500 companies.
With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, HBCUs, in my opinion, need to become the hallmark of excellence in creating the next generation of job creators to aid in resolving issues relating to community gentrification, generational poverty and youth violence within disenfranchised and marginalized multicultural communities.
HBCUs can look at fostering such a creative and innovative environment by:
1. Designing and implementing interdisciplinary majors inclusive of technology
I am not by any means advocating for all of us to become coders. However, technology plays an important role in every industry sector. Designing cross-discipline majors would provoke critical thinking in how students problem solve some of the major societal and economic problems plaguing multicultural communities through the use of technology. For example, the Technology Pathways Initiative (TPI), created by the Center for Advancing Women in Technology, is a promising program designed to empower universities with the ability to offer scalable and repeatable interdisciplinary degree programs. Currently, five universities in the State of California have integrated TPI into degree program offerings.
2. Creation of on-campus accelerator programs
Stanford University’s StartX program is a great example of creating a nurturing and safe environment for students to receive the know-how and social network access necessary to take an idea and develop it into a viable startup venture. Leadership at HBCUs can also look to HBCU@SXSW an example program to leverage as a tool in fostering a multicultural entrepreneurial ecosystem. With so many HBCU alumni in executive leaders role at Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs, students could gain access to experience business mentors and expanded social networks in the form of venture capitals.
3. Development of a business model to generate sustainable funding
HBCUs are definitely not the exception to the issues and inequities of generating revenue and fundraising. In fact, according to research publication written by Associate Professor, Dr. Ivory Toldson, 89 four-year HBCUs collectively received $1.2 billion for grants and contracts from the federal, state and local governments, as well as private foundations. By comparison, John Hopkins University received $1.6 billion alone. With this in mind, HBCUs may consider redesigning fundraising strategies in attracting and partnering with corporate entities both domestic and multinational.
Will these steps work in both theory and practice? Maybe. However, if we do not try, then we will never know the possibilities. In essence, HBCUs must play a more central role in creating innovative spaces for young multicultural entrepreneurs.
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